Obtaining sponsorship and winning competitions are two of the highest achievements you can receive while riding a BMX. I'm not sure I've met a young rider who doesn't yearn to get paid for simply riding a bike.
Since the responsibilities involved and methods to obtain a sponsorship has evolved along with the age of the internet, there aren't a large number of people who know and are willing to release the best methods to represent the best BMX brands.
How to Become a Sponsored BMX Rider
While the sponsorship world has changed massively in recent decades, in a lot of ways it's become much easier to get into that world. Having said this, the saturation of riders wanting a sponsorship has increased tremendously.
In the 80s and 90s professional BMX riders needed to get noticed in very public settings. Winning competitions and distributing your 'sponsor me' videos to local bike shops were the only viable ways of getting noticed.
Since the advent of YouTube, Instagram, websites and other social media platforms riders no longer need to seek out shops and brands. Posting videos and images online give brands anywhere in the world the opportunity to find you.
Types of Sponsored Riders
Professional and amateur sponsorships aren't that different. To put it simply, the main difference is how official your agreement/contract is with the brand. An amateur sponsorship is generally a verbal agreement where you represent a company at some small competitions or some of your images and videos are used for branding in return for a non-recurring payment or merchandise.
Local bike shops or smaller streetwear brands are the most common for offering amateur sponsorships. When hosting a small competition or looking to create a new advertising campaign it's common for a small shop to offer parts or clothing to up and coming local riders for promotion.
A shop sponsorship is pretty much the same as an amateur sponsorship. Commonly these sponsorships are deals made with local bike shops or streetwear brands that offer some cost reduction or free products.
A shop sponsorship is also likely to be casual and non-permanent but that is not a set rule; a lot of promising kids get some of this special treatment when they get noticed progressing fast at the local skatepark.
Finally, we get to the professional sponsorships. These are the ones we're all here for. While the details of a professional sponsorship are very nuanced in a lot of cases, some overarching themes remain.
Generally speaking, if you're a sponsored rider, you are an employee of that company. In many cases, you will get paid for representing that company in competitions, in videos and generally riding their parts or clothing.
If you're progressing in your career and representing the company well it likely won't be long until you're recruited to help design your first signature part. These are an honour that not every rider receives as the company makes a big investment into completely designing a new BMX part with your advice and preferences. The company hopes that by attaching your name to a new part customers will follow your lead and buy it for themselves.
Professional sponsorships are very similar to regular jobs in a lot of ways. Nearly all established companies offer you the basics such as free parts/clothing, visibility, salary and training but like the usual best places to work, the best sponsors will also offer you some nifty benefits.
Red Bull Bike Sponsorship
After 23 years in business Red Bull has become a very interesting company. Even after selling over 6 billion cans a year, they're almost better known for their empire within action sports.
BMX was one of the first sectors Red Bull used as a marketing tactic for sponsorships in the 90s. It wasn't long until Red Bull saw the returns rider sponsorships were having, purchasing entire sports teams and hosting Red Bull events.
Three football clubs, a multi-champion formula 1 and events such as Red Bull Crankworx, Airrace and the soapbox race are some of the most prestigious assets under the Red Bull banner.
Even though the company sponsors hundreds of athletes in dozens of different sports, it's still not easy to get the companies attention. We have some advice for how to get on the radar but it's up to you to gain the skills and passion.
One of the main reasons Red Bull rules the sponsorship game is the support they offer athletes. They go above and beyond to make sure they're worth a rider's loyalty. A quote from one who got injured is below.
“When I crash, as soon as I hit the deck there are already people hands-on, ready to get me back running and back on my bike. They covered my whole process of recovery…”
The company has its downfall in corporate red tape and greed but their power does impact a lot of their sponsors very well. They have access to the best doctors, physios and professionals everywhere in the world and more than enough money to pay for it.
Monster and the Athlete Development Program
Unsurprisingly Monster's sponsorship program is incredibly similar to Red Bull. The second most popular energy drinks company in the world is also almost indistinguishable from a marketing company that sells drinks on the side.
An interesting part of Monster's strategy is the way they scout riders young, help them progress and then sponsor them when they inevitably go pro. This is the Monster Army Athlete Development Program.
Up and coming riders between the ages of 13 and 21 that show promise in motocross, BMX, MTB, skating, surfing or snowsports are evaluated and potentially invited to represent the Monster Energy brand.
Getting your first sponsorship is the hardest when progressing your cycling career. This program is designed to be easier for young riders to make that first step. Exposure, guidance and opportunities are huge advantages for young riders. Gettings so close to such a large number of world-class athletes will be far more valuable than money when you're young.
Money isn't impossible at this stage though. Features across Monster Energy websites and social media accounts will grow your personal brand while cash prizes will be awarded in the Paid 2 Podium program. This is a fund that awards ranked riders with cash whenever they get a podium in any of the 212 listed competitions.
Athletes are ranked within the program and will qualify for the pro teams and official sponsorships once they gain the necessary rankings.
Now, the sponsorships given out by BMX companies are quite different from the two mentioned above. First of all the companies are a lot smaller so there may be fewer opportunities and wide-ranging assistance than a company like Red Bull can provide.
Having said this, the whole company is dedicated to the sport of BMX and will be directly focused on helping you progress the sport and yourself. Added to that is the prestigious opportunity to design and develop signature bike parts.
WeThePeople are one of the biggest BMX brands and manufacturers in the world. They've supported professional riders, amateur riders and events for a large part of their history. Although they sponsor a good amount of riders and competitions it doesn't mean you're any more likely to get sponsored. WTP will be getting thousands of requests for sponsorship weekly so if you're actively working to get sponsored you need to stand out from the rest.
As with a lot of the bigger companies, the WTP sponsorship program nearly completely revolves around the idea of “We'll find you”. A large majority of the staff are interested and active in the BMX scene. If you're a good rider and are starting to impress people you'll get noticed.
Companies like this get questions about sponsorships all the time with people wanting to know what they should send in to get reviewed. As they answer on their sponsorship guide page; videos, images and phone calls are great to receive but they'll do almost nothing to further you along with the sponsorship program.
One small piece of advice WeThePeople will give you is to build a relationship and reach out to their distributors in your location or country. While this still doesn't guarantee anything it will be much easier to get on a smaller distributors radar than a multinational company.
Distributors are trusted by their parent brands, after all, they wouldn't be allowed to sell their products if they didn't. If you're a rider worth investigating then your information will surely be passed on.
Sunday Bikes Sponsorship
The first idea of Sunday bikes came to the founders back in the late 90s and opened their doors around 2005. Soon after realising how much it cost to manufacture bikes the company moved their operations to Taiwan.
Since growing tremendously there's now enough resources to sponsor a good amount of riders. Obviously, there's a massive list of riders that want to be sponsored by a company like this but they're still very willing to watch your ‘sponsor me' videos.
Sunday actually provides you with some tips on how to get noticed by their scouts and employees. The main instruction is to be influenced by as little as possible. Don't copy the tricks you see other riders doing. Create your own style and if possible, your own tricks.
Backing up our other points on this page, the company puts a lot of weight into personality and manners. They clearly say that no sponsor will want to deal with a rude rider, no matter how good they are.
Similar to WeThePeople, there are four different teams under the Sunday banner. The International team is the most heavily populated group with 13 riders from all over Europe and Australia. Names like Jensen Murray, Adrian Warnken and Nacho Gomez are on this list.
Next up is the Flow and AM teams with five and three riders respectively. These are slightly harder teams to get into but still below the top level of sponsorship.
The Pro team has nine professional riders that create content, bike parts and attend competitions on behalf of the company. Broc Railford, Gary Young and Aaron Ross are all part of this team.
A tire manufacturer now based in America, Maxxis are a powerhouse in the world of rubber and tires. Originally founded in 1967, Taiwan as a small rubber and tire manufacturer, the company now operates in 170 countries, with 22,000 employees and in sectors as diverse as cars, light trucks, bikes, motorbikes, ATVs, trailers, karts and lawnmowers.
Maxxis sponsors athletes and events in nearly all of the sports I mentioned above, after all nearly every sport with wheels needs some sort of tires.
Specifically within BMX Maxxis partnered with the Pure Bicycles factory BMX team in 2016. The team started in 2011 with a small team who set out to build a perfect BMX frame for racing.
Since 2016 Maxxis and the team have achieved many podiums with their riders including international competitions and even the Olympics. The riders were using Maxxis Torch or DTH BMX Tires.
GoPro Camera Sponsors
Another big company expanding into sponsorships of bike riders is GoPro, the action sports company. I think the way GoPro are building their sponsorship program is super interesting and very well executed.
As the years progress a larger and larger amount of sponsorships are solely centred around the creation of content, specifically YouTube videos. There's one thing that's almost essential when creating action sports videos and that's an action sports camera, welcome GoPro.
As well as sponsoring action sports athletes and events, GoPro support a large number of video projects. They can provide a large amount of tough, portable cameras for a production crew to use. As well as their cameras and logos being visible in the videos the superior video quality showcases their products even when they aren't on screen.
GoPro has around 140 professional athletes on their payroll that have various types of contracts. All athletes will get their new cameras every year, pretty much the only catch being that they share their awesome footage with the company. This is another great benefit for GoPro. They get access to an insane amount of super diverse, high-quality content they can promote on their website and social media. This in turn expands their audience through social media.
Companies like Red Bull, Monster and GoPro might offer great contracts and benefits to a lot of riders but they understand better than most that there's only so many BMX riders or BASE jumpers. Having all the tricks on lockdown won't make you unique, you need to differentiate yourself from the rest of the riders that get in touch with them every day.
Some of the top GoPro athletes include Danny MacAskill, Jimmy Chin, Sam Pilgrim and Brendan Fairclough. Some great names from the world of cycling.
As well as simply putting out great content and trying to make relationships within the company there are a couple of other options for GoPro. For one option you can simply go to the sponsorships page and fill out the application.
A second, super interesting option is the media submission option. Obviously, not everyone can get sponsorship but if you're creating great content with GoPro cameras then you should be submitting them to the GoPro Awards.
The company posts challenges on the website that you can apply for. Currently, there's a “Make It #Quik Challenge”, “Photo of the Day Challenge”, “Anything Awesome” and the “Be a HERO Challenge”. If one of your submissions wins any of these challenges you will get paid. The only catch is that you need to shoot everything solely on GoPro.
The Shadow Conspiracy Sponsorships
Shadow is another big player within BMX. They sponsor some of the biggest riders and have some great resources to take you to the next level in the BMX world.
Due to their large, powerful brand presence, Shadow has a huge team of riders. Interestingly they have split the family up into 4 groups.
The first group is the pro team. These are the riders you'll probably recognise and see at the top competitions. Pro team riders are the ones that will be getting a salary, lots of free equipment and the opportunity to work on signature bike parts. This is the team everyone wants to be on but don't expect it to be easy. Simone Barraco, Trey Jones and Matt Ray are 3 of the 6 riders on this team currently.
How to Get Sponsored
Be the best but be unique. While landing the hardest tricks in your sport will get you noticed, you need to bring something new, interesting and exciting to the table. Brands like Red Bull aren't sponsoring you to be a duplicate of their current athletes.
You should treat any interaction with a brand as a regular job interview. If you aren't having much success getting noticed from riding or making videos the first step is to simply make contacts and friends.
Don't expect to get anything without giving something up first. For example, support your local BMX shop, make friends while you're there and see if you can help them out with anything. As well as this, helping out fellow riders you see at the skatepark can go a long way.
Whilst building these relationships you need to get as many photos and videos as possible. Get any camera you can afford and drag a friend or sibling along to your local popular biking spots. You're not going to be a professional rider or filmmaker so don't try to be. Take simple, well-framed videos that showcase your style and tricks.
The companies you're trying to impress the need to know what you can offer them. Obviously, this is going to be exposure and branding but be unique about it. Offer your competition results, references from previous sponsors/companies and other media I explained above. It may not be useful when first contacting a brand but a realistic plan of your future riding plans would probably be helpful. It shows that you're serious about progression and has the ambition to get there.
Choosing the right brands to target when trying to get sponsored is hard. I would say there are some pretty reliable rules to follow to have as much chance at success as possible.
Firstly, there's no point wasting your time with Monster, Red Bull and some of the other huge brands. They're so big and have so many resources at their disposal that if you were worthy of being sponsored by them you'd probably already know about it.
You also need to be honest with yourself about your current skill level. Are you good enough to be a fully-fledged sponsored rider? It's good to be ambitious but misjudging this could result in you wasting a lot of time.
If you've decided you might not be good enough just yet you need to concentrate on local bike shops and clothing companies. Don't go straight down the sponsorship route. See if you can help them in some ways, like riding in some of their clothing in a local competition or referring other riders to their store. If you're friendly enough and work hard it won't be long until you've built a healthy enough relationship where they might want to help you out too.
If you know you're better than the rider I described above you should already have some clips of your riding and maybe some results or references you can use. Start following the tips above and reach out to some smaller brands. Since you're still relatively unproven you should try to find ways that you can help the brand instead of simply expecting them to take a chance on you.
If you're at the next level you will probably already have some brands reaching out to you. If you don't you need to be following all the tips listed on this page. Likely, you don't have enough exposure for brands to see you. You should get involved locally and make some contacts that will be an entrance or reference for a bigger brand.
In recent years YouTube has become so powerful, especially in the world of BMX. Consumers have moved away from magazines and towards websites and YouTube videos. You can't deny they're better.
With this explosion of popularity, it's also become much harder to get noticed on YouTube, for anything. Trying to get a huge following isn't the main goal here. If you had enough subscribers you wouldn't need sponsors anyway.
We advise you to just start making simple videos. Nothing with crazy filters or animations, just showcase your riding and style. Any brand interested in you is going to want to know as much about your riding proficiency as possible. Make this easy for them.
You should be similarly treating Instagram as YouTube. Post photos and videos of you riding. Another important thing to do is make as many connections as possible. Comment, like and message other riders in the industry. Help them out any way you can. You literally never know who is going to have a secret in-road to a big brand until you prove yourself worthy.
Originally, sponsorships were almost completely centred around two things: magazines and competitions. These were pretty much the only ways to get a larger audience for a brand.
While social media and YouTube are taking over, competitions are still a great way to earn sponsorships. Brands love competitions as they know the whole audience is interested in the sport. Also when young riders see an athlete win a competition wearing or using a brands equipment it's an immediate boost to the image of the company.
Winning and taking part in competitions as an amateur rider is still a super-effective way of getting noticed. It's not too hard to get involved in local competitions and if you perform well you'll find it easy to get invited to the next level of competition. If you're placing well or winning competitions it won't be long until brands are reaching out to you.
Bigger companies like Red Bull and Monster host a multitude of their own competitions. If you're able to get an invite to one of these competitions it's a pretty sure-fire way of getting in front of important people. Just make sure you're ready.
Taking part in competitions, whether you're placing well or not, is a great way to create valuable contacts and gain a useful item on your riding CV that a lot of brands will want to see.
Responsibilities once you're a Sponsored Rider
Everyone concentrates on how to attain a sponsorship but the responsibilities you have to fulfil once you achieve this sponsorship are often overlooked. You can lose your sponsorship, just like you can with a job.
Once you achieve this lucrative relationship with a brand, you need to work hard to promote them the way they expect. There's no point tiptoeing around the subject, a sponsorship exists to make more profit for the company sponsoring you.
It may not be an obvious responsibility but progressing the sport and scouting newer riders is important.
How Much Does a Sponsored Rider Make?
You might not want to admit it but everyone's a little interested in what those in your desired profession earn. Professional athletes are quite hard to narrow down because of the massive variations in contracts. The variation in professional BMX salaries is similar to that of musicians. Some outliers are making massive amounts, some just scraping by and the majority somewhere in the middle.
The highest-paid athletes represent multiple big name brands that will all pay a decent salary, other assets within BMX that bring royalties and some even have their own brands or competitions. These riders are earning in the millions.
It's estimated that most professional BMX riders earn around $70k a year, not including free gear, trips and opportunities.
If you're lucky enough to attain a sponsorship the best thing you can do is diversify your earnings into YouTube video, other media and your own valuable assets.
Who's the Best Paid BMX Rider?
Several riders that are now almost household names have earned a tonne of money from riding their bikes. Dave Mirra and Mat Hoffman are probably two of the highest-earning BMX stars.
Before sadly passing away in 2016, Dave Mirra was one of the most successful X-Games athletes of all time. As a result of this, a computer game and TV show were both based around him. These assets would have earned a decent wage for a long time.
Along with the achievements, high profile sponsors such as Haro, Recaro, Monster Energy, Nike, Puma, Maxxis, Bell Helmets, Subaru and Snafu were very interested in Mirra. Most or all of these companies will have paid Dave a salary on top of the free gear they provided him with.
Mat Hoffman and Scotty Cranmer are the only other riders who can compete with the wealth of Dave Mirra. Estimations put Mat within a few million dollars of Mirra, at about $16 million. Scotty Cranmer, on the other hand, is estimated to be worth several million less.
Both of these riders have their own thriving companies, social media profiles and huge sponsors that have shot them to the top of the list.
Why am I Not Getting Sponsored and Other Tips?
I have gone over most of these points in detail above but if you don't want to read all of that here are the main bullet points.
- If you're reaching out to a brand you HAVE to be professional. No short Instagram messages with a ten-second video of you doing two tricks. Treat it like a job application and interview process
- Keep it clean and respectful. You might have all the tricks and all the style but if you're disrespectful and swear all the time then no brand is going to want you to represent them.
- Don't be cocky and ask for too much. Remember there are tens of thousands of riders wanting sponsorships. Don't ruin a relationship by demanding too much too quickly.
- Don't talk badly about the brand online. If a company is considering sponsoring you they will look into your online presence and if they see you talking badly about their brand it's going to lessen your chances of success.
- Don't send the same application email or letter to multiple brands. Applying to more than one company is understandable but make sure you write bespoke letters for each company.
- You need to know more about the person or company you're trying to impress than they do about you.
- USE SPELL CHECKER!
- Don't simply reach out with a one-line request on Instagram or Facebook. Follow the recommendations above and do it properly.
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