From the Great White North come a series of related questions that begin with: What is sponsorship? Compare levels of sponsorship in the 10 man days, early xball days and [present day] PSP. The importance of sponsorship and the relationship between it and podium finishes. One last thing, the difference in the top tier of pros and their financing programs and the bottom tier.
Very broadly sponsorship is support offered (and/or negotiated) between the sponsoring entity (typically a paintball company or business) and a team (or player) for a period of time that allows the sponsor to directly associate itself and its products with the team (or player.) Such "support" ranges from straight cash to free product to discounted product. Straight cash in the current environment is mostly agreements to pay entry fees or defray certain travel expenses, etc. as opposed to, well, lump sum straight cash. Free product is either specific numbers (10 guns a year) or a draw against an annual team fund that usually values the sponsor's product at retail value. Although there is a marginal category of free free stuff like sponsor T-shirts because they want the team to actively promote the sponsor. Discounted product with no strings attached qualifies too (anything that legitimately reduces operating costs) as opposed to the "discount" packages that only offer the discounts if you purchase the package.
In the last fifteen years pro paintball has seen sponsorship values grow, peak and decline irrespective of formats--with the influx of money and excitement around early Xball coinciding with industry peaks in the early middle portion of the last decade. By 2007 the Golden Age of Sponsorship was over. There is also a certain irony in that many of the teams receiving the high end sponsorships had an excess of resources relative to their strict paintball requirements which helped foster the image (and reality) of the "pro" lifestyle--fostered and funded by the industry--and then, just as xball was beginning to predominate and a higher degree of professionalism was required of the teams and players the industry derived sponsorships began to shrink.
While sponsorship does impact results in some obvious ways we need to broaden the category from team sponsorship to team resources--and even then there are a host of important variables to be accounted for.
If you look at results over the last fifteen years success leans toward the teams with the most resources although I think it's impossible to say whether or not the gap between the haves and the have nots has widened over that period. Take for example a team like Lockout with very little sponsorship during much of its existence they still reached the pro ranks and competed for pro titles. But even then they were something of an exception. The majority of the best teams had the resources to compete whether it was sponsorship, factory backing, monied ownership or some combination of all three. That said I think it's harder now to compete in the PSP if a team is at a significant resource disadvantage than it used to be.
More money means you can afford to make more mistakes. Top tier pro teams can "buy" players. Top tier programs have the resources to put in place all the necessary pieces more easily. And of course the means to be on the practice field longer and more frequently. It is a significant advantage but money can't buy team chemistry, heart, desire or commitment or wise decision-making. There are enough money independent elements to making a winning team that the underdogs do win sometimes and can be competitive even though the struggle is greater and the demands more demanding..