Although endorsements tend to go to the established players, it possible for a local or new artist to enter into an endorsement deal. The key is whether the manufacturer thinks that someone will be attracted to the product if they see the artist endorsing it. For example, a local artist that is playing a guitar in his shows could have the ability to draw buyers into the guitar store.
Obviously, a more established player is generally approached by the manufacturers because there is name recognition and respect already in place. However, if you are not yet a recognized player, the first step to becoming an endorsee is to contact the manufacturer of the product you would like to endorse (i.e., the instrument you play) and let them know you are interested in endorsing the product. Then, send a press kit with a list of the gigs you have/will play. The gig schedule is very important because then the manufacturer will know that your playing is being exposed to the public. Finally, follow up and see if there is any interest.
If there is interest from the manufacturer, you will enter into an endorsement deal. Generally, in exchange for endorsing the product for a period of time, the artist will either get gear at a reduced price, get free gear, or be paid a fee. Fees are rare and are usually paid to an artist with great notoriety.
In conclusion, an endorsement deal is a way for an artist to gain some exposure and pick up some first rate equipment for little or no money. However, it is advisable from a philosophical standpoint that the player really believe in the product being endorsed.
Ben McLane Esq