Fact is, being sponsored is more of a status thing in most adventure sports. Sure, it saves you a bit of expenditure, but it also ties your hands and you give a lot of hours, days and months for a return which, if quantified, might not feel like such good value! But you'd rather work at your sport than in McD's. I get that...
A few top athletes do get serious money. Think Kelly Slater. I've been considering what it takes to do that, and I think it's this; you have to be up at the level where people you don't even know chase around after you taking your photo, writing shit about you, bigging you up or badmouthing you and trying to sue you. You are so awesome everybody wants a piece of you, or to hear about you, and you can't have a drink in a bar because you'll get too much attention. If you are still the guy who's paying people to shoot you (or worse still getting your friend or your mum to do it) and doing all the talking about you yourself, you are not there yet.
Take a look at this list. Surfers, kayakers, skiers and boarders are not on it. Or in the top 100, for that matter. Super rich dudes like racing car drivers are not even hitting the top ten, despite being the most sponsored people on earth, most of them.
So, it's not what you know, and it's not who you know. It's who knows you.
Beyond that though, never forget that it is what you can offer the brand that matters. No one wants to give you things just so that you can look cool or have more fun. It's often better to approach companies about specific projects and quantify what it will be worth to them. A marketing executive is more likely to give you £100 for a day's work that gets him the photo/video/result he needs, than he is to sponsor you year round. And that's great, because you aren't then tied to any one brand. The downside is that the brand won't be interested in marketing you by name, and as I said at the beginning, status is often what truly motivates an athlete.
As Tez Plavenieks said to me on Facebook the other day:
"Sponsorship is overrated. There are other ways to turn the sports you love into a job you love - as you'll no doubt agree."
I do agree...
Bill Mattos endorses: