Explorers Connect

How to get sponsorship for your adventures

Adventure RevolutionJames Hipkiss
"The greatest challenge is not the physical or mental ones which most people expect, it is the hard work and perseverance needed to get to the point at which that may begin."

So you're not rich? Unless you are personally wealthy then the road to making your dreams a reality and getting your next big expedition off the ground is a long and hard one. Nothing worth doing is ever easy, to misquote JFK - "we choose to do these things not because they are easy but because they are hard, because they are a test against which we may measure ourselves".

Frequently in the field of expeditions the greatest challenge is not the physical or mental ones which most people expect, it is the hard work and perseverance needed to get to the point at which that may begin. Assuming you have already done all your research, made your plan and you know what you will need then you can start to work out how to get it. In any expedition type scenario which requires goods and services it is possible to offset the cost of these expenses through sponsorship. In setting out to obtain sponsorship you must ask yourself why someone would give you the resources for your endeavour. Nothing is for nothing and I have yet to meet anyone who is willing to support an expedition without expecting something in return.

Also remember that there are many other expeditions and athletes out there vying for the same opportunities, you have to make your endeavour stand out from among all the rest in order to win their backing, you have to make yourself appear exceptional in some way. It might be that you have to rein-in your expectations and reduce the projected costs of your trip. Instead of spending a lot of time on fundraising it may be better to put in overtime at work to get what you need. Contacts Very often it is not what you know, but who you know that can be the key to success, any friends or relatives you have in business or the press should be approached for advice and support, On the first expedition I undertook, I imagined that I would approach some Blue Chip Company with my idea and they would fall down at my knees thanking me for bringing them such a brilliant opportunity. Thank you for showing us the way Anonymous, heres a blank cheque to go off and cross the uncrossable desert/mountain range/whatever, dont worry about publicity, we will get our PR people on that while you are away so that by the time you return the whole thing will have paid for itself. Sadly this was not the case.

There are far-sighted companies out there who are willing to provide goods, services (and sometimes even money) for our hare-brained schemes, but in return they expect publicity for their brand/product. So you have to convince them that what you offer represents a viable marketing investment. You have to stop thinking of what you offer as sponsorship and start thinking of it as a commercial advertising opportunity. PR With that in mind you have to come up with a marketing strategy, many companies will ask to see your marketing strategy so before you go to them you have to have one ready. If you happen to know any journalists then get their advice, you may have to change some of the details of your expedition in order to sex it up a little and make it more likely to garner support. Call radio stations, newspapers and television journalists and offer to tell them about what you are doing, you may get lucky and find someone willing to run a story on your proposed trip before it has even begun, then once you go to a potential sponsor you can point to this as evidence of the fact that what you are doing is newsworthy and that you can get more once the trip is underway.

Large national newspapers have news and features desks, when you come to a telephone switchboard ask for news, they will be more likely to pick up on what you are doing and run it. Scan articles about similar stories and note the name of the journalist who wrote them, you may have better luck getting them to write about you if they have written a successful article about something similar before. Keep calling until you get to speak to them; answerphone messages are easy to forget. Most newspapers TV channels have firstname.lastname@organisation.com as their email addresses, speculative emails sent on this basis are a long shot but might just pay off if you can capture their imagination. Morality? Supporting a charity is a common goal of an expedition; the charity aspect can also help to get publicity and support.

The inspiration behind your challenge may be entirely philanthropic and you had a cause in mind before you started, on the other hand if your motivation is the challenge itself and the prospect of assisting a charity is a bonus, then you could benefit from choosing a cause which is in-vogue at the time or especially relevant to your activity or destination. For instance if you were rowing across the Atlantic then it might help to support the RNLI or if trekking across the Amazon then choose a cause which helps to protect the un-contacted indigenous tribes. If you have got this far then congratulations! You have now become an attention seeking media whore, willing to jump on any band wagon that presents itself you are well on your way to success! In all seriousness though, by this stage you may have become disillusioned; you set out to do something for its own sake but because you couldnt afford it you had to prostitute your idea to corporate sponsors and then become an attention seeker to justify their investment.

But if you can reconcile yourself to this, then you can still go on to fulfil your dream. Depending on how you define success, the most successful explorers and expeditioners are also the best self-publicists. Take a leaf out of their book, swallow your pride and get on with it. Key to the whole endeavour is a website, this has to have all the info about your expedition and sufficient space given over to promote the products and services of the sponsors you want to get, as well as company logos this should go into detail describing the products and services you have received, with a link back to your sponsors websites. Having regularly updated content is the best way to get people returning to your site once they have found it, so consider a blog of your progress both during the build-up and once the expedition is underway, this should include pictures and videos where possible. Sometimes it is possible to get the website sponsored by a web design company, but bear in mind that it will be a much lower priority than their commercial projects, so allow lots of extra time for it to get made perfected.

Phone bashing unsolicited emails and obtaining sponsors requires many phone calls emails. Typically if you call a company on the number listed on their website you get reception, if you even mention the word sponsorship to a receptionist they will say; oh really? Why don't you put that in an email this is their way of saying why don't you go s***w yourself and the address they will give you will probably be their own so that they can spam it. Within a company there is a person who can grant you the sponsorship you need, they are probably the head of marketing, but before you can get to them you will have to talk your way past the reception, marketing assistants and a PA, all of whom will receive several calls a week asking for sponsorship and will give you the inevitable response why don't you put that in an email.

But there are tricks to get past them: If the company name is Acme then do a Google search of the words acme appoints new head of marketing this will give you a name, give this name to the reception and you stand a better chance of being put through, if they ask you what it is about, for the love of god dont say sponsorship, say its about a marketing opportunity, or even lie say that you met at a marketing conference and lost his/her card, do whatever you have to get through and make your pitch in-person or failing this via their direct email address. At first you will probably try about a hundred emails phone calls before you get one piece of sponsorship, with more practice and selective targeting you might improve this ratio to 12:1, therefore practice on lots of lesser opportunities first and save the ones you really want for later. Free equipment and services is easier to obtain than cash.

If you are pitching for gear then offer to take photos of it in use, offer to write about how you used it and evaluate its performance. You can even pitch it as a product testing service rather than a sponsorship opportunity, if marketing says no then get through to the designers/RD department and pitch it to them. Don't count your chickens before they've hatched; I once had one well-known outdoor brand tell me they wanted to be my headline sponsor to supply me with whatever I wanted from their product range only to pull out a couple of months before I left. Until you get the money in your account or the equipment in your grubby little hands, assume that you won't get it and keep pursuing every other resource. If you can genuinely tell a company that their competitor is seriously considering sponsoring you then do it, it will convince them that you are onto something.

Don't wuss out I have had one satellite communications company tell me categorically that they don't ever do sponsorship, only to be called up a week later by someone in their marketing department who heard about my trip from a colleague at a business conference and wanted to sponsor me. Use any advantage you can gain, research the individuals you are pitching to and see if you have shared interests, flirt with them if necessary, dont take no for an answer and never give up.