Being a “small brand” (and we mean a real small brand, not Numbers or FA…) is a lot of work, with little to no financial reward. On top of all the things one must do, there is the ever popular “Sponsor Me” message that is usually sent via direct message on instagram. While at first they may be amusing and even flattering, they quickly become more of a nuisance than anything.
We introduce to you the owner of a small brand…….
SMDM:Okay, so whats your name, and what do you do…
Vegan John: My name is John Vitale. I own The Killing Floor. I “do” a lot of things but thats probably the one you assumed to hear as your questions answer. I’ve had the brand for about 6 years. Before that I used to own a skateshop for many years. I worked in a shop before that, so I’ve been in the skate industry for as long as I can remember.
SMDM:Did you get more sponsor me videos as a shop owner or brand owner? I know times have changed since you owned a shop, but I figure kids would harass a shop as well….
Vegan John: Nah, I mean honestly I definitely had some kids try to push themselves on me. Sometimes it was a little awkward. Kids want to get hooked up. It feels cool, butI guess the main difference is back then(2002-2008) , the kids at that time were actually good at skating. They may have been total fruitcakes, but at some stripped down level, were actually reasonably working for the opportunity, if that makes sense.
SMDM:Yes, I get that. The kids now that send the DM’s are usually terrible.
Vegan John: I still get sponsor me emails here and there that are kids who actually have skill, but the new “sponsor me” thing has taken on a new meaning overall. Most kids that know what’s up that rip, are more selective and cautious about their approach if they are proactively looking to get connected with a brand. Most of what happens nowadays is just all of this whole new generation that has skipped over or milled yesterday’s era altogether.
SMDM: So basically, times have changed and the kids have as well?
Vegan John: I think everything has changed so rapidly socially and in how we communicate that kids have zero filters now. Not just skating, but in life in general. Actual solid like skills in human interaction. I guess in some weird way it seems to be working? It’s all really weird to me. I’m old I guess. I don’t even have music on my phone. I only own records. I definitely get a whole new breed of sponsor requests now. I even feel refreshed when a kid goes through the lengths to send an email! I get emails consistently, but I get DM messaged ten times more.
SMDM:I feel that if they are too lazy to find an email they don’t even deserve a sticker…
Vegan John: How hard is it to go online and find an email address to send footage to? If you can’t find one, its probably for a reason. Just don’t try. If Palace wants to hook you up they will find you…if not, then it wasn’t meant to be, thats how life used to be.
SMDM:I definitely agree, the emailed ones are usually better than the DM ones. Do you and other brands ever get the same kid saying he is each of your favorite brand?
Vegan John: Yes, that one is pretty common unfortunately. I’m pretty close with several other brands, and we actually send them to each other, and vice versa. Sometimes the kids even forget to change the brand’s name when they copy and paste in your DM. I’ve received requests that were addressed to another brand. It’s hilarious as well as pretty fucking sad. These kids don’t care though, they have no one to answer to. If they get busted the are just another IG handle that disappears back into the vortex, so they really could care less.
SMDM: One time I referred a kid to you when he asked me for sponsorship. He stated how he already hit you up, and you told him to get a job. Do you always bestow life lessons on these kids?
Vegan John: Not always, but if they catch me at the right time I am liable to cut loose on them. I can also be a really nice, and pleasant person to some of these kids. It’s all in their approach, and how I feel at the moment. My general rule is that 9 out of 10 of these kids needs to learn some valuable life lessons. Not trying to be a dick, but when I was a kid, I was horrified of the older guys in my scene. When I got to be in high school and earned respect from a majority of the older skaters, I still treated them with respect. They clearly knew more than me. They had lived through more of the evolution of skateboarding culture, so who was I to act entitled? None of it matters now. Kids don’t know anything beyond what happened last week. I also believe that as the older generation, its our duty to try and teach these kids whats up. It’s way more difficult now than it was years back.
SMDM: Yeah, I have a few kids I flow, I try and set them straight when they go off the path. Not trying to alter who they are, but let them know that some things are trends and that some things are here to stay….
Vegan John: It’s way more difficult now than it was years back, but if you are a band owner, or even a shop owner, I think its your social responsibility to make a valiant effort to teach these kids as much about skateboard culture as you can.
SMDM: Ha, I usually tell them to watch old 90’s videos and they can then copy that and be the new hot skater….I think they think I’m being sarcastic, but basically that seems to be the way to go now, which I personally don’t really get, but I do…if that makes sense..
Vegan John: Telling kids about stuff like that is what will keep all the stories and photos and little important nuances of the culture alive. Otherwise, a lot of what you and I know is going to be lost in ten or twenty years time. It’s like history. If you don’t teach in school, kids have nothing to base their current situation on, which is a pretty dark and uneducated place. I hate to think about where skateboarding could be in 25 years if this generation can’t figure out how to hold that kind of stuff as valuable.
SMDM: 25 years? I’m fearful of what it will be like in 5! How many of these kids do you think even owned a Killing Floor deck at one point?
Vegan John: Probably none. Most of them probably discovered us on the same day that they were compiling their little carbon copy list for their weak DM requests.
SMDM: Do you think they feel that a “smaller brand” is easier to get sponsored by? I know I was told by a kid that “Jart and Plan B are the highest level” and he could not get sponsored by them, so he sent me his footage.
Vegan John: Jart? HAHA Jart and Plan B are on the same level? Does anyone even know what Jart is? Yeah, I think there is something to that. I mean, if I was gonna try to get sponsored I would probably go for smaller brands first…but they also aren’t the brands that have a budget to hook everyone up, even if a kid deserved it. Speaking as a smaller brand, and you know this as well, it’s tough to flow a lot of people, on top of your actual team. By the time all the team and flow boxes are sent (we have to eat the shipping costs on these boxes on top of the product that is sent for free) that’s a chunk of our potential profit right there…But, they probably take us for more of dummies that are just hoping to spread the gospel of our brands and that we “need” them more than the big brands I guess.
SMDM:My favorite is “If you flow me, I’ll get your boards in my local shop”. As if it’s not cool enough to buy, but for free it’s cool. If your so into the brand, it should already be in the shop.
Vegan John: Yeah, that one is great. As if we actually wanted these type of kids being the ones to sell our brands to their local skaters. I can only imagine how annoying most of these kids are to the shop owners. How about I call the shop, get the boards in, and YOU can buy something to support the brand you want to ride for….That should be step #1 in trying to connect with a brand. Show support before asking for “flow”. These kids have everything backwards. They try to get “Sponced” before they can even do 3 tricks. I think sponsorship has become something more like a free promotion to this generation. Having skateboarding skills, and the overall kind of person you are, doesn’t even register to this generation as viable elements of the situation.
SMDM:Not sure about you, but I know I’m 500 times more receptive when someone is riding my brands product in their sponsor me. That changes how I view it for sure.
Vegan John: Oh definitely. It’s not the the game changer, but it shows support towards the brand, and shows a sense that they grasp the concept of the brand, as opposed to sending 100 random dm’s while wearing a Plan B hoody.
SMDM: I can’t knock a kid for wanting to get sponsored, its more the approach they have. They have minimal brand knowledge, and feel that wearing high dickies and doing 20 wallies will get them a sponsor.
Vegan John: Yeah, if you send in footage, like…actual footage, not just iPhone clips though Instagram, right off the bat I’ll have more respect for you, regardless if the footage is worthy of sponsorship or not. Half of these kids don’t know the first thing about brands like ours. They’re essentially just doing a search and cut and pasting a number. And yes, the trendy shit is wild too. How fast things catch on, and then almost become so dorky that they are now mainstream. I’ve seen some sponce tapes where the kids are actually really good, and even have decent style, but are way too caught up in what’s “cool”, or whatever is trending hard at the moment.
SMDM: Body varial and white pants, I’ll shut it off right there.
Vegan John: It ruins it for me. 10-15 seconds in is usually my max.
SMDM: Have you ever sponsored anyone from a footage tape?
Vegan John: Yeah, I actually have before. It is very rare, and almost never happens. I actually have though. I’m sure you know too, but international distributors like to try and get some sort of flow/brand ambassador for your company in their regions, to help promote it all locally. Those all come from sponsor me footage. It’s different, it’s people being suggested to you from across the globe, but still kind of the same thing. I think if kids are actually good, and smart, and sort of cool, there is no reason why they shouldn’t send a sponsor me tape out, as long as they are interested in that brand and aren’t hoping for handouts.
SMDM: Ok, 3 biggest things NOT to do when sending a sponsor me?
Vegan John: #1. DO NOT SEND FLATGROUND SKATING IN A PARKING LOT OR YOUR DRIVEWAY. It better be decent tricks, filmed decent on a real camera, at decent spots. No one wants to watch you embarrass yourself, especially not brand owners who are busy.
#2. Don’t include a 3 paragraph blab about what you are going to do for the company and why they should hook you up. No one needs to hear that shit. Keep it to yourself, the skating needs to speak for itself.
#3.DO NOT PUT MUSIC WITH THE FOOTAGE. No one wants some pretty little wrapped up with a bow horrible edit job that your homie did on his PC. Just send raw footage with no music. We don’t want to hear your poor music choice. It just makes the skating worse. Just raw footage only, thats why its called a “footage tape”.
SMDM:The one I hate most is the “we transfer”. I don’t have time to unload each clip. I would rather see it in a timeline filmed off a phone. This one dude we flow sends them all the time, it kills me. I don’t even watch.
Vegan John: Fuck “we transfers”. If you are that dumb to make it that difficult to watch, you don’t deserve to have anyone watch it.
SMDM: Ok, lets end on a high note. Numbers, the “Garage Company”™, any thoughts on that?
Vegan John:Ah, yeah. The “Garage” brand. First, I’d like to say that I respect Koston. I respect Guy even more. They have stayed relevant for a long time, for a good reason.
SMDM: I was never a Koston fan, but I loved Guy in Mouse. “Thug Guy” the best.
Vegan John: They are amazing at what they do, but I don’t get the
“garage” thing. I actually, in all honesty, have a hard time hearing that. A “garage” anything, be it a skate brand, or a music band, is assumedly budget, right off the bat. Nothing wrong with making, or having money, but let’s just be clear. Just because it’s cool to be DIY, or on a budget “doing it small”, doesn’t mean you can just slap that term on any product or company. Especially not for the sake of trying to get a slice of the flavor of pie that just so happens to be going around at the moment.
SMDM: John, come on…it’s “cool” to be an small company now.
Vegan John:Yes, it’s cool to be an “Indie” brand, certain amount of instant street cred right now, in an industry where many of the previous and long term heavy hitters are bellying up. I’d have left Girl too, and I would have started a new brand. I would have tried to do something different…all those things are great. However, it’s not a garage brand. Not when one of your investors is worth 15 million alone.
I struggle to do things I want to do with my brand. Im proud of how far I’ve come, but i don’t have the pleasure of throwing money at things i would like to do. So, i just keep working hard, and I’m grateful. It’s great these guys have started a brand, but lets be frank. Do not call it a garage brand. What do you think? You own a brand…whats your take?
SMDM: Fuck. We all started brands, so i can’t tell anyone not to. They have been in skating for a long time. Its just, well, they can automatically get in most shops off the bat, and they have big shoe money paying them, so whats the tiny income from a board sponsor anyway? And i agree, you can’t call it a garage brand. Koston’s garage is probably the size of my house.
Vegan John: Exactly.