Becoming a Sponsored Athlete

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So, you’re shredding it and you think it’s time the skydiving manufacturers recognized your talent with some sponsorship… 

Author Lesley Gale, proudly sponsored by Sun Path, PD, CYPRES, Cookie, Symbiosis Suits and P3 Skydiving
Image by Willy Boeykens

Lesley Gale has been sponsored by the sport’s leading manufacturers for more than 20 years. She has compiled advice on getting and keeping sponsorship, from companies and other sponsored athletes…

Be Patient

You may be sure you’re going to be a National Champion but understand sponsors generally want some proof of success, such as competition results, records, running successful events. Compile a skydiving CV and, if it doesn’t impress you, it’s unlikely to impress others. It’s better to add accomplishments and then make your approach at the right time. 

DO: Hashtag your aspirations on social media: #futurePDathlete #SunPathProducts

DON’T: Hashtag people who manufacture in the same area: #wannabeCYPRESsponsored #wannabeVigilsponsored. 

A hot tip: if you are bitter towards a brand for not having invited you onto their team yet when you haven’t given that brand any real reason to do so, then hopefully reading this article will help! When you’re asking for any type of support from a business, and trying to go pro, conducting yourself professionally is the only way forward.

Matt Gerdes, CEO, Squirrel
Brit Chicks UK 8-way team, happy to be part of the CYPRES family

There are areas you can work on to be the type of athlete that companies want to sponsor…

CYPRES are aiming for being represented worldwide, in a certain amount in each country. Right now, sponsoring is dedicated to the top performer and world/national known skydivers. Therefore a minimum of 2,500 jumps and at least 3 years in the sport is the base line. But in the past year we also extended our requirements, that the sponsored should be somehow connected to a community at a place. Like the local organizer/photographer/AFF teacher.

Jens Gosmann, Management Assistant, CYPRES
Be Kind! Be the sort of person people want to jump with
Photo: Karina Kaiser loving jumping with Pete Allum, by Gustavo Cabana

Be Kind

Be good to others. Sponsors aren’t just looking for winners, they want role models – people who share their knowledge, inspire the community, make the sport a better place. Jumpers who give back to the sport, who are approachable, kind and act with dignity. 

Given the choice between Skygod and the person who takes the time to jump with newer jumpers, is generous with their knowledge and time, and is generally well-liked, sorry Skygod, we’re going to choose door #2

Performance Designs

DO: Always be a good sport, even if calls go against you. 

DON’T: Throw your G4 on the packing mat after a bad competition dive.

The two main criteria UPT are looking for in their sponsored athletes are character and knowledge. We want our athletes to be the most fun and most informative skydivers on the dropzone! We don’t just look for the best skydivers in town, but the ones that also align themselves to our brand.

Vector Athlete Guidelines

‘Generous with their knowledge and time, and generally well-liked‘ – Pete Allum and Julian Barthel came to mind 🙂
Photo by Julian Barthel, proudly sponsored by PD, UPT, CYPRES, Tonfly and Alti-2
Pete is proudly sponsored by PD, UPT, Cookie, CYPRES, Sonic Flywear and LB Altimeters

Give Back

Mentoring others, sharing your knowledge, running events, improving the skill base, writing articles, inspiring others are all qualities that will impress a potential sponsor. Education makes our sport safer for everyone.

DO: Travel to events, you can spread your knowledge, learn a lot more in the process and build a network of contacts.

DON’T: Be a big fish in a small pond by staying at your home DZ, you’re missing opportunities.

If I were to point to one thing it would be attitude, which encompasses judgment as well. How good you are is nothing compared to whether you’re a valid role model, and people like you. Attitude trumps skill, every time. We really appreciate people who can communicate kindly with newer jumpers, even when a new jumper does something silly. We only consider people who approach us with clear evidence of support and a solid track record of goodwill.

Matt Gerdes, CEO, Squirrel
Sponsored athlete Roberta Mancino covered her latest Squirrel WS with the flavors of Italy – pizza, pasta, coffee, Nutella – a fun, eye-catching social media promotion 😋
Photo by Avalon Wolf, at Niagara Falls

Educate yourself

Read about the sport. Research different manufacturers, equipment, methods, coaching styles. Read safety articles on SkydiveMag.Com, Parachutistonline, etc. If you find gaps in your knowledge, ask the right questions to qualified people.

Decide which companies you believe are the best, and do sufficient research to be able to qualify why. Follow them on social media, follow their events, activities, sponsored athletes, go to their website. Try to understand their relationship with their athletes, their voice on social media and their goals.

DO: Question instructors, coaches and experts to improve your understanding and become a better all-round skydiver.

DON’T: Ask advice from the random dude sat next to you late in the bar.

Work harder, jump more, understand the gear and the difference between other gear on the market. Touch and play with the equipment, hang out with your riggers, learn to repack your reserve. Learn to listen and to learn, it never stops. This will help us to keep a growth mindset and allow us to teach better. 

I like to fly/try almost every wing on the market. I try and test all the helmets/suits which are available, this will give me a better understanding of the market and I’ll be able to have my own educated opinion. You will never see me in print or social media wearing my competitor’s gear. This is a red flag, no bueno. 

Will Penny
Learn to listen and to learn, it never stops
Photo by Will Penny, sponsored by PD, UPT, CYPRES, Tonfly and LB Altimeters

Think about what you can offer

A relationship with a sponsor is a partnership, not a one-way street. Think about what you can offer to a sponsor, your innate awesomeness does not automatically give them a return. 

Some ideas: 

  • Run events and credit sponsors on your website/emails/literature/posters
  • Make educational posts on social media with relevant sponsor tags
  • Take cool photos, with an eye for branding (that means, nice framing of the logo!)
  • Post cool photos and videos on social media
  • Give online seminars
  • Write educational articles 
  • Social media promotion

Be the person a brand wants to be associated with, and not a person who wants to be associated with a brand. Simply put, be humble, genuine, supporting, nurturing and respectful, our sport thrives on those who give back, who teach, create & push the bounds of human flight.

For example, Sun Path Athlete Maxine Tate continues to reinvent herself by challenging her skill set and gives back to the sport, as an AFF Instructor, Load Organizer, Flight-1 Instructor, World Champion Competitor and Demo Jumper. Along the way she has remained true to herself and the brands that she believes in.

Karl Meyer, Sun Path Products
Maxine Tate keeps rocking it – competing in 8-way FS, Canopy Piloting and recently she won the gold medal for Female Speed Skydiving at the World Meet in Tanay, 2021 💪
Photo by Zach Lewis

Social Media

Screenshot from Fred Fugen’s Facebook page, a relevant, informative post for UPT and PD

You don’t have to have a following on social media, but it will help your case for sponsorship if you do. A small number of relevant posts is better than a constant feed of drivel. Educational posts are very strong – but only when you know your stuff, posting inaccurate information or about areas you have no expertise is a real no-no. Follow the companies you are interested in, and their athletes, and share interesting posts. Share cool photos and video. Don’t overdo it. Be yourself, be genuine. 

DO: Tag relevant companies in your skydiving posts.

DON’T: Tag skydiving companies in photos of your cat. 

Sharing and tagging us in high-quality and engaging content is important. But make sure it is relevant! 

Vector Athlete Guidelines

Analyse your motives

Why do you really want to be sponsored? If it’s just for reduced price gear or to look cool you might be better getting an evening job or buying a pair of Raybans. Sponsorship is a serious partnership. As a sponsored athlete, every time you’re on a dropzone or post on social media your actions reflect on your sponsors. So, like a politician, rock star or football ace, you are scrutinised. If you’re the sort of person who may be throwing up outside the DZ bar, enjoys poking others on social media or is frequently shouting at people, this isn’t going to work. 

If you want sponsorship to continue doing what you love, to help you achieve your skydiving goals, to join a family of like-minded people, to promote safety/good practice/ethical companies, or because you would wear the logo with pride, these are good reasons. Be honest with yourself.

The greatest motivation as an athlete in the industry is to educate and inspire what is next to come. It’s always changing and evolving, and inspiring the next generation is the best part of it.

Matt Leonard, sponsored by Sunpath PD, SSK, L&B, CYPRES , Cookie & Vertical Suits

Understand if you are a team wanting to push yourselves in competition, then the training and competition programme is more important to achieve your goals than matching gear. Very few companies offer 100% sponsorship. If you have to take resources from your training budget to buy matching rigs/canopies, my advice would be: train hard, go to the meet having given everything, and screw the matching rigs (no offence). 

Team jumpsuits aren’t a massive investment and still give that ‘team feeling’ that helps you be a unit. 

Airspeed XP8 Team training for the World Meet 2021 with Elliot Byrd as camera
Photo by Chris Bess

When people think about sponsorship, they mostly think it’s just about getting free or discounted gear. That couldn’t be further from the truth, sponsorship is a mutually beneficial and long-term relationship between a sponsor and an athlete where both provide the same level of value to one another. When being approached or seeking out sponsorship I first ask myself do I 100% believe this is the best product on the market and can I represent this brand in such a way? The second thing I ask myself is, do I have the time and resources to provide enough value to this brand to make the relationship worthwhile for them to support me? If the answer is no to either question, then it’s likely not a relationship worth pursuing.

Elliot Byrd, sponsored by Sun Path, PD, Cypres, LB, LiquidSky, Cookie, SSK, Skydive Midwest

Be Genuine

If you feel the time is right to approach a company, go to the manufacturer you believe in. You’ve done your research, make sure you include the reasons you want to be associated with them, don’t make your application all about you. 

DON’T: Email all the rig manufacturers the same letter saying you believe they are the best – their marketing people all talk to each other, and you just look like a dick.

DON’T: Email Sun Path saying the Vector is the best rig in the world, you look like a dick.

DON’T: Email Performance Designs with a photo of you wearing an Icarus T-shirt, you look like a dick (even if you are wearing Raybans).

The best people to sponsor are the ones who would buy our brand anyway. They are likely to remain loyal to the brand, provide feedback to help us improve, and develop a long term relationship with.

Jack Bradford, Director, Symbiosis Suits

Part 2 – Sponsored Athlete Etiquette

How to keep your sponsorship and be the best representative you can for your sponsor… HERE!

The greatest motivation as an athlete in the industry is to educate and inspire what is next to come” – Matt Leonard
Photo by Javier ‘Buzz’ Ortiz, shows Matt Leonard, who is proud to be sponsored by Sun Path, PD, SSK, L&B, CYPRES, Cookie & Vertical Suits

Addendum: Consult your Potential Sponsor

The above is a general guide, compiled from a range of sources. But each manufacturer may have slightly different priorities. Check their websites to see if there is any information for potential sponsored athletes

PD has sponsorship guidelines and an application form here: ‘How to earn a PD Sponsorship

You can apply for a UPT sponsorship here

Further reading

So, You Wannabe a Freefly Coach?
Photo: FF Coach Alethia Austin by Daniel Angulo

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Meet: Lesley Gale

Lesley has been in love with skydiving for 35 years. She is a multiple world and national record holder and a coach on 20 successful record events worldwide. She has over 100 competition medals spanning more than 25 years and has been on the British 8-way National team at World events. She started Skydive Mag to spread knowledge, information and passion about our amazing sport.
Lesley is delighted to be sponsored by Performance Designs, Sun Path, Cypres, Cookie, Symbiosis suits and Larsen & Brusgaard

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