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How to be a sponsored builder?

rockyboy

Skill Collector
Mentor
#1
I'm not sure if building with a sponsor would make me too anxious to enjoy the process, but it could be fun to try.

Anyone have any tips for how to get a sponsor for a build? Stories or experiences to share?

I've heard tales of "professional builders" doing huge projects for Top Gun and other big competitions, but is there anything going on at the shallow end of the pool too?
 

Namactual

Well-known member
#5
I would think all you need to do is get popular on some forum or social media platform. Once a company thinks that you have enough followers to warrant the expense of the sponsored parts vs advertisement revenue they will come to you. I see this all of the time with the automotive channels I follow. Once a youtuber has a build that gets a lot of attention, the sponsors come out of the wood work.

It's just winning the popularity/viral lottery. There are a lot of great builds and projects I see that are deserving of attention, but they just have not hit the lottery yet.

I am sure there are a few places for small fry, but probably with smaller companies.
 

Joker 53150

Mmmmmmm, balsa.
Mentor
#6
I had a company reach out to me asking me to do a product review. Figuring I had nothing to lose I accepted the offer. For my first review they started small, with a 2-cell trainer, receiver-ready ARF. They did as they promised and sent me the kit, with no real strings attached. They did give me specific links to put with my review so they could track how many people clicked-thru to potentially buy the plane. I did a number of posts, and a flight video or two, and that was it. I was able to keep the plane for my efforts.

Not long after they asked if I wanted to review another, which I agreed to. This time I ended up with a 3 or 4 cell Mustang Reno racer. It was actually quite a bit of fun to fly, but I couldn't get it to land without a nose-over. Again, my review included build details and flight video, along with a link for people to click on to buy. I assume that one didn't generate as much click-thru as they wanted, and I wasn't going to whore myself out on all social media sites like they started pressuring me to do, so we broke communications and I haven't heard back since.

This was a China-based company and communication was a bit of a pain due to the time-zone difference and language barrier. The planes were fine, and I think they over-estimated how much time I was willing to spend talking-up their product on numerous websites or other social media. I never promised I'd do anything more than post my findings and a video, which I did.

I'd love the opportunity to do a balsa kit for somebody some day, but I'm not going out looking for it. I like to build on my own schedule with my own interests in mind - building for somebody else may turn my "fun" into "work". Ick!
 

leaded50

Well-known member
#7
"whore myself out" ... :LOL: thats a main thing to faster get a promotional sponsor.
Build what you like, as you wants it, show it, and if they preciate your work, they come to you. If not?....well, thats life, and their problem.
Its your skills, your self promotion, who gets sponsors, its not possible get any other way
 

willsonman

Builder Extraordinare
Mentor
#8
Well, mine is perhaps not the BEST story however it is an interesting journey I've had. Several years ago I stumbled across the application page on Hobby King's website and thought, "why not." I put together a letter outlining how upon observation Hobby King's focus is on makers and how their site, with all of its parts and bit and bobs, it very much maker-focused and NOT strictly geared toward the pilot. I then outlined how those who build are never focused upon but rather the skill set a pilot would have to showcase what a particular item had capability of. I could focus on the capability of MULTIPLE items and use my skill set to show how others could use the same items and develop the same skills. I also outlined my community outreach efforts I had done, including teaching master classes at Flite Fest one year, as well as public projects outlined online and through my YT channel.

In response to this letter, I was greeted with a contact there who asked, how he could help. He suggested that I outline a particular project and list parts needed and what sort of timeline I'd be dealing with. This is where the conception of the Bugatti project came from.

Down the line a friend recommended me to Grayson Hobby to create a build video for the Dynam B-26. This created a good collaboration where I then decided to make my Corsair. They were kind enough to sponsor the motor and ESC for the build. That build was so much fun. It was an exercise in excess. I wanted to fit as many gimmicks as possible into one project. I stopped just short of making folding wings. With that project in tow, I attended Flite Fest 2018 which was also the same time Horizon Hobby acquired Tower Hobbies. As I was walking the airplane back from the flight line, I hollered at them to continue the Top Flite line, as I was currently hauling back the Top Flite Corsair. They gestured me to come on over to see what I had. They immediately had dropped jaws. One of them, who was the PR guy, said in all the years he had been in the industry he had never seen a model of this size with so much detail. I was flattered, we filmed a segment for their stuff, and then the business card came out. THEY then offered to have me chose a model in their Hangar 9 lineup to build "something special." I settled on the P-47 as I knew @wilmracer had one at it flew very well and that is how the collaboration with Horizon worked out.

As some of you know, the Jug was a real hit last summer. Even still, at the swap meet I attended recently, I had YT subscribers tell me how much they appreciated the tutorial on the aluminum finish. My philosophy has never changed. I still post everything I can to help other folks out. I truly believe that the skills to make something exceptional can be learned by anyone. I'm just a guy who loves to build and I'm never afraid to try something new.

With all of the craziness in my recent times, I had not considered a sponsored build, tough I had considered a F-82 out of TWO Hangar 9 Mustangs. I'm just now, of all times, developing something in the works that I think will appeal to MANY modelers out there. Not letting the cat out just yet but I think it will be a fantastic way to SHARE a LOT of great information. If you followed along with the Bugatti and Jug builds, you know I'm not afraid to show me learning along the way, including making mistakes. This project will be no exception. The best part? It is a charity project.

Do what you love, but do it for those whom you love. I think these companies see that more than anything else. You can see this pattern in @Mid7night and his work too.
 
#10
I'll throw my two cents in and it's worth every penny you're sending me ;-)

I've been a builder for others many years ago and for the last 25 years or so done hundreds of review planes for various print magazines. Most are now out of business unfortunately. I'm an electric columnist for Model Aviation Magazine and previously for Model Airplane News.

The problem with reviews or even building for others is it becomes a business and that comes with a deadline. Some are fine and others are not so much fun. At one time I turned out a kit every three weeks. ARF's came along and things changed a lot. Most companies I've done reviews for have been fine to work with. I've had two in 25 years ask the editors not to print the review because of the number of problems I laid out in my notes to them. Nobody was mad, both kits were "one off's" they got cheap on a limited run and decided to just sell the stock and not re-order. Building a reputation for honest evaluation is the most important part of being a paid reviewer. Notice I said "paid", I'm beyond the point of wanting to do all of that work for the sake of being able to keep the plane in the end. That's fine if you want to do it, but there are usually too many strings attached to those who expect you to work for free.

Recent years has seen a change in reviews too. There is much more social media style review work and that also increases the workload in terms of deadline and digital media requirements. Good photos and video take a lot of time and there are folks who do a great job of it. Add those hours into your consideration. It's not hard to spot the online reviews done by people who know a lot more about digital media than they do about building/flying model airplanes.

So...since I still do reviews, I guess I'm in favor of it, but the business has changed a lot. Pay has changed and not for the better due to loss of industry players and revenue. We used to get slammed for not showing negative reviews. An editor once told me they had limited page space and why spend it on bad products, especially when there were so many good products out there. That led to the old thing about if a new product was out and you never saw it in a magazine....there may be a reason.

I say if you want to do reviews, go for it! Try a couple places out and watch for shady tactics, etc because you only have one reputation and you don't want someone to ruin it.
 

leaded50

Well-known member
#12
"Building a reputation for honest evaluation ,--" as @Ggimlick wrote, is "Alfa & Omega" to be staying true to the viewers of feedback/review.

Sorry enough, in many reviews i see the "honesty" isnt "quite a virtue". (in other bussinesses than flying, thats not checked much yet) .
Some "whore out" for the possibility for free gods, some though do honest review, even display how it is, after their own grade of experience/knowledge and/or do see the evaluation from different approches of experience by potensial buyer.

Its two appoaches of a review
1. do it best as possible for viewers.
2. do it best possible for seller , and ensure possibillity to keep up get "free gods" whatever.

Thats a difficult line to approach both....the second type do loose viewers easy though, when revealed after a while..(and if serious bussiness, revealed by them too....)
 
#13
I also should have mentioned I have never been paid by a company whose product I reviewed., I always saw that as a conflict. I was always paid by the magazine I worked for. I have received different products over the years unsolicited and always check what is "expected" in return. If the answer is anything other than "nothing", I return it.

I love this business and have been busier than I want at times. I’ve even been requested to review a company's product thru the magazine by a couple manufacturers who didn't agree with previous reviews I did. That tells me I’m doing so ething right.

Reach out to magazine editors, let them know you want to do reviews and see what comes.
 

danskis

Well-known member
#14
I realize that this is tangential to your question but I think it applies to some extent as I've heard echoes of this in the other replies. I opened up an alternative sporting goods store - windsurfing, skateboarding, snowboarding - because I loved doing those sports. Bottom line is it becomes work - fun work - sometimes more fun - sometimes more work. In my case it took some of the fun out of these activities. It may take some of the fun out of modeling.

Edit: I was doing this as my main income. I assume you're not which may make a difference in how you feel about the "work"
 
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rockyboy

Skill Collector
Mentor
#16
@rockyboy - every time you do a fabulous build of someone else's kit you are already reviewing their product on our behalf - maybe go back and offer to do a sponsored build and video for their website. :D
Thanks! :D I was giddy as a school boy recently when I saw pictures of a build I finished up on the manufacturer's website as an example of their product. No sponsorship or trade involved - just excitement about a cool kit and a cool build :D

On the video side, I have finally got an (almost) decent setup in the workshop and have been getting a lot of use out of it hosting video workshop chats for my club over the last couple months. There are several builders in the forums here who do excellent video editing and production, but I'm not sure if that's enough of a passion for me to learn to do it well. But in today's modern social media world, that's probably getting to be table stakes for reviews. Need to "stick a pin in that" and come back to it.

I do try to look at my build threads as a sort of review from the customers perspective - and especially for the newer builder who might be intimidated by the kit. That's mostly cause I want to infect more people with the joy I find in this part of the hobby :D One thing I haven't done yet is a final review narrative where I wrap it all up and provide what would normally be a more article style review. I think I'll try to start doing that as a way to practice and see if people like it, and what feedback I get from the narrative. :unsure:
 
#17
This sounds great, video is definitely a big thing now and doing it well pays dividends all around. I was heavy into photography for many years and still enjoy that side, but haven’t learned to love video editing. I spent a lot of money on fluid heads, etc for the equipment and finally decided it’s not going to be a big part of my skillset...it’s important to know your limitations and I’m old enough to recognize I’m not going to focus on that end. It’s time for the next group of video/story tellers to keep it going. I love seeing what the younger guys/gals are doing with build logs online.

I'd love to see your work if you have a link. Sounds like you’re on the right track!
 

rockyboy

Skill Collector
Mentor
#18
Thanks Greg!

Here's links to a couple of my recent build threads that I think turned out quite nice.

https://forum.flitetest.com/index.php?threads/nu-bee-arc.59764/
https://forum.flitetest.com/index.php?threads/willy-nillies-barnstormer-250.60592/
https://forum.flitetest.com/index.php?threads/willy-nillies-barnstormer-biplane.60873/
https://forum.flitetest.com/index.php?threads/ace-all-star-biplane.60170/

And here's my currently in progress build: https://forum.flitetest.com/index.php?threads/polikarpov-i-16-rata.63375/

After some thought, and thanks to the magic of the "edit" button, I've gone back and added a picture of the finished plane to the beginning of each thread so the reader knows what the payoff looks like. :D