Getting sponsored a lot like landing a book deal

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It's all about product placement

Nearly every skier and snowboarder fantasizes what it be like to “go pro.” In the ski industry, being a “professional”  means simply being sponsored. Along with free stuff, sponsorships might also lead to paid ski trips and a few other perks. It’s as close to living the dream as it gets.

Last week Freeskier Magazine interviewed several product Team Managers who offered a few tips on how to get sponsored. While reading the advice from these guys, it struck me how similar the road to sponsorship is to the road to publication.

  • Know the Brand: When submitting a request to a Team Manager (TM) for sponsorship, athletes need to cater their emails to the brand. Only hit up the companies you wants to promote. Don’t be a sponsorship whore, one TM suggests, casting your net so wide that you’ll take anything, as long as it’s free. Same goes for querying agents and editors. Tomes have been written about the importance of getting the right agent on your side to help you sell your manuscript. Finding the right publisher, who will promote your book and get it out into the world, is the name of the game.
  • Relationships Matter: Dave Smidt, Team Manager at Monster Energy, advises, “Try to meet TM’s in person. Don’t be shy. If a TM likes you and the two of you have good rapport, it will only help your cause.” Chris O’Connell of Armada agrees. “Go to summer camp; if you are really good you probably will get spotted by a pro and that’s the best way to do it in our program.” He goes on to say that only 3 athletes have been chosen in the past 10 years from their “sponsor me” packages. It’s almost entirely word of mouth in this game. In the book industry, unsolicited queries and manuscripts go into the “slush pile.” While some books are sold this way, the majority happen through relationship building. When I sold my manuscript to Behler Publication I did so after meeting editor Lynn Price at the PNWA Conference. We hit it off and she believed in my project. That was enough for me.
  • Professionalism Counts: In other words, don’t be a douche. Write a coherent email requesting sponsorship. Gabe Schroder from Smith warns, “If you can’t construct a well written cover letter and resume, then you need to try harder.” Jonny Atencio of Backcountry.com wants you to use spellcheck in your emails. More importantly, we wants you to take a shower before approaching him. Wise words, indeed. Furthermore, if you do get sponsored, Atencio advises not to be a pain in the ass. Be mellow, he says. Chris O’Connell advises to post a video on the internet that a TM can link to. Don’t attach high-res files to your email. This reeks of amateurism, much like sending attachments to prospective agents spells “newbie.” All the above also applies to writers pursuing their careers. Especially the shower part.
  • The Need for Validation: Being a sponsored athlete, like being a published author, offers validation. While it might not bring in enough money to permanently move out of your parent’s house, at least you’ll have new skis and, if you’re lucky, a heli-ski trip or two. Or in the case of writing a book, when people ask you what you do for a living and you say, “I’m a writer,” you’ll at least be able to look them in the eye and hand them the tattered copy of your book that you carry with you at all times, just in case. While these things are important, that’s not all that matters. In fact, as Gabe Schroder suggests, “never let sponsorship or lack thereof get in the way of you having a good time in the mountains.” Well said, Gabe. Well said.
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