This is to bring some clarity on a subject matter that no one really told me about as a grommet. As a grizzled veteran of the surf industry, I can now look back and see clear mistakes that I made and other kids made as well.
I really can not remember details but at some point in my early teens I was sponsored by a local Burger King to skate on their team. I can only remember the stickers that were planted on my board of the king himself. So Burger King was my first official sponsor.
From there I was picked up by a surfboard company and have had the pleasure of working with many brands. Some were a great fit. Some were not. Many went under during the course of my relationship with them.
The Free Gear!
First off, to state the obvious. When you are picked up by a team and are given something for free or at a discount; you have now entered into a different status. You are now employed because no one really gives you anything for free. So now, you have to work for what you were given.
Even if you are the anti-hero type and wear punk clothes and flip off the cameras; your job is to now bring business to whomever is giving you gear. So whatever you think the parameters are, it is a great idea to work diligently within them.
At some point, I know I did one crucial no-no. I knew I was a good surfer and was bringing people into the shop so I began to grow tired of the circus that would occur every time the photographers would show up. So my move was to just avoid it all and surf.
The problem was that most industries, jobs, and even relationships work on a level of involvement. If you are not front and center, then you are soon forgotten. So being involved and showing a level of caring will go a long, long way.
This brings up another mistake that I saw many kids do. There they were at practice, pitching in and building relationships. Then came a big event and voila!! They were on a board from another company or with a different sponsor. Many sports operate in a bordered environment. So your reputation can quickly go south if you keep jumping ship and moving to other teams at any offer that seems better than what you are getting. No one wants to invest in someone and have them leave before getting anything out of the deal.
The Bottom Line
Treat your sponsors and your team status as a job and an opportunity. Be involved. Go on social media and plug them and explain why you are happy to be a part of their team. Get your friends stoked on them as well.
Also, treat them like a friend. Write an e-mail explaining what you are doing or drop in and tell them in person. Send pictures! Send a picture of you using their products.
In the long run, you can set yourself up for a job or more. I had a great relationship with a few management types who remembered me when they moved on to other companies and brought me to their new gigs.
It is all about what you make it.