Sponsorship, Filming & Competitions - Things I've learnt along the way

Hey you, yes you the skiing public! Skiing is fun right? You want to do it as much as possible right? You want to quit your job/school and go skiing every day, travel the world and get paid for it. All you need to do is get a bit better at it, which you could do if you had the time/conditions/lived by a better resort/had the chance to do a full season or people started paying attention to the high quality social media that you’re posting. You’re not the only person in this situation, and it is possible. We’re exposed to the glory-fun side of skiing constantly by the ski media because that’s what we like to see, we get impressed, stoked and maybe a little bit jealous. There are other aspects to getting sponsored though, and this article is more about the business end of how it works. It’s going to sound a bit heartless sometimes, but it’s stuff that I wish someone had told me 10 years ago. Believe me I love skiing as much as the next ski bum- I’ve devoted most of my life to it. Some of the things I’ve written below I would’ve never said/admitted 10 years ago, and I thought twice about it now too, but people on the internet are going to judge you no matter what you say, so it might as well be what I actually think.  


What sponsors want and how to get sponsored
Firstly, and most importantly, ski brands want to sell ski gear. They are not just sponsoring you because they like giving product to people that do rad stunts, they want the advertising that you will provide and that will increase their sales - and this needs to be by more than the value of the product they give you. Any sponsorship proposal to anyone should be built around your understanding of this, and a demonstration to them of how you’re going to turn your wearing of their gear into sales of it. (This is not always strictly true, Planks have a super sick team because they believe in nice people.) One of the most common ‘mistakes’ early on in a prospective ski career is doing things for the attention and respect of your peers rather than the public- a banger photo or video part that doesn’t get much attention is worth less to a sponsor than a lame-ass faked powder turn shot with a nice background that gets run in a newspaper, uncool magazine, shop or resort advertising. Tourists don’t know what magazines to read or websites to look at, but they’ll usually pick up a trail map when visiting a new resort. If you don’t know any photographers then go shooting with your friends and a decent camera at your local resort- get photos that the public can relate to and then give the ones that show off your (potential) sponsors to the resort to use in their next trail map. Thousands of these will get printed, distributed and read. This is just one example. I’m not trying to say that banger shots or respect from your peers isn’t important, it is for sure! But that’s the easy part to figure out and you didn’t need to read this to know you’ve gotta do impressive stuff to be sponsored/pro. Get gnarly too, it will for sure make you feel better than that lame pow turn did, and send those shots to your favourite magazine/website. In general just spare a thought for what type of shots could get published and where while you’re out shooting.

Norwegian road gap by Vasco Coutinho Norwegian road gap by Vasco Coutinho. This photo never got published anywhere, primarily because it was shot by a snowboard photographer with no ski magazine connections. Going shooting with photographers with good connections is just as important as getting good photos.

This got run because the ski resort looks good in the background This photo got published a bunch, because it was taken by a well-known photographer who sold it to the resort. They have it on file and they can use it anywhere they like, as much as they like, so they do. The resort looking good in the photo is more important than the skier looking good in the photo for them.



How filming actually works
When I watched ski movies growing up I always thought that it was some kind of magic. I thought that the guys and girls featured in them got magically transported to the sunniest spots with the best snow, a really talented filmer/editor and then stomped everything first time without fear or hesitance. Turns out it's not like that, a lot of luck and hard work have to come together to turn all the effort of getting there and timing it right into a usable shot. Only one thing needs to go wrong with the skiing, filming, snow conditions, timing, weather or light for the shot to be demoted to B roll status, where hopefully something about it will be funny and then it can roll with the credits. I know that this is a bit of a typical rant and I will end it with the sterotypical 'but getting the shot makes it all worthwhile' line, but I guess I'm writing it for people that ever wondered what actually goes on behind the scenes of ski movies, 'cause it can be a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. Basically it’s not always going to go your way. But if you stay motivated, determined and (most importantly) creative for long enough you will get something out of it. There is no logarithm for the amount of effort or skill that goes into a movie equating to a certain number of views- you will have banger clips that get little attention sometimes, but don’t be discouraged because you’ll also have super lame stuff that blows up, often stuff that you might not have even wanted published like a funny fail. The under-viewed good edits still need to be there though, so that when someone hears about you from the funny fail clip and looks you up they find the good edit- and that’s the type of person that would follow you on social media. Building hype about what you’re filming on social media can be just as important as what you’re actually filming too- these days it’s more likely that someone will see a social media post from one of the riders or producers than the actual film, and that’s OK because you and the film are still getting through to people. On the note of social media it is also possible to convert your personal Facebook page into a ‘fan page’- your sponsors will like this, and if you do some follow/unfollow to get more followers on Instagram or Twitter, well you won’t be the first. Just make sure you actually post good quality stuff to make up for it/keep your followers. When it comes to filming- if you don’t have anything good to post then don’t post anything. In my opinion this is more important with film than photos. Also when posting videos include place and product names in YouTube titles- they will come up more in search engines. Or post videos straight to Facebook- they will then be shown to more users than externally linked videos. If you compete in Freeride then film your lines as often as possible (even if it’s just helmet camera) and as long as you’re proud of it then post them to YouTube with the competition name in the title. Since the same faces are used year after year for many FWQ events people will watch your video to help scope the face, giving you reliable views.

A lot of effort went into this edit; all the travelling, waiting for good conditions, nerves, crashes and money that I spent, not to mention downloading an editing program and learning how to use it. However it only got a few thousand views.

Start your day with a huge drop!here is the #GoPro Moment with Neil Williman Skiing Human from the #FWT15 Bergbahnen Fieberbrunn restaged in Vallnord-Arcalis, Andorra.

Posted by Freeride World Tour on Tuesday, 3 March 2015

FWT GoPro Moment from Andorra. This was one competition run, in less than ideal conditions, where I pretty much crashed. But it got over 150,000 views and a lot of love. Just keep producing stuff and getting it into the hands of the right websites and eventually it will get seen by people that appreciate it.



You definitely wouldn’t be as nervous about doing this run any other day
I’m going to keep this short and simple because it’s so easy to over think competitions.
  1. Ski a line that you know you can ski well and then crush it. A good rule of thumb is to ski something that you’re at least 90% sure you can stomp, Hamish Acland (one of NZ’s best ever freeride skiers and the founder of Mons Royale) told me that once and it’s done me well. Try to throw some grabs in there if you’re not going to trick, and make it obvious that you’re having fun. This is much better than skiing a line at the limit of your ability and hesitating, backslapping or crashing.
  2. Be as creative as possible, if you do something that no-one else does it’s usually easier to score better. There is nothing in the judges manual about this but as soon as you ski a line that someone else skis then they’re comparing you directly with them.
  3. When you’re not skiing comps then work on making that ‘90% line’ better. Practice looking at a face from the bottom and then skiing it without stopping, including the airs. Do it with your buddies and film each other.
  4. Try to be excited in the start gate and get pumped about how much fun you’re going to have, this helps overcome the nerves!

Getting competition creative in Austria, photo by Wolfgang Riepl Getting competition creative in Austria, photo by Wolfgang Riepl

Lastly, be genuinely thankful to your sponsors. I’d like to thank Fischer, Planks, Marker Goggles, Komperdell, Pieps, Axamer Lizum and GoPro NZ. Without them I wouldn’t be writing this.

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