Bear from Shoyoroll is probably the best-known and most visible figure in the gi business. The Guam-born entrepreneur, BJJ black belt and founder of the most sought-after gi brand in the world has been supporting athletes of all levels since the early days of the company. He sponsored athletes including BJ Penn and Kenny Florian way back in the day, and the list of top level grapplers who currently rep Shoyoroll is too long to write here.
In our interview with Bear for the eBook, he explains a little about the recruitment and selection process Shoyoroll use when vetting candidates for sponsorship. “We don’t recruit very often and we almost never take on requests as far as people sending in resumes,” he said. “We’re lucky we have a team who oversee this, they filter the resumes. If there’s something cool, we’ll review it.”
Bear is very open in sharing his philosophies on the business of jiu-jitsu via his Facebook page, and two posts in particular should be read by athletes aspiring to get sponsored.
Let’s break this down and look at the reasons why he says that.
People want to know, what will it take for sponsorship as the lower belt level? Buy product from the brand you like and work hard to get results at the highest level until you reach BLACK BELT.
BJJ companies will almost always sponsor grapplers of all belt levels, but many companies say they will naturally favor a blue or purple belt who is an existing customer of their brand. If you send them a picture or video of you wearing their gear along with a request, they’re a thousand times more likely to consider you than if you are wearing a rival brand’s merch.
Also, why should a brand sponsor someone at blue or purple belt if that person is going to quit jiu-jitsu never to be seen again? Showing your commitment will give them confidence that you’re going to be worth backing all to the way to the top level. The further you go, the more BJJ brands will invest back into you.
Don’t focus on the free handout SPONSORSHIPS from people. Just try and WIN at the biggest tournaments and buy the brands you like and want to support during your journey.
When you’re struggling you’ll probably be happy to get any sponsorship you can, but Bear councils caution here. If you’re one of those guys who take a little something from everyone and everywhere, it can be hard to determine who your main sponsor is and who your loyalties lie with. Sponsorship is more than just a transaction, it’s about a relationship. If you can build trust in your relationships they’ll go further and ultimately be much more worthwhile.
Always remember that WHITE, BLUE, PURPLE, and BROWN Belt are kinda like college results until you make it to the MAJOR LEAGUES at BLACK BELT. You would be surprised on how that gesture will go when you hit BROWN and BLACK BELT!!!! That is the real secret.
Again, Bear’s suggesting that you do your best to think long term. It can be hard ot think about your black belt career when you’re stilling grinding away as a blue or purple belt, but once again the key point here is to consider your relationships. Do your best to foster strong ties from an early stage and they’re far more likely to pay off in the future.
Bear’s analogy of the different levels of the game is an interesting one in that he describes every level below black belt as amateur – and even though there are plenty of purple and brown belts who do BJJ full-time, he’s correct here in that you’re never really considered at the top of the game until you get to black belt.
At the Amateur Level there is not a ton of support with the free gear here and there and some small cash help for tournaments. This is very similar in all other sports in the Amateur Level but at the PRO LEVEL is where in some sports are different than BJJ in the sense they get National TV exposure with bigger reach and audience comes bigger companies with huge budgets like Coke, Red Bull, Verizon, Nike, etc…
It’s important to be realistic when looking for sponsorship. Just because you’ve won a few titles or you have a big social media following, won’t automatically mean you’re going to get a full sponsorship package that will take of all your needs. Even guys at the top of the game have to hustle and seek out multiple sponsors in able to live from jiu-jitsu.
All athletes in a majority of all sports struggle financially and physically from the amateur Level and sometimes during the pro level in hopes to achieve their dreams to become a super star professional one day. The biggest reason I write this is sometimes I see many people getting burned out by our sport and tend to move away from jiu-jitsu from all the scars mentally and physically over time. Not being able to achieve goals, careers, family, or need more financial support in a bigger market like MMA or just flat out want different challenges or change.
He’s right in that there are many people out there who are hustling like crazy to make it, but the truth is that the vast majority of those will drop off at some point.
But that doesn’t mean you should be discouraged, and he offers some support in that regard.
I hope all active athletes and normal people who do jiu-jitsu for the art and lifestyle can stay on the mats as long as possible and understanding that jiu-jitsu is for life and not every really about the sport, art, or culture. It’s not a sprint but a life long marathon that can change your life forever if you can understand and embrace your journey win or lose. In my eyes the accomplishments and loving the journey should be the goals overall. But the main goal should be how can I use jiu-jitsu to help balance my life forever mentally and physically.
Here’s a reminder to everyone out there on their grind: you shouldn’t lose sight of the bigger picture. Competition success may feel amazing but it’s a fleeting moment in life that will disappear before you know it. What’s more important than simply thinking about how much you can get out of jiu-jitsu is to remember that jiu-jitsu is enriching your life at all times.
Whether we win gold or not, whether we get cash sponsorships or not, it doesn’t matter. What’s most important is that we enjoy what we’re doing. It’s the healthiest attitude that you can have, and it will carry you through good times and bad.
Getting sponsored in BJJ isn’t easy, and it comes down to many factors. but as one of the most important movers and shakers in the business reminds us, the right mindset can really improve your chances.
How to Get Sponsored in BJJ
When you buy the eBook ‘ The Ultimate Guide To Getting Sponsorship in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ‘ you will also receive free email templates to use for writing to sponsors and a database of contact details for over 140+ BJJ brands across the world. PLUS interviews with sponsored grapplers from blue to black belt and even big-name brand owners who tell you what they look for in applicants.
At just $14.99 you’ll easily make back your investment with one single sponsorship – click the pics below to buy your copy now.