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Pro Talk: Gettin’ hooked up

Whether you race, ride park or just roll around the streets, it has definitely crossed your mind at one time or another…

be it a free T-shirt or a full deal, being sponsored is a highlight in any riders career, it is something to aspire to and with the right attitude, hard work and patience, you should be on your way in no time…

If it all works out, you should be living the good life: free product, paid for trips and all the groupies you can handle… But that doesn’t mean that it happens without a ton of hard work – dedication, hours of riding, sacrifice, traveling, filming, shooting photo’s…

We asked a couple of the most respected BMX Pro’s in South Africa what it took to get them hooked up and then got them to give a little advice on the matter. If you are an aspiring rider looking to get out there, get comfortable, this is going to be good…

A very big thank you to all the Pro’s who took the time to send us there stories.

**Just added Stephen Savages’ and Sifiso Nhlapos’ stories to this Feature.

Stephen Savage

“Getting sponsored. when it comes down to riding, all i can say is have fun and ride as hard as you can! its all about sacrifice and having a blast! my friends and i would save up money and travel to all the events/contests we could afford to and just hang out and have fun with everyone that came. i sacrificed all the money i made to get in a van, or plane or whatever to get to events that i knew everyone was going to be at, just so we could all ride together and push each other. i never really thought about getting sponsored.
then 1 trip to Durban for a Riot Jam i just decided that i wanted to push myself a little further than i ever had and the guys were psyched on what i did. a few months later i got a call (on my birthday!) and Jon from Empire wanted me to join his team. from then on i just wanted to push myself and ride as hard as i could, while having fun and enjoying my opportunities to spend as much time with my friends as i could! thats all it comes down to really, is having fun with your friends and pushing each other to ride harder than ever! if thats your focus, then BMX will only get better!
when you see people like Jon from Empire, Hank from BMX Direct, Brad and Greg from the Riot,James from westcoastBMX and maybe even a few you havent heard of, Garth from UDX, Ty form Bicykiller and others, these guys sacrificed everything they have/had, no matter what for BMX! thats all that matters, their love for bmx is what gave all of you any kind of opportunity that comes up now. and now we also have a whole new wave of people wanting to create BMX into something better, Toby and Gerrie at Salvo, Werner at Daylife, GBBMX, and others! they are the guys supporting the scene and everyone needs to support them to make the scene just get better!
this new wave of Internet is the way to go i guess, so i say to every kid in South Africa, get your buddies together and get a video camera and make vids! make the scene bigger and get out there! the more you put into the scene and the more fun you are having, the bigger and better BMX in SA will get! make Tees, get a blog going take photos AND MAKE VIDEOS! the scene is dying for everyone in SA to take over! BMX is what we love, so don’t worry about getting sponsored, just make bmx better and ride harder than you ever have!”

Some of Stephens current and/or previous sponsors: Empire Cycle Supply, Sunday Bikes.

Sifiso Nhlapo
For the most part I think its important to be able to communicate in a appropriate manner when looking for a deal. Having a C.V. makes things easier for the company your approaching.

Being your own brand and standing out from the rest that are in your field is one way that could bring interest around you. Having the results following all of the above is a done deal. So working hard to achieve your goals is also important because sponsors want to help someone that has a plan intact and is goal driven.

Some of Nhlapo’s current and/or previous sponsors: MTN, Morewood Bikes, Redbull, S&M Bikes, Oakley.

Matt Macleod

I started riding purely to mess around and had no intentions of competing or anything like that… After 4 months of riding I had learnt how to flip…. I had a friend who worked at Oakley and so I dropped off a few shots of me riding and shots of me doing flips. They were pretty impressed and hooked me up from there.

It started out with just a bunch of Tshirts and a pair of shades here and there. As my riding progressed, they upped my sponsorship deal to the point where I was able to travel abroad and compete. The key was not only in my riding but in the feedback I would constantly give them. Every time I went to any contest, I let them know and always told them the results etc. I would also make a DVD once a year for them and always sent new and fresh pics. Any coverage I got, I would notify them ‘cos this is basically the reason they sponsor us… to get their brand out there. I guess the same goes for any other sponsors I had. Its also good to be loyal to your sponsors and not hop around too much from one to the next.
At the end of the day, we all ride cos we love BMX. Unfortunately, money will always be an issue in terms of new parts, shoes and travel etc… so sponsors are crucial if you wanna take your riding past your front doorstep. To be able to ride all over the world and meet new people is a HUGE blessing… If you have the temperament, then go for it aggressively!! Don’t expect sponsors to come running after you…

Some of Matt’s current and/or previous sponsors: Oakley, Haro Bikes, Empire Cycle Supply, Orchid Footwear.

Malcolm Peters
I think my very first sponsor was from FlowBmx, which was a clothing company that one of the C.T riders started, it was just T-shirts but I was stoked none the less. There are a few things that you need/can do that will definitely help you if you’re trying to get sponsored.

Firstly the obvious thing is that you need to be good or have some skills on you bike, companies that want to sponsor people want to sponsor the ones that stand out and that can get their brand recognized. The next thing that you can do which is very popular right now and probably always will be is web videos. Film some of your best riding and put it out there! Promote it on all the top BMX websites, if the riding is good people will get amped and the word will spread.

Next, go to as many comps as you can, there’s always going to be loads of people at competitions and it’s a really good way to get recognized. If you bust out big at comps and get some good placing then you’re sure on your way to being sponsored, companies love comps as they can get big exposure to their brands. Lastly and the best piece of advice I can give to you is that you should just have a good attitude towards riding and the people involved, have FUN when you ride and don’t worry about who’s do what trick and how to get sponsored in the first place, if you’re good and having a blast every time you go riding the sponsors will find you!

I’m sponsored by Monster Energy, Salvo Bmx, The Riot, Vans and Alpine Stars, and they all approached me with a sponsorship deal, so just go out and have a good time on your bike, I find good things happen when you’re having the most fun!

Some of Malcolm’s current and/or previous sponsors: Monster Energy, Salvo Bmx, The Riot, Vans and Alpine Stars.

Greg Illingworth
Being sponsored to ride little bikes is one of the greatest things that has ever happened to me. The 2 things that make me most amped are riding BMX and traveling. Being sponsored has allowed me to ride almost every day of my life and travel all over the world and especially South Africa.

Most young riders out there will say I’m lucky, and while they are right to a certain extent, i think it’s not entirely true. My sponsors do as much for me as I do for them. This is the only reason they have done so much for me. A company will never want to help you out if they don’t believe they will get something out of it. This doesn’t mean to say you need to go out there blast their brands name everywhere you can and over doing it…. all you really need to do is stay in contact with them, use their product, and represent their brand properly. Send them pics once in a while. Basically just make them feel like they not giving you free stuff or paying you for nothing.

If a sponsor is treating you well stay with them and do more than they ask for… this will help when you ask them for a little extra. Also if you do get sponsored keep in mind what type of company it is. If it’s a small tshirt company or something similar running from someones garage don’t expect a tons of product or money. Small company’s help people out to try get there name out there so they can grow and one day be able to pay riders. Your job is to do everything you can to help them get there… if you do this, you will be the first to see the rewards.

I think the most important thing to remember is that being sponsored is not what BMX is about. We ride because we love riding and we have fun doing it. Being sponsored is awesome but it’s not what any rider should focus on or even worry about. If you really love riding you will ride a lot, if you ride a lot you will get better, if you get better you will get noticed, when you get noticed you want to be noticed for your attitude as much as your riding. You are more likely to get sponsored if you have a good attitude and have fun riding your bike.

Some of Greg’s current and/or previous sponsors: Monster Energy, The Riot, Mongoose, S&M Bikes, Mr Price.

Colin Loudon
People all have very different opinions when it comes to getting sponsored….some people say it just happens naturally…and others say its something that you have to work towards. Personally i think its much better for someone to take an interest in your riding rather than sending your “riding portfolio” to every brand and Distro out there, it just makes you seem a bit desperate.

So id say the most important thing is getting to events and getting coverage…getting real experience in the real world…not being the kid looking at pics on a website saying “I wish I went looked so fun “… Make it happen!
I was lucky to have a Dad that drove me and all my friends all around the country to various dirt comps and contests and eventually i started going on road trips with some of the Pro’s from the Durban area ….I have Tyrone Bradley, Jon Sherwood, Jimmy Reynolds and Brad Rowlett to thank for that…

And from those trips came new experiences and coverage from photos in mags like Blunt and clips in videos like Unleash the Fury 2….i got to see the riding scene first hand in Joburg, Cape Town, PE and Bloem …..Brad Rowlett even let me tag along with him to the UK in 2005 for a trip.
I understand not everyone gets these opportunities in life but theres so many more ways to get coverage now. Make some web videos with your friends…take some photos (theres plenty of websites that need the content..provided the riding is on par) ….save your money and go to some contests…where you place should be the least of your worries…you were there and you rode..YOU had fun riding a NEW spot! Carry on riding and see where it goes….if you’re not having fun then you should go play a team sport or something 😛

Some of Colin’s current and/or previous sponsors: Empire Cycle Supply, DC Shoes, Fox Clothing, The Riot.

Jacques Fourie
Where do I start, getting hooked or full on sponsor….Simple, keep having fun and never take it to serious, once you get to the point that BMX becomes a job, your in it for the wrong reason, big time riders like Josh Harrington and Morgan Wade; ever seen them ride their bike with no smile?

Didn’t think so, once BMX becomes your life and you having fun, the right people will notice and you’ll get sorted, take me and S&M Bikes, I live, ride and speak BMX and S&M in any given sentence and you can ask anyone that really knows me that’s it’s always been that way long before I got hooked up for life by them, like I always say S&M chooses you, not you choose it.

Some of Jacques’s current and/or previous sponsors: Mongoose, Hoffman Bikes, Jimmy’s Killer Prawns, BMX Direct.

Roscoe Siebers
Well what I can tell the kids about getting a sponsor whether it is a bike sponsor or a clothing sponsor is don’t go out riding with the intention of getting sponsored, just focus on your riding and have as much fun as you can. What I’ve noticed with sponsors, especially with my sponsors; Vonzipper and Kustom, is that its not always about the results (results do help though by the way) its more about your character, personality, passion, lifestyle and influence you have.

A sponsor will take a passionate or dedicated rider any day as they are the ones most likely to get exposure and get remembered, in other words the icon fun loving kind of people are the ones who make kids want to ride, being sponsored has definitely helped me out a ton! I am great full for all the sponsors Ive had from way back then getting hooked up by Clicked then Matt(Mcloed) helped me get onto Mongoose(a great 3 years indeed) then moving onto BMX Direct for a while (thanks Hank!) then of course Billabong who helped me compete in Europe, a total eye opener.

And almost the entire time Vonzipper and Kustom have supported me fully kept my feet warm and looking stylish, its given me more time to focus on riding and not have to worry bout clothing.
As long as the kids keep having fun and getting out there, entering every comp you go to and not backing down then the sponsors will notice! Get out there kids keep raging!

Some of Roscoe’s current and/or previous sponsors: Vonzipper, Kustom, Billabong, Mongoose, BMX Direct.

Questions or something you would like to add? Go ahead! Otherwise Like this ish on Facebook!

updated April 2019

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