Getting sponsored doesn’t just happen. Even if you’re the best kiteboarder amongst your friends, team, town, region, or country, sponsorship doesn’t magically appear.
Free gear isn’t widely available and isn’t just delivered to those that land the best tricks. It’s not that easy, but we’re going to share tips to give you a head start at a young age.
The honest truth is sponsorship comes out of hard work and comes in different levels or degrees of support. You may be young, but that’s actually the perfect starting point! If you’re more passionate about kiteboarding than anything else, you can use that enthusiasm to prove your true commitment from an early age.
If that sounds a little hard to grasp and you’re not sure where to begin, then take a look at Airush Marketing and Team Manager, Marc Schmid and how he worked his way up through the ranks.
Aged 12, Marc’s Dad found a load of windsurfing gear dumped on the street near his house. As an intrigued sporty kid, Marc did his best to put together his new street treasure and took to the water at his home spot in Cape Cod, USA.
Marc’s first equipment barely functioned and he didn’t have any other friends into windsurfing. He found that he was becoming a bit of a regular in the local windsurfing store asking for tips, and started to realize how expensive it was to fix broken masts as a result of trying to teach himself with outdated equipment.
Eventually, the shop saw a rare passion and commitment in Marc and offered him his first opportunity working in the industry. He spent his summers unboxing equipment, putting straps on new boards for customers, selling sails and generally helping out around the shop. In return, he received a very small wage and discounts on equipment.
As a 14-year-old Marc was communicating with people in the shop that were a lot older and smarter than he was and he knew he needed to study hard and read as much information he could. These customers had money and he knew that to be taken seriously he needed to show respect and knowledge in the sport.
“I was never a pro at windsurfing or kiteboarding. I worked hard behind the scenes through shops, distribution, and media to get where I am today. This is what brands are looking for, a lot of hard work and passion.” says Marc.
By the next summer, Marc had absorbed a lot of information and he was also starting to make valuable connections in the industry. Brand representatives would visit the shop and he was introduced to some of the world’s first kitesurfing pioneers. It wasn’t by accident that his hard work got noticed and he had job offers from a number of shops, online retailers, and distributors.
By the time Marc was at university, he was able to find work easily to support his studies away from home. He managed a kitesurfing school and also worked for Core Online Magazine. Marc helped organize a ‘Core Jam’ event which was one of the first rail and kicker competitions of its kind, and where he met Clinton Filen and Mark Pattison, namely the key players behind the Airush brand.
When it came to Airush advertising their Assistant Marketing Manager position, Marc already had the skills, knowledge, and connections to be the best-qualified candidate for the job. The rest is history.
Marc would love to see more aspiring kiteboarders climbing up through the ranks. What he looks for are resourceful and hardworking team riders. Here’s his tips for working your way up the ladder:
Introduce yourself to everyone in the industry. Get known at your local shop as an enthusiastic kitesurfer that’s willing to learn and help out. Go there to learn about products even if there’s nothing to do. Keep your ego in check, stay humble, and don’t expect immediate results.
Attend events and competitions (even if you’re not participating) and take an active interest. Proactively offer to volunteer to work in event tents and make a good impression on everyone you meet.
Through hanging out at your local shop you will be known and in a good position to ask if they have any part time work available to learn the ropes. If they can’t pay you then offer to help for free or in exchange for a discount on products. Demonstrate that you can help the shop sell kites.
Get to know the brands reps coming into the shop as well as the wider reps and distributors. They’ll take notice of your enthusiasm and willingness to help and will remember it in the future.
Shops often sponsor enthusiastic kiteboarders between the ages of 12-16. To be on their team you will need to demonstrate an active interest in working for the shop (not the brand initially, but ask and make it clear you’d like to represent the shop itself).
While shop sponsored you should ride and train as best you can and enter into junior competitions. Go to each event to represent the shop, and promote the shop by making yourself look good against other shop riders.
Promote the shop and it’s products through yours and their social media, but also to everyone in the kite community. Help around the shop when it’s not windy even if you’re not paid to do so. Use the opportunity to practice your skills on and off the water to get good enough to be considered to ride for a brand.
You have no idea how many riders don’t have a sponsor tape when asking to be sponsored.
Play around with video and social media. Find friends that are interested in video or photography and learn from each other (get inspired by the story of Bas Koole and Ydwer van der Heide).
Buy a cheap tripod to keep your shots still and document your life as a kiteboarder. Make a video that will act as your ‘showreel’ or sponsor tape, which will serve to help you get noticed but also show what you can actually do and your own style. Think of the video as the equivalent to a resume for the kite industry.
Ask your parents to be supportive of your goals but explain that you need to be the one that proves yourself. Let them help you think of angles to promote yourself positively to other adults in the industry.
Follow other kiteboarders on social media and learn to how to put across your best image using #tags effectively to gain publicity.
If you’ve already carried out steps 1-4 above then you’ll be known in the industry. Once you have proven yourself, make it known that you want to ride for the brand. If seen by an international distributor you will be spoken about. All brands have talent scouts and distributors will have meetings to discuss their list of ‘potentials’. They will look at how good you might be for the brand and market, and pitch that against your skills and accomplishments.
You need to learn how to crawl before you walk. The most respect comes from those who are putting in the work without expecting anything in return. If you stay humble and work hard, these steps come naturally. Don’t expect to be entitled to anything. Sponsors see that as a turn-off.
Airush Kiteboarding has many 12-15-year-olds that are being developing up the ranks. We want to keep our young talent loyal to the brand hoping they’ll get to know our history and the people that make Airush what it is today.
Airush is always looking for exceptionally hard working and genuine new talent. Follow the steps above and you’ll be on our radar: hopefully, we’ll be in touch!