We've all asked the question at least once: How do I get a drum/cymbal/donut company to endorse me?
The simple answer is, be really famous or work with somebody really famous.
But the endorser/endorsee relationship is not a simple one. Nobody gets free drums and other stuff just for being an awesome player. The relationship is a two-way street. We often think of the company endorsing the player, but it's really the other way around. It's the player who endorses the equipment. And that means that the player's recommendation must carry some clout, and that the player or the player's band has a following worth reaching out to.
Would Ringo be a featured artist for Ludwig drums if he hadn't been a member of the Beatles? Likely not. Not to take anything away from Mr. Starkey’s contribution to music, it was the notoriety of the band that made Ringo one of the most influential drummers of all time. (In fact, Ringo's endorsement resulted in a bit of a production crisis in the '60s.)
All companies are on the lookout for artists who will do a good job of representing them. That person must meet all the criteria of an employee: talented, knowledgeable, committed, and an ability to connect with existing and potential customers. The endorser is, in effect, a 'stealth sales rep'.
The best endorsers are those who have a 'platform', which simply means listeners -- people who follow both the music and the artist. The endorser should also be reliable, faithful, and low maintenance. Is he/she inclined to switch brands often? Not show up? Expect more than their position warrants? Can the player be trusted to give the brand suitable exposure?
Steve Gadd is about as high profile as you can get. He's also a great endorser. That's because he's professional in every way, and he's dedicated to sharing his knowledge with other drummers. The gigs he plays ensure that his chosen brands are seen by countless fans around the globe. Now, do the companies pay him to play their products? Possibly, although that's not as common as it once was. What they will do is ensure that he has what he needs. For example, on a European tour Gadd doesn't take any drums. Drums simply show up at the gig courtesy of local brand reps. That's a nice perk for both the artist and the local rep, who gets to hang out with one of the greats.
So the basic question is this: Would you hire you as a company rep?
Endorsing vs. sponsoring
An endorser is someone who recommends something. If I’m endorsing a product, I’m simply saying that this is the product that I prefer and recommend. A sponsor is someone who provides something of value, money or products or both. So you might argue that a true endorsement should not be tainted by financial considerations.