19th June 2006
“To Whom It May Concern,
As an avid player of the THPS games and a fan of everything skateboarding, although my doctor wants me to do otherwise, I am writing to ask about something that has bugged me for a while.
For a while now, I have tried to find some kind of information detailing what it means to be sponsored and what separates a Pro from an Amateur. Mostly it is for my own understanding, yet I cannot find any good information on Websites or in books. Any information that can be provided on these questions is greatly appreciated.
These are all the questions on my mind. Again, I appreciate any information, detailed or otherwise, on these questions.
So, possibly the most well-written feedback we have ever received. I’ll take it question by question:
“1. What are some of the differences between a Pro and an Amateur, if the latter is a real term? Also, I have recently found a list of Pro and Amateur sponsors. Is there any significance to a company being labeled as such?”
There are four actual levels of sponsorship. Shop sponsorships are basically when a shop sees a kid with talent, and gives him or her product at a reduced price (generally at cost). Next is flow sponsorship, from either a company or a distributor. The sponsored skater receives a small bit of product on a semi-regular basis. After that, a promising skater might recieve Am status, where they receive some promotion as a skater and some product to use. They often start to get incentives at this point, too; “Get a photo in a magazine and we will give you this”, for example. A really good Am who proves his or herself then becomes a Pro, receiving a paycheck, a “pro model” with their name on, funds to get to contests, and royalties for anything that is sold with their name on. Of course, no matter how you are sponsored, as a skater you are expected to promote the company. This may mean appearances in magazines, at competitions, on television, or just in the skating scene as a whole. If you are not promoting the company, they have no reason to give you product.
As far as pro and am sponsors go… It doesn’t work like that. Any company can take anyone pro or leave them as an am.
“2. In order to become sponsored, does an aspiring skater need to send a video to skate companies or can they be noticed in other ways? Another side of this question is whether or not a skater can be sponsored if they live nowhere close to where the company operates.”
To get sponsored… well, there is no defining route. Contrary to popular belief, it is not all about sponsor-me tapes. You have to somehow prove to the sponsor you are a good choice, and a tape will not cut it. Being visible as a driving or positive force in skating as a whole always works; whether it is by magazine coverage or by word getting back to them through their team, a sponsor will generally find out and approach you. Going the other way round rarely works. So, basically, don’t bother thinking about it. If you are just looking to get sponsored, you won’t. If you just have a good mental attitude and truly love and live skating, you might just get sponsored. However, refer to point 4 on this topic. To answer your second question here, my truck sponsor, Seismic, is based in Colorado, and I live in England.
“3. If a skater becomes sponsored, then, is that it? Or do said skaters use or wear products produced by the company that sponsors them? (Forgive the tone.)”
As said in the answer to question 1, you use the company’s product and have to support/promote the company. They’re not going to give you free product for nothing, are they?
“4. What are some of the things that Pros and Amateurs will do during their careers? How do their lives change? Also, how can one advance to the Pro level?”
This is a wide and sweeping question. During a skating “career”, you can do pretty much whatever you want to do. Enter competitions, do demos, tour, meet lots of cool people, and basically enjoy life. It is entirely down to how you want to live and how you act as a person. As such, it can change you or just let you do what you would have done anyways. I think it was Tony Alva that said something like “We were on summer vacation for 10 years”. However, this can be good or bad. Look at some of the old pros; Hosoi and Jay Adams both went to jail for drug offenses, and Gator ended up going to jail on a murder charge. Meanwhile, Tony Hawk and Rodney Mullen both started companies and basically lead good lives.
To go to “the pro level”… well, it is worth noting that the pro used to be the elite of the elite, someone who had moved up through the contest rankings, dominated the contest circuit, was generally a good guy overall and able to promote the company in a good way as much as possible. However, now it takes less and less; since street skating came in during the late 80’s, for many companies it is now about who’s image is easier to sell and will make the most money. I don’t think I can really answer this now. Whil I still believe there are many companies out there who still give the truly deserving skater a pro model, I know there are many who will take you pro just if you are “the next big thing”, or fit in with the current trend. Those guys often become just another flash in the pan and disappear in time. It’s up to you how you want to go.
“5. Skateboarding is a sport and a way of life, from what I have heard quite often. So, when someone becomes sponsored, if they attend college or high school, will the company usually allow time for their education?”
Some will, some won’t. You get good sponsors and bad ones. Some sponsors will nurture you and support you as a person, and have a close-knit team that has good communication with the owners. These probably will. However, some companies are just out to make money and are owned by assholes, sadly.
So there you go, the longest reply we’ve ever given. However, sponsorship can be summarised in one quick paragraph; it is not the be-all end-all, and it is not for everyone. Not everyone deserves it, and no one should feel they are owed it. Skating is a great thing, and if you approach it with a good attitude and are willing to put in the effort to advance your skating and the skating scene as a whole, you will reap the rewards. This won’t always be sponsorship, and if it isn’t, don’t worry about it. Skating can give you a whole lot more than just free gear; it can make you a better person, show you all different walks of life, and give you endless nights of joy. Don’t throw that away just because you’re still paying for product; it’s more than worth it.
skater since 2000, sponsored since 2004, and still going, no matter what.