What Unsponsored Skaters Need to Understand About Personal Branding

You nailed an outrageous ollie, a mile long manual and a wicked 720 all on film. At this point you may be wondering, "With all that sick footage floating around why aren't the corporate sponsors flocking to my door with Publisher's Clearinghouse style checks and a bottle of Pernond-Ricard Perrier-Jouet?" The short answer is, "It could be a problem with your personal brand." Here's some of what you need to know:

Photo of a skateboard on a set of concrete steps
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You Are the Brand

You may have never realized it before but you are a brand. A brand, in the simplest of terms, consists of elements businesses use to distinguish themselves from each other. Like any other brand, how you position yourself to consumers is important. In your case, the consumers are potential sponsors and fans. There are an estimated 10 million skaters in the United States and your personal brand is all that separates you from them. Therefore, if you want the high dollar sponsorships, your personal brand needs to be spectacular. And being spectacular involves more than just being able to unleash tricks. Companies sponsor skaters because they want to piggyback off of that skater's image to make money. If you can't beef up the company's profit margins and your image is not in line with a company's principals, don't expect its reps to be banging on your door anytime soon.

Positioning Yourself for Sponsorship

Wondering how to position your brand and prove your worth? It may sound silly at first but for starters you'll need to sit down and make a list of your best and worst attributes. Be honest with your assessment and then think about how your best attributes can benefit a potential sponsor. For instance, do you have a large social media following that hangs on your every word? You'll also want to look at what image you have been projecting to the world. Sure, videos of you getting your party on and acting foolish may amuse your friends but potential sponsors might not find them as entertaining. Companies spend millions of dollars or more on building a brand. The last thing that they want to do is to lose money and sustain damage to that brand because of you.

Merely making a list of your best attributes isn't enough. In sales and marketing 101 they teach you about FABs. FABs is an acronym for features, advantages and benefits. Take what you learned from making your attribute list and translate it into FABs. For example, let's pretend that you have won every skate contest that you have ever entered into. How does that help a potential sponsor? Well, winning skate contests feasibly gets you positive media attention right? Your sponsors, by default, share that media attention with you. Therefore, that continuous free press becomes one of the advantages and benefits that you bring to the negotiating table. Pretend that every potential sponsor has the words, "What's in it for me?" stamped on their foreheads. If you can answer that question better than any other skater out there, you are well on your way to developing a spectacular brand.

Once you know what your FABs are, the next step is communicating them effectively to potential sponsors and that means putting together a concise, compelling and consistent sponsorship packet. At the very least you'll need a sponsor me video, resume, portfolio and tailored cover letter. Letters of reference are good to have too especially if you can get them from people already well connected within the skate industry. It helps give you credibility. I'd also suggest that you go a step further and create a website as well as a strong social media presence. Doing so will help show potential sponsors how large your fan following is and how engaged those fans are. After you have your brand image in place, enforce and protect it to the best of your ability.

My children are skaters and I have a history of following the sport. In addition, I have a degree in marketing and have spent many years working in the field.

More from this contributor:

5 Skateboard Companies to Send Sponsorship Requests to in 2012

5 Helmet Manufacturers that Offer Skate Sponsorships

Skater's Guide to Understanding Sponsorship Levels

Interview with Bruce Pettit, President and CEO of Collective Licensing International

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Updated Monday, Jan 23, 2012