Are we obsessed with sponsorship? By Tommy Hook

Tommy Hook, tackling the convoluted and lost art of sponsoring. A cultural critique that implores, insults, exasperates and asks '...Would you not rather be out skating?'

I remember quite vividly the summer I had sponsorship offers. One was from a company whose boards I’d never ridden, or even thought about riding, but still I bragged to my then girlfriend (who  had been begging me to grow up) about it. She didn’t buy it, and in all honesty I didn’t either. The other offer was from a company that I’ve admired since I first stepped foot on a board. Both fell through, one essentially due to laziness on my part, the other due to “funding issues”. Why do I tell you this? Not to brag, but more for you all to better understand the position that I’m coming from – I’ve been on the brink, and I was thankful I came off the other end.

I never once sought out sponsorship. I’m the kind of guy that would take two cameras and numerous batteries to hills, but always leave them in the bag. I prefer to skate than shoot video/photos the majority of the time, and I wouldn’t want to burden my friends with doing what I’d prefer not to. I still got offers, but lost out due to that attitude, and I can honestly say that I was thankful. Who wants to be looking for photos/videos when you can go skate?

The longboard industry suffers greatly from a case of sponkeritis, both in this country and abroad. It’s not uncommon for companies both big and small to be flooded with requests to be sponsored, often accompanied by some janky video, and whilst it’s great to see the enthusiasm it’s a trend that I would gladly see die in a fire. Instead of begging for it, I’d implore people to go out and do something worth being recognised. Do you really think that the small company, already giving away revenue to support essential local events, has enough in the bank to cover your costs? Most of the guys you see as ‘sponsored riders’ only get flow team rates (Google it), and they’ve put in a lot more time than you.


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I see a lot of riders, mostly groms or younger guys, striving for social recognition. They’d love to post a team rider hashtag along with their new #longboard #thankyou #sponsorlife profile pic. Maybe it’s people undervaluing events and the time it takes to run a brand and produce gear. Christ knows, but people sure seem to want a lot without putting the time in.

Whatever it is, it’s not unique to longboarding – even Rodney Mullen (that guy from THPS if you’re old enough to remember that) has noticed the trend for skaters to obsess about that next photo/video part instead of just skating. 

Don't frickin' skate in front of the camera, don't practice in front of the camera, don't friggin' publish it on YouTube every time you get a new trick—it's not about that,” 

Rodney Mullen

I see so much basic shit on my facebook ‘newsfeed now, that it’s hard to tell whether people are joking or not. We spend so long circle-jerking comments on videos of really simple crap, instead of going outside, skating, slamming and getting up again.

Now before someone calls me out for discouraging people, if you want to post your stuff on the internet, go for it. But would you not rather be out skating? Lurking in the deep dark North years ago, far removed from much  of the UK community, even before I’d ever met or saw a picture of any of the UKDH legends, all I’d hear was “that guy rips.” Believe me, it meant a lot more coming from a rider that I respected than it did coming from a company sponsoring them.

Do you really think you have what it takes to go skate, day in, day out, and then produce regular QUALITY content for a brand to use as marketing material? Some of you would jump at the chance, but believe me when I tell you there are horror stories from sponsored riders about how you’re treated and how heavy the expectation is. It’s a part-time job with no pay. Don’t even start me on the industry #politics. You will end up seeing the nasty side of this hobby business if you end up being sponsored. You’ll probably wonder why you even bothered skating, or why you decided to fart around and not skate enough.

Unless you’re beyond talented or know the right people, you’re going to become a business asset. They call it being on the Flow team not because you get “flowed” gear, but because you’re solving a cashFLOW problem for that company. A way to save companies money. Why pay £800 for a full page ad in traditional print media when you can give a teenager a T-shirt and some stickers, give them 10% off this season’s gear that’s taking up space in your warehouse, and let loose a mini PR machine hyped up on Red Bull.

Maybe you’ll just be asked to pay two lots of shipping for one sponsor pack, have your social media hijacked a few times a week and get asked to rep sub par gear in return for being on the team. Or maybe you could spend an entire year repping a product, paying out of your own pocket to get to competitions and freerides (only £120 registration + travel + camping, but you get 10% off your wheels) and get nothing in return. #truestory

Basically it is an ambassador program where you’re paying for the privilege to ride a brand, and at least some companies are open enough to call it that. If you’re still paying for your gear and you’re locked into an exclusive kinda deal, I hate to break it to you – your “team” is exploiting you, not sponsoring you. If your sponsorship or professional status exists solely on your meagre Facebook “Sportsperson” page, it’s highly likely that you’re delusional.

If you still want to be sponkered that much then go for it. The most determined won’t let some silly internet words stop them. But I warned you. Dear God, do it because you love skating, travelling and sharing that with others, not just because you want to be #sponsored #famous #adored #liammorgan.


Quotes from this wired article on Mullen


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