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Sponsor Me! How Sponsorship Works in Skate


Jay Riggio for ESPN.com/action

When I began skating in the late ’80s, I didn’t know what getting sponsored was. For all I knew, there was a panel of wizards who appointed pros and ams to their respective team positions.

Things have certainly changed in skateboarding, and today, the thought of sponsorship often coincides with one’s first push down the freakin’ street. With evolving camera technology and more accessible video formats, the creation and submission of the sponsor me tape is now more prevalent than ever before. Since team managers are the lucky recipients of every sponsor me video that gets sent in, we wanted to find out from a few of skateboarding’s biggest teams what they love, loathe and look for in the sponsor me tape frenzy.

Foundation/Pig Wheels

Foundation Skateboards and Pig Wheels TM Eric Wall sits at his desk while sifting through hours of sponsor-me footage. When you find a good one, it makes it all worth it.

Running TM duties for both Foundation and Pig Wheels is Eric Wall. Though he’s busy handling rider business, Wall makes time to watch at least one sponsor me clip per day. The majority of the footage he gets comes in an email with a link to YouTube. “For the people who might not be up to par, I give it about 30 seconds,” says Wall. “If the first 10 tricks aren’t what I’m looking for, then I’m guessing the next 50 aren’t either.”

If he’s amped on what he sees, he’ll bring in others – including some of his team riders – to review the footy. If it’s agreed upon that the dude is undeniably sick, then Wall contacts the kid and commences the hook up. “I look for a lot of things during the watching process. Style is first and foremost. Speed, gnarliness, trick selection, spot selection, order of tricks, comfort, et cetera,” continues Wall. “I look at what the kid wears and what boards he’s riding. It helps in decision making if he’s already rocking our stuff.” Plan B

Sean Hayes almost made it as a pro dino rider, but found his way into the world of skateboard team managing instead. Here he relives his glory days and thinks of what might’ve been.

Plan B TM, Sean Hayes, looks for somebody who stands out from the rest of their peers, has a unique approach to skateboarding, good style and a natural ability. Hayes believes, too, that footage should wholeheartedly encompass an individual’s personality, as well as their skating. “If you like to focus your board, show that,” he says. “If you skate for 10 hours a day, show that somehow. Let the viewer understand what you’re all about.” As much as somebody wants to prove themselves in a video, they need to be aware that they’re submitting footy to one of the best skateboard teams in the business. Hayes has received his fair share of documented wackness. “I’ve seen paintball sponsor videos and hack-sack videos, all of which are lame—but awesome at the same time.” High Grade Distribution: Satori Creation and Yellow Brand

High Grade Distribution’s Team Manager Nick Matlin has undoubtedly seen sponsor-me tapes of every caliber. He’s only interested in the heady ones though.

High Grade TM, Nick Matlin gets three to eight videos a week. He prefers to receive links to footage so he can watch quickly and get right back to the kid who submitted it. With tapes and DVDs, Matlin brings them home to watch with his riders and see what they think. “It’s more fun that way,” he says. Though Matlin has seen his share of impressive footage over the years, one tape from Ben Stewart was one of the best tapes he’d ever received. He hooked Stewart up on Creation under the premise that “the kid can do everything.” Rather than hook a kid up right away, Matlin prefers to meet them and make sure they’re not lazy. “I always flow a kid for a bit to see how hard they work. I don’t want to put someone on my team that isn’t going to try,” he says.

Birdhouse

When Birdhouse TM, Steve Haring isn’t watching his own riders’ backs, he’s peeping tapes from aspiring kids. While he receives at least two to three videos a week, it isn’t uncommon for Steve to come up on five a day. The majority of the footage he receives shows up in DVD format. “I usually put them aside for a little bit, then when there’s a stack, I grab them all and watch them in one sitting,” says Haring.

“The first thing I look for is style. The guy could be doing the craziest tricks, but if his style is horrible, then there is no hope for him,” explains Haring. Sick tricks are essential for standing out, but no free product is handed out if they don’t look good. Crimson

Charlie Thomas urges would-be riders to leave the BS on the cutting room floor.

Manual pads and ledges might be enough for some TMs, but Crimson Skateboards TM, Charlie Thomas is a firm believer in on-board versatility. “I like a mix of a lot of things—style, trick selection and being able to ride your skateboard on everything.” Just make sure to leave the BS off-camera when you’re pitching Thomas. He isn’t impressed by résumés, every trick filmed at a skatepark, tripod footage, bad music and footage that’s so old you can tell the age of the clothing and boards.

What matters most of all at the end of the day is straight up skill. “I have seen a few tapes in my time that were undeniable—once you saw the footage, you knew that someone was going to hook them up if you didn’t,” says Thomas. “One recent tape that sticks out in my mind is Vince Del Valle’s. When I saw it, I just knew.”


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