When you’re first starting out with skateboarding, sponsorship can seem as far away as the moon. But, before you know it, you might just be banging out kickflips and heelflips at a rate that deserves at least a free skateboard every now and then.
Skateboarding has grown so much in popularity over the years that more and more skateboarders are given the opportunity to be sponsored. The types of companies that normally sponsor skaters include shoe companies, skateboard deck companies, skateboard wheel companies, and lifestyle clothing companies. Some of the biggest names in the sport are even sponsored by mainstream brands like Mountain Dew and Gatorade.
The key to becoming a sponsored skateboarder is to start at the bottom and work your way up. These are the four levels of skateboard sponsorship that almost everyone has to work through.
The first level of skateboard sponsorship is the shop sponsorship. This usually means that the local skateboard shop in your hometown hooks you up with a discount on the products that they carry. If you’re lucky, they might even throw in some totally free gear from time to time. Most shops require their sponsored riders to run the shop logo on their boards and enter certain contests.
This is the starting point for most careers in skateboarding. If you’re able to get on a flow sponsorship, then you have a good shot of moving up through the ranks to the professional level. Flow skaters aren’t necessarily sponsored by a company, but they do receive free products. No contracts are signed and no expectations are set, but most flow riders receive a big box of new gear every month. Companies hope that these little bits of free equipment will help the skateboarder reach the next level.
This level of skateboarding sponsorship is the first step into the big leagues. An am (amateur) sponsorship means that you’re actually an employee of the company that is sponsoring you. The company will distribute video footage and pictures of you skating and promote you through magazine advertisements. In return, they expect you to only use their equipment and to talk about them in a positive light. Most skateboarders with an am level sponsorship receive as much free equipment as they can handle but don’t get paid any money to use it.
If you reach the pro sponsorship level, then you’ve made it to the top. Pros are massively promoted by their companies, appearing in multitudes of videos and advertisements. Sometimes, companies even give their pros signature gear. This means that they allow the pro to take part in the design process of a particular product and then use their name on it. In addition to all of the free equipment that a pro receives, the company that they are sponsored by actually pays them a salary to use their products. This paycheck can range from a few hundred dollars a month to over one hundred thousand dollars per year.
Skateboarding is a sport that started out as a nitty-gritty activity that was only done for fun. Even though companies are paying top dollar for the biggest and best riders, skating is still primarily about the love of the sport. This doesn’t mean that you should throw away that dream of a sponsorship though. Skateboarding companies are constantly looking for the next big thing and are always eager to sign on promising new riders. Plus, skating takes a heavy toll on equipment and even a free board every other month can be extremely helpful to the beginning skater.