Thomas 'Beckna' Eberharter - legendary Zillertal shredder and current Vans European Team Manager - gives his insight into the Dos and Don'ts when it comes to getting hooked up. This was in the mag last year but we thought it was only fair that we'd share Beckna's thoughts for everyone in the world wide wizzle to check out...
In the mid 90s Thomas “Beckna" Eberharter was one of the first Austrian riders to make a living out of his passion. "My first board sponsor was the Swiss company ‘Steep & Deep’ who were making boards using a car-lift. I didn’t earn any money at the time but back then fun and trips were more important to us," he recalls. For years now Beckna has been making a living from snowboarding and now works as the European team manager for his sponsor, Vans. Who better than Beckna to give advice on how to get and keep a sponsor?
- "Today it is quite hard to become a pro snowboarder as there are loads of young, talented riders. The days when companies offered a contract to everyone who was halfway good are gone. But never forget your goals, enjoy snowboarding, learn new tricks and develop your style. If you’re able to throw down sick tricks on rails but can’t get out of the pipe, submarine in the powder and or avoid kickers, you won’t be up for sponsorship for a long time".
- "The first step towards a sponsor deal should lead you into your local snowboard shop as the owner probably has good connections to the companies he orders stuff from. If you can convince the owner of your skills, he might put in a good word for you at one of the companies – it is always better if others talk about your talent than advertising yourself."
- "Start with local contests – results are always the best way of getting the attention of potential sponsors. The Zillertal local Tom Klocker won the Ästhetiker Groms Contest at the Vans Park Opening last January for example, which has already earned him some shots in the mags and a ticket to the US Open in Stratton in March."
- "Be aware that it can take a long time until you earn money from snowboarding. In the beginning you need to invest a lot. I did a lot of Austrians Cup and only after I won the juniors a couple of times, did Nitro start supporting me with a tiny travel budget."
- "Show your personality! Stick out of the crowd, show tricks that nobody does or jump a meter higher than everybody else. But you also need character: It doesn’t help if you are the best rider but can’t deal with people."
- "If I discover a young and talented rider, he first gets support in the form of product (for example boots or a board), then he needs to stay tuned! In the end it is not only me who decides if a rider joins our team but many different people and elements. The team is part of marketing and things like the budget or the representation of a country all play a role."
- "Once you have made it into a team, you should stay in contact with your sponsor. Find out who in the company is responsible for you and send an email with your results and coverage from time to time (not every week!)."
- "You are responsible for gathering all your coverage and present it to your sponsor; that is not his job! Always be aware that nobody owes you anything; it isn’t he other way around. You need to prove your value to the company!"
- "Try to cover every aspect of snowboarding: Contests, video parts, photo shoots. A sponsor can’t deny results and/ or coverage when you try to get a better deal."
- "A professional snowboarding career can be short. At the beginning don’t change your sponsor after only half a year, because you don’t earn thousands of euros from the start. You should show loyalty towards the company you are riding for and only change sponsors when you have the feeling that you are getting stuck or the sponsor has other goals than you."
- "Follow the strategy of ‘smart snowboarding’ and listen to your inner feelings. You can take some risks when you feel good but slow down when you get the feeling that this is not going to be your day. The demands to your body and the pressure to be successful are bigger today than a few years ago. But in most cases, it is not the fault of the companies but the riders themselves who think they have to give 120 percent 365 days a year."
- "Finish school! You might think you missing out if you are only going snowboarding at the weekends but from my personal experience I can tell you that you will be more concentrated and more motivated if you don’t have so much time on snow. The career of a pro can be over after one failed jump and to drop out of school is the most stupid thing you can do."