Playing the Sponsorship Game

“The surf world has given up on me. It’s a small world and there is this image that all the big bosses of every surf company have of me. I’ll remain sponsorless from a major surf company the rest of my life.” -Bobby Martinez from story by Jon Coen.

When I was a grom, I have to admit that I was awful at playing the sponsor game. I would get a great sponsorship but I would fail when it came to what they wanted me to do the most which was keep them informed. The boxes of products would roll in, I would put the lams on my board, and then I would pull a disappearing act that would make a fugitive stoked. After awhile, I would be dropped. Thankfully, I did have a few coaches that constantly hammered me about being professional so I always ensured I represented my sponsors quite well as I disappeared off to some unknown break with no photographers. I don’t know how, but someone along the way did not tell this to Bobby Martinez.

At one point, Bobby was a progressive kid with a great attitude and he was very humble. His surfing was dynamic. He had hair even! Now, he is grumpy and sends profanity laced twitter posts and he wonders why no one wants to sponsor him? Heck, he can’t even surf a few simple prime events to keep his career going and he complains about this as well. I wonder if Bobby realizes that his schedule is hardly taxing and adding two more events will not kill him. These events tend to only last for 5 days at the max. We working Americans sometimes are actually forced to work for 5 days every week!!

So to Bobby and the kids out there, please just follow this simple plan:

  1. Twitter and Social Media is not for posting anything that pops into your head. You are an athlete and representing a company. Post about your new boards and the trips you are going to. Post about the cool monument you are visiting in Spain or take a picture with you and a lion. Crying and complaining is for your mom.
  2. If you want to be a pro surfer, you join an organization. Your job is to know the judging criteria and your job is to know what the rules and regulations are of the organization that you want to pay you. They have meetings to develop the rules. If you do not like the rules, go to the meetings and tell them why. Common sense says that you are not going to ride a fun shape pop-out at Bells because this board will not help you to reach a level that the judges want to see. Since you know what the judges are scoring, then maybe it is a good idea to do more than just straight hacks on every wave.

By the way, on a happy note, I have a board sponsor now due to my change and they said they want me on board for life! If a 45-year-old who hasn’t surfed a pro event in years can get one surf-related sponsor, I am sure a WCT guy with a solid attitude can get a company to represent them as well.

And thanks Erie Surfboards for the help! You make the greatest boards! (See how you do it!)

You can read the Bobby Martinez article here:


About 1stpeaksteve

Welcome to The Side Wedge! The Side Wedge is a product of the journey through life of Steve Zima. Former professional surfer, a writer, surf coach, and hospitality manager. This is a collection of travel tips, motivation, and stories from my past. Finally, I offer surf coaching through The Side Wedge. Please feel free to contact me with questions if you want to improve your performance today! Thanks for reading!
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