How to Become a Yoyo Champion: Vol. 6 How to be a Sponsored Yoyo Player Kendama Trick
In Vol. 6, World Champion Gentry Stein explains how to pursue a sponsorship, and shares his personal experience as a sponsored player for YoYoFactory.
How to Become a Yoyo Champion: Vol. 6 How to be a Sponsored Yoyo Player Kendama TrickThis is the 6th video in the How to be a Yoyo Champion series. In this video we will be talking about how to get a sponsorship, and what that involves.
Before we get into anything else, we need to discuss what a sponsorship is. Sponsorship is a business partnership. It is not an entitlement you receive after you win a certain number of contests, and it is not just an opportunity to get free stuff. From a yoyo company’s perspective, they sponsor players in order to help promote their brand or their products. In return they may give you free product to use, fly you to yoyo contests or other promotional events, and they might even design a signature model yoyo with you that has your name on it. In all of this, however, it is crucial you don’t forget that the reason they will offer or give you these things, is because they have found that you are a good representative for their brand, and are useful for raising awareness for their products and mission. If you want to be sponsored, you need to show companies that you will be worth their time and money to invest in you, and as you prove yourself more and more, a good sponsor will know when to take things to the next level. In the best sponsorships, both parties benefit. So how do you make this happen?
Different companies of course have different goals and values. For this reason, it’s important to get to know the specific companies you would like to have sponsor you. Some companies are more about winning contests, while others are more about conveying a certain attitude and linking that to yoyoing. Because of this, you don’t need to be winning every contest you attend to get sponsored, you just need to demonstrate that you can be an asset to a company to help the further their specific goals.
Also, I want to point out that in my opinion, sponsorship shouldn’t be a goal you aim at directly. What I mean by this is, don’t shape your yoyo career and life based on what you THINK a company is looking for in a sponsored player. When you get sponsored you want it to be a natural fit. For example, if you only compete to get noticed, and not because you enjoy it or have a drive to win, you will ultimately be disappointed. This is because yoyo companies are not just looking for winners, but for people who are genuinely enthusiastic about yoyoing. Instead of trying to be the player you think a company is looking for, you need to find those outlets where you genuinely love expressing your enthusiasm for yoyoing – and that can be all kinds of things. It may be through teaching, or posting crazy tricks or amazing pictures on social media, or – if you have that competitive spirit – it may be through winning contests.
Also, just so you know, it’s highly unlikely that you will get sponsored if you’re asking companies to sponsor you. Asking them will do absolutely nothing. They will notice you when you are already active doing the things that will make you worth sponsoring, so make them notice you by working hard and proving yourself through your actions!
Beyond this, I think the best way to talk about sponsorship is to tell you my journey of getting sponsored by yoyofactory and my experience being a yoyofactory sponsored player over the last 7 years.
2010 was kind of a breakout year for me. During the pacific northwest regional that year, I got second place. I then went to the California states and placed 4th. I ended up getting 4th place at the bay area classic that year as well, and I was practicing for my first US nationals. My mentor Augie Fash then started talking to me about joining Yoyofactory, the company that was sponsoring him at the time. He put me in touch with their brand manager, Ben McPhee. After speaking with him I made the decision this was something I wanted to pursue, so I accepted the offer to join yoyofactory. Little did I know this was one of the biggest decisions of my life.
When I became a sponsored player, Yoyofactory did not immediately start flying me around the world to contests, or even offer to make me a signature yoyo. At first they simply provided me with any product I needed. This made sense because I was still establishing myself as a competitor, so they gave me the tools I needed to succeed. This also motivated me to succeed even more, because I now felt I could rely on them to get me what I needed in order to reach the next level. Since buying product was no longer an issue, I was able to give all of my energy to the contest itself. I ended up getting 4th place at US nationals that year. At this point, I proved to yoyofactory that I was a serious competitor. The small investment they had made in me had paid off, so I knew they would be even more eager to keep working with me in the future in more serious ways. Yoyofactory then told me that they would fly me to the world yoyo contest the following year. This is something important to consider. By placing 4th at US nationals, I gave them a reason to fly me to worlds.
Leading up to worlds, I worked really hard on my competitive routines. I won two regional contests that year, and after my win at the Bay Area Classic, YoYoFactory offered me my first signature yoyo. I then used that yoyo to place 3rd at the world yoyo contest.
Over the next two years I continued to work closely with yoyofactory, and the next big breakthrough was in 2013. Ben had a whole new marketing idea that he had never tried before, and because of our history together he knew I was the right player to make this happen. On my side I had some new ideas for a yoyo that were even more experimental than yoyos I had used before. I ended up receiving some prototypes of the yoyo, and as soon as i threw it… I knew. Within 2 months of the Shutter’s release I won my first US National Title. Ben’s marketing strategy was equally successful and the Shutter quickly became a YoyoFactory best seller. Just under a year after its initial release, the Shutter and I went to Prague and brought home the world title.
After all these successes for both me and YoYoFactory, you can imagine that the next time Ben had an exciting new idea to bring YoYoFactory yoyos into new retail spaces, he thought of me. Together we designed a low priced plastic yoyo that would be easy to use, but competitive enough to win with. Before long the Replay was born – at $16 it was a yoyo that was priced perfectly for specialty shops and new players, but good enough to allow me bring home the 2015 US National title.
When you think about all of this, you can see why I say sponsorship is a business partnership. My side of the partnership is to do what I could to help them create and sell yoyos. On their side they provided me with the tools and opportunities I needed to fullfil my potential as a player. And, because I receive a royalty on each of my signature yoyos, whenever they succeed I benefited as well, and the more I achieve, the better they do as a company.
At its best, in a sponsorship both parties are able to achieve more together than they would separately. If you want to be sponsored the best place to start is to show that you are enthusiastic about yoyos and to do your best at whatever your outlet is, whether that be competing, social media, making videos, etc. Keep at it, continue to improve, and the companies will take notice.