7 Tips on How to Become a Sponsored Snowmobiler
Dave Norona | On 10, Oct 2018
The number one question I get at shows, dealer opens or on the snow is: “How do I get sponsored to ride my snowmobile?”
I have been a professional athlete since I was 18-years-old, racing everything from triathlons, mountain biking, nordic skiing, surf skis, kayaks and many other sports. I’ve had support from over 50 different companies, including riding for the Ski-Doo Backcountry Team at present. It has been an amazing ride for sure, and I hope I can offer some advice to athletes looking to work in the snowmobile industry.
How Do I Get Sponsored to Ride Snowmobiles?
Tip Number 1 – Work
Notice I said WORK! The reason I have had (and continue to have) a successful career is because I never, ever, looked for a free ride. The first question I have always asked a sponsor is, “What can I do for you?” It is amazing to see the person’s eyes open up when I ask this question. The reason is that not many athletes ask this!
Once you know what a prospective sponsor wants, then you can go to work and deliver. This is how you form a long-term relationship, and that is what you should be looking to achieve. Many of the companies I work with have been sponsors for over 20 years!
Tip Number 2 – The Ratio!
Remember when I said work? Good, because it is going to take a lot of it. I try to offer a ratio of 6-to-1, which means for every one dollar a sponsor gives me, I try to give them six dollars in return in the form of media exposure (TV, Magazine, Video, Blogs, etc), race-winning exposure and sales.
It is not easy and this is what makes it fun—for me anyway! So as I tell everyone, all the stuff I receive in the form of gear, money or whatever else, is only 1/6th of what I have earned for the company. If this is starting to not sound fun, and more like work, good—because this is what it requires to be successful in the sponsored world.
The result of your efforts is that days like this are part of your work.
Tip Number 3 – Choose Companies You Want to Work With
One of my first sponsors in the early 90s was Oakley. I loved their glasses, their marketing and I saw myself as part of their brand. They initially turned my sponsorship request down, but offered me a few pairs of glasses and discounts on other Oakley goods. I was disappointed in the outcome, but all throughout that year I sent them my race results, media promotions and stories that I had published. The next year I signed with them and spent 27 years with them!
The moral of the story is to choose companies you want to work with, for two reasons. Number one: it is easy to work with companies you love. And number two: if you love them, you will work super hard for them. You only get to switch brands once or maybe twice in a career before people start to think that you will just go anywhere someone will sign you, so choose wisely. And if you do switch, make sure it is for the right reason!
Tip Number 4 – Start Small
Start small and at the bottom! Many people want to work directly with a factory team, but the truth is few—if any—have the skills to do this right away. If you can’t sell product for your local dealer, then how are you going to do it for a bigger source? As a sponsored athlete, all you are is another asset for the sales and marketing team. Learning how to help your local dealer is key, since all sales go through a dealer.
Just remember, your local dealer spends millions of dollars with the manufacturers and they don’t get free gear or sleds. So why would a manufacturer do that for you, unless you are doing something exceptional?
Tip Number 5 – No One Owes you Anything!
I have always said, as an athlete, you are like a piece of art; to some you’re worth it and to others you are not. Knowing this and your value is one of the biggest hurdles to get over. It is easy to think that sponsors owe you something because you’re RAD. However, this type of attitude will be the quickest way out the door.
Sit down and write out a business plan. Come up with what your value is for photos, videos, race winnings, and photos in the local paper or a big magazine. What is your value for spending time at the local dealer at their open house, or running their Facebook or Instagram page for them? Once you know this, then you can start to work on a plan with your sponsors on how they can use you the best.
Tip Number 6 – Be the Best!
Let me just start this by saying that being the best does not have to mean just as a rider. There are a ton of wicked riders out there who are terrible representatives of the sport. Ask any sponsor and they would rather take a rider who has less skills on the snow but can talk to people, is always having a good time, is always helping others, hangs out with different groups and at the end of the day is a good ambassador of our sport. This also has to be a part of who you are—it can’t be faked.
The manufacturers receive letters daily from guys who say they are better riders than any one of us on the Ski-Doo Team, and that they should hire them and fire us. This tactic never works! Not in business, life or in the sponsorship world. Instead look at what these athletes are doing, and then figure out how you can do it better or in a different way!
Tip Number Seven – Be Grateful
I am not special. But I love my life and how I have lived it. It is possible because of a ton of work by myself and all the amazing people in my life! I try to thank them every day, anyway I can, by working harder and coming up with new ideas.
Nobody wants to hear you complain, and if things are not working out for you, then the change is up to you, not anyone else. It sounds simple but you would be amazed how many athletes take a sponsorship, then don’t touch base with their sponsor until the next time they need something. Don’t be that guy!
Dave Norona is a Bacountry Expert with Ski-Doo and considers himself to be the luckiest guy on the planet! @davenorona