[splitpost intro="true" order="true" numbers="true"]
While a footballer can make a perfectly good living (or if they're Gareth Bale, a fucking fortune) from their salary, and even a middle-ranking tennis player can earn a decent amount from prize money, pro snowboarders are pretty much entirely dependent on sponsorship for their earnings.
For most pros this means getting paid to ride a particular company's snowboard kit - a Burton board say, or Oakley outerwear. Endorsements like that make a lot of sense - the rider gets to use good stuff, and the brand gets photos and videos that make their kit look the dogs proverbials.
But not all sponsorship is so straightforward and over the years there have been a whole host of snowboard-related endorsement deals that made errr... less sense, shall we say. Here, in a list that's kind of like those god-awful American TV Shows ("When Inmates/Crocodiles/Housewives Go Wild"), is a list of our favourite weird endorsement deals.
[part title="The Danish Toymaker"]
Yes Lego, the company best known for nurturing the megalomaniac tendencies latent in every child, has dabbled in snowboarding. Following the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics where an American clean sweep of the halfpipe turned snowboarding into the sport for "youf" marketeers they released this 225 piece kit.
It allowed kids to strap their little yellow men onto outsize surfboard-like contraptions (I mean c'mon, they look nothing like snowboards!) and make them ride a strangely lumpy-looking halfpipe... before inevitably getting bored and slamming them into the ground with a sickening crunch of broken bones/bricks. Or eating them, whichever came first.
And the man they signed up to endorse this exercise in encouraging sadism? None other than Ross Powers, the gold medallist from Salt Lake. That's his signature on the bottom left of the box.
[part title="The American Cereal Company"]
Lego weren't the only ones eager to secure Powers' signature post-Salt Lake. Tony the Tiger also went out of his way to tell the world how "Grrrrrreeeeeeeaaaat!" he thought Ross and the US Olympic snowboard team was.
Though judging by that horribly fixed grin and the look of fear in Ross' eyes we'd guess the feeling wasn't exactly mutual. If there's any way this cereal box designer could have made that hug look any more awkward, we'd love to see it.
[part title="The Nintendo 64 Game"]
Ross was of course not the first snowboarding halfpipe gold medallist, that honour went to Gian Simmen who came from nowhere to take the title in Nagano in 1998. And despite being from the wrong side of the Atlantic to really give ad-men a hard-on, he still managed to get a couple of interesting endorsements - of which our favourite is this.
None of that stopped Gian Simmen signing a deal that saw his face featured on a "limited edition" European version of the game which came out the year he won his medal. And yes, we did end up on a ridiculously nerdy N64 forum finding this picture. The internet is a strange place...
Of course Simmen is far from the only man to sell his image for use in a computer game. Activision tried to make "Tony Hawk's for snow" with Shaun Palmer Pro Snowboarder (it was never as good) David Benedek and Torah Bright featured alongside others in Amped 2, and the entire Absinthe crew, including Nico Muller, were made into characters for the 2009 XBox game Stoked. There are also the Shaun White games (of which more later) but Gian was (by our reckoning) the first real life rider to be rendered in pixel form.
All the other developers at the time were busy making dreadlocked white dudes with names like "Jurgen Angermann" (seriously!) or Japanese girls with boobs that'd put Pamela Anderson to shame.
[part title="The Dalikfodda Dirt 2 Blag"]
This one's not so much an endorsement as a blag of epic proportions, but we thought it deserved a mention here for its sheer randomness.
Eagle-eyed players of Colin McCrae: Dirt 2 rally game may have noticed a strangely familiar (and wildly out of place, let's be honest!) logo adorning one of the tracks and several of the cars. The guys behind Dalikfodda, the core Leeds-based snowboard brand more used to putting on "Shithouse Tour" events in small alpine bars, somehow managed to blag their way into one of the biggest video game franchises of the mid-2000s.
At the time Schoph, one half of the Dalik duo, seemed as surprised as everyone else. He said: "Holy fuck! We're in there with DC and Monster and all these brands that probably paid loads..."
As we recall they'd managed to befriend one of the games developers who kept the theme going with the next release, Dirt 3, which featured this "Dalikfodda Deathpunk Car". Rock n' Roll!
[part title="The Lotus Advert"]
Dan Wakeham had largely retired from competitive snowboarding by the time this ad came out. But somehow his work for Head Snowboards led him to link up with Lotus, who made this uber-cheesy commercial with a car that was driven to Chamonix "from the set of the new James Bond film".
The car never made the cut in the movie, but it did get to race Dan down the mountain and skid round corners in suuuuuper slo-mo. So that's something eh? Quite what the car's connection with snowboarding was we're not entirely sure.
But Lotus are far from the only motoring brand to have signed up riders, crews or brands involved in the sport. Back in the mid-2000s the British-based all-girl video crew ChunkyKnit managed to negotiate a sponsorship deal with Volvo, Chevrolet and Jeep help fund the US Grand Prix and X Games respectively and of course Burton's Open Series is currently sponsored by Mini. Meanwhile over in Italy, Fiat has an entire team of riders...
[part title="The Hair Gel Commercial"]
There's a reason so many of these dodgy endorsement deals date back to the late 90s/early 2000s. Snowboarding was exploding in popularity, but still hadn't lost the whiff of underdog cool that came from being banned by authorities in many resorts just a few years before.
Also, in those halcyon pre-recession, pre-Tory days, companies were much more easily persuaded to loosen their purse-strings. And so snowboarders regularly found themselves cashing cheques from the likes of mobile phone carriers, and it was perfectly normal to see ads for Braun electric razors in snowboard mags. Orange sponsored the Brits, Tim Warwood did Clearasil commercials, and former Whitelines editor Chris Moran went on an all expenses paid snowboard trip (to Greenland no less!) courtesy of Right Guard deodorant!
But the deal that surely sums up that era the best is this - British rider Johno Verity advertising Vo5 Hair Gel in 2003.
For starters, there's the fact that hair gel itself is almost a product from a bygone era (do people do wet-look quiffs any more? Not round our ends). Then there's the shot, which somehow manages to make it look like Johno's face has been photoshopped onto someone else's hair - as if some Stalinist art director decided to eliminate an ideologically undesirable barnet.
But most of all there's the god-awful wording of the ad. Designed so it could run not only in snowboard mags, but also in the pages of Loaded, Maxim, FHM et al (remember them?), it arrives at its terrible punch-line by way of every action sports cliché going. Honestly, if one of Don Draper's minions had suggested this they'd be on a fast-track to defenestration from the 37th floor of the Sterling Cooper building.
[part title="Jeremy Jones Meets Country Music"]
It sounds like the stupidest suggestion ever doesn't it? "For our next beer commercial, why don't we take a Democrat-voting, environmental campaigning professional snowboarder and pair him with a rootin'-tootin'-hunting-shootin'-fishin'-type country music star?"
And yet instead of slapping their advertising manager, Coors decided to roll with it. The result is this - one of the strangest snowboarding adverts ever. If Jeremy Jones and country singer Jason Aldean are ACTUALLY big fans of each other, I'll eat his cowboy hat.
[part title="Jim Royle Gets Rad"]
What could possibly be more random than Jeremy Jones sharing a backslapping moment with a man who's signature tune is a celebration of the hillbilly lifestyle? How about Ricky Tomlinson, aka Jim Royle from the Royle Family, throwing frontflips in Manchester's Chill Factore to advertise frozen Pork Loin steaks?
Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, given the rumours that were swirling about the slope's structural integrity a few years back) the dude soaking up the heavy landings in this clip is not in fact Ricky Tomlinson himself. It's Manchester local Col Mytton in a fat suit. Shame, we kinda like the idea of Jim Royle having style for days...
[part title="The German Pharmaceutical Company"]
Yep, you read that right, and no, there's not some sinister Constant Gardener-style subplot to snowboarding (at least not that we know of...) but for some inexplicable reason the German drug-manufacturing giant Ratiopharm decided to sponsor a snowboard team in the late 90s and early-2000s. Not a couple of riders, or a special event, but a full-blown snowboarding team, which at its peak included the likes of David Benedek, Christoph Weber, German Olympic medallist Nicola Thost and Mini Karpf.
Ratiopharm is renowned for being "Europe's leading Generic Pharmaceutical brand". David Benedek is renowned for being the dude who pioneered the double cork revolution and made some of the most groundbreaking snowboard movies ever filmed. No... we can't see the connection either.
[part title="Shaun White"]
There's no way you could write an article about weird and wonderful endorsements without mentioning Mr White. In fact there have so many products that have little or nothing to do with snowboarding launched in Shaun's name, that you could probably write a top 10 made up of his endorsements alone.
But of all the things he's plastered his image over, this one surely takes the biscuit - yes ladies and gentlemen, let me unveil surely the strangest endorsement ever seen in snowboarding: Shaun White Toilet Paper.
Unfortunately, although several blogs and sites have reported this product as genuine, we're pretty sure it is in fact an elaborate hoax by our friends at Boardistan.
The sad thing is that it doesn't take a massive stretch to imagine this actually being launched. Shaun has already put his name to a range of clothes from Target, BMXs and micro-scooters, and even chewing gum (we tasted it, it wasn't that great). And as we've seen, snowboarders in general are apparently pretty happy to take money from pretty much any company going. In fact, somewhere there's probably an unscrupulous entrepreneur reading this right now, rubbing his hands and muttering "Shaun White TP eh? Not a bad idea..."