More Don’ts than Do’sDon’t flake on your sponsor! If you say you’re going to do something, do it. Don’t ever take your position for granted or try to use it for leverage with your company, other riders, retailers, the authorities or friends. Don’t ever make a decision the company should make without consulting with them. Get their word on things like pricing, sponsorships, event promotion, future designs and material usage. Don’t for even a minute think you are the authority on their product. You aren’t sponsored because you know anything about boards, you are sponsored to skate okay, you may know a thing or two about their boards but don’t claim to be the authority.
Deal with the NegativesSometimes bad things happen, customers feel ripped off. Deal with it in private and do what you can to mediate the situation. Sometimes a company has a situation where they have to make a decision and they don’t take your opinion into consideration. If this happens, take it like an adult. Sometimes the timetable of your sponsors may seem as if they never get done with something that you are expecting. Be patient. Projects can often take a full year or more to come to fruition, so be patient and do what you are supposed to do – go skate! If you ever have issues with anyone at your sponsor, from the President down to one of the Grip Monkeys, make sure you clear it up as soon as possible and by being as honest as you can. There is no point in letting things steam and blow up in your face. When something looks like a bad situation, always stand back, take a breath and make sure what you do next won’t be regretted after.
Keeping The Boss HappyYou will have a boss, the sponsor may just be an office of one, or a business that employs hundreds, but there will be a person you answer to. Make sure you know exactly who that is, even if you don’t deal with them directly on a regular basis. If you deal with a team manager, make sure you know what he expects of you and always let him know how he can help you.
If you are expected to ride their gear all the time, they’ll tell you. Most companies understand that if they don’t make what you need for a specific discipline you need to use what you need to use. If you’re paid to attend an event and it’s expected that you ride their board, you should do it.
If you’re dealing with a number of different people including the Boss, make sure you know what business is better brought to someone else and not worth bothering the boss. You will often get the fastest response if you know who you are supposed to talk to, and when approaching them with a project, event or design idea, have your groundwork done. Ideas scrawled on napkins are cute but are a far cry from a fully thought-out design. If you show you’ve done your research, it will help carry your idea farther.
Testing and PrototypesBeing involved in developing boards and testing design prototypes is possibly the most fun you can have as a sponsored rider. Getting to ride “zero day” test equipment means you’re finding out first how gear, rides, handles, and stands up to punishment! However, it is also one of the biggest pitfalls you can run into.
A sponsored rider testing equipment should know exactly where the gear stands in the company's lineup. You need to know whether it's a prototype, a concept, demo of a new design, or a finished complete. If a rider touts a board as a finished complete and it is far from done others may get a misconception of that the company is doing. When you ride a prototype, you should take care to choose who you ride with carefully. A single tester with a personal bias or honest misunderstanding can be a serious black mark on an unfinished board, wheels or truck design.
The sponsored rider should know exactly how they feel about the test equipment when they respond to their sponsor. If there is something they liked, what exactly was it? In the inverse, if you hated something you need to know exactly what it is. Make your compliments or criticism constructive. "It’s AWESOME" and "IT SUCKED" are equally useless to an equipment designer.
Always be honest about the opinions; you have don’t tell them you liked it, if you didn’t. If you can’t really explain that nagging feeling let them know. Be honest, if there is something that could make the board better; be as open as you can. If you tell them to change something and they don’t. It’s not that they won’t use your suggestion in the future so do not be offended. Changes take time, and you don’t want to distance yourself from the designers just because you think they didn’t listen to you.
Being ProactiveAlways work keep the lines of communication open with your sponsor. Let them know when you are working on something. Whether it’s an event, product testing or maintaining activity on community and social networking sites, always be working to advance the knowledge people have of the company. When new products come out, make a point to get shots to the sponsor of you skating on them. Get to know the equipment as much as you can. Being informed is one of the most important things you can do. If you haven’t, at this point, made sure you learn as much as you can about the companies’ design and construction process, learn about it! Always be learning, always be promoting, and always be skating.
(Continue reading page 2 for Adding Additional Sponsors, and What's Next?)