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15 Tips towards finding Expedition Sponsorship

I receive quite a few emails asking if “I have any tips or contacts for finding sponsorship” for different expeditions.
Unfortunately, it is not so simple. If it was then I would not be sitting here typing this! (I would be here or here or here).

However, for what it is worth, here are a few lessons I have picked up whilst chasing the wonga along the yellow brick road to the South Pole. I’mm no expert so I’md appreciate your own insights in the comments.

1. Yawn, yawn, yawn… We’re all born too late. So much has already been done that it is very difficult to persuade a sponsor that your plans are different. Sponsors don’t care if you are planning to walk one thousand miles on broken glass in your pants if some TV celebrity has already done that for 2 minutes on Comic Relief. It’s all the same to most people. So what is your USP? Crucial!

2. What’s in it for your sponsor? You’re trying to persuade somebody to pay you to go away and do the most fun thing you have ever done. What’s in it for them?!

3. Do you really need sponsorship? Rather than all the stress, slog, disappointment and loss of self-respect that goes into chasing sponsors, would you not be better off just staying in your job for a bit longer and saving up your own money?

4. Unless you’re a millionaire adventurer trying to build a boat out of plastic bottles or a TV celebrity who smears mud manfully on your face at every opportunity then it’s going to be a heck of a slog to succeed. You need to be aware of that and not grow despondent.

5. Think small, think local. Target local businesses, local media. Build your reputation up from the bottom. Just because Britain is obsessed with chasing overnight fame and celebrity doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Serve your apprenticeship.

6. Don’t ask people questions that show you have done no research. It’s lazy. Have a look here and here. And don’t ask somebody a question you haven’t already asked Google.

7. Embrace the 21st Century. Get on top of this whole internet thingummy-bob. Start here. Publicity is the oxygen for sponsors: get up on the rooftops (Page 1 of Google) and start hollerin’!

8. Write proper. Put your apostrophe’s in the right places. Spell people’s names correctly. We’re not all Hemingway, but we’ve all got spell-checkers. Like so much of this, it’s not about spelling, it’s about effort and dedication and attitude.

9. We’re in a recession. Accept that. It’s hard work at the moment. If it was easy everyone would be doing it. You may need to modify your plans. Or you may need the cojones to push on through the recession.

10. Think laterally. How many sponsorship requests for climbing expeditions Berghaus must receive. Bear Grylls was on the right lines when he dropped his proposal for an Everest climb off at a random company called David, Landon and Everest purely because of the name. They bit. He summited. (Maybe it’s not all about having mud on your face!)

11. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Sad, but true. Get out there, do stuff, meet people.

12. One I always remember from Ben: take a big map to any meetings you secure: it never fails to impress!

13. Look competent.

14. If “you have the answer to finding sponsorship or any really good contacts” please do let me know…

15. Don’t give up!

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  1. Wear a suit for 5 figures and over and a tie for 6 figures and over, but more importantly network, network, network, network and tell everyone what you’re doing.

  2. Tip 1. Forget carpet-bombing the world with emails. Instead, find every local/national expo that might be vaguely related to what you’re doing, call the organisers and blag tickets, sleep in the boot of your car for the weekend (shower at the nearest leisure centre) and wander around talking to EVERYONE. Continue talking to everyone during your ‘normal’ daily life. Be unreserved about your enthusiasm. People will pick up on it and stuff will start to happen. “Chance favours the prepared mind”. Doing this got us a pleasingly-wide range of offers. Sending out emails and proposals got us exactly zip.

    Tip 2. It’s a hell of a lot easier to get kit than cash.

  3. Good advice Al. I had posted a similar post (but without the catchy xx reasons/ways/tips in the title 😉 , might help others as well:

    Cheers, Harry
    ps: What the heck do you want me to guestblog about, you have done everything already 😀

  4. It never hurts to swallow your pride and ask–don’t assume people will say no.

    When we were out shopping for expedition bikes I stumbled upon a shop selling Koga’s World Traveller. I just happened to mention to the sales assistant that that was my dream bike, but way over our budget, and maybe he’d like to help us by sponsoring our ride through Africa.

    15 minutes later he’d checked out our site, talked with the big boss and we’d saved ourselves 1,500 euros!

    Sometimes you just get lucky.

  5. Be prepared for lots of rejection, unreturned phone calls, and trying to charm the secretary into letting you talk to her boss.

    Attention to detal; send a slick looking package that looks as if some serious thought has gone into it, that’ll put yours above all the other random plea letters. We even went so far as to get emerald green paperclips to bundle together our business cards, letters, and brochure.

  6. Why do you want sponsorship???

    Seriously, ask youself that question.

    If its to get free stuff, don’t bother, save yourself the hassle just work overtime doing what you’re good at and don’t buy things you don’t need. Its much easier and your soul will still be yours to sell at a later date.

    There is no such thing as a free lunch, or down sleeping bag or satellite phone, everything comes with strings.

    If you want to add an extra dimension to your challenge, then learn the language of PR and Marketing; define your product, usp, angle, pitch, target market etc, boring/exciting stuff depending on your character.

    I like the bring a big map tip, could that be extended to some gear too? Maybe an Ice axe might help ease negotiations in the right direction?

  7. Things I’ve learned over the past 6 months:

    I contact small companies and offer a trade for gear. I am a photographer so I offer free use of photos for up to x amount of years (while retaining the right) for a trade of gear (necessary or just really want for the trip).

    Perhaps you have a history/career of writing, web design, graphic – offering a trade will take you further. It’s also a great way to get your professional skills out there too! On this note, I always attach a copy of my Professional Resume and Portfolio. Use what you have and know to get what you need.

    For this trip I haven’t really asked for cash, I work out a trade of photos for gear.

    It also helps if you or someone else has purchased gear. “Dear xxx, I received xxx for Valentine’s Day and was totally stoked – it was better than a diamond ring. Would you be interested in trading some gear for Sponsorship and I’ll let you have some high res photos for advertising.”

    – Be sure you research the company before you submit an email with words like “stoked”, know your target.

    I agree with Amaya, you can’t assume it’s going to be a “no”. Talk with people with a tone of confidence, because how will they believe in you if you seem as if you don’t believe in yourself.

  8. Paul Firth Posted

    Point 3 of your list sums it up for me. A person can spend many hours investigating the possibility of sponsorship, but potential sponsors simply, and reasonably, don’t share the same dream. They couldn’t care less about the hardships you’ll endure. They want to know one thing, and one thing only – what’s in it for them. If you can guarantee, absolutely guarantee large amounts of press and publicity then it might, perhaps happen. My lesson learned is: stick to small scale sponsors, a set of tyres or two, free inoculations, some maps etc. which don’t require you to stay awake until 3am every morning desperately trying to drum up publicity to please a potential sponsor.

    Work a bit longer, save a bit longer, go where you want, when you want at what speed you want with not a care in the world as to what your sponsors may require. Do something for yourself, not for somebody else!

    Cycle touring/camping may not be free but it’s a damn cheap way to live and see the world as I’m sure Alistair would agree.

  9. Hi al

    Great stuff. I get about 5 requests a week from people who are trying to get a sponsor for Everest and most fall foul of point number 6, which makes it difficult to give them help. I spent over a year looking for a sponsor and my advice is if you can’t honestly earn the money yourself then have the best USPand most importantly be remarkable- be the person that puts in that little bit of extra effort, that extra time spent on that proposal, go the extra mile- that’s often all it takes to be successful- just do that little bit more than you expect of yourself and as remarkable people are few and far between- businesses will sit up and notice you

  10. You have provided some great tips but in point number eight, you advise sponsorship speakers to “write proper [sic].” The correct phrase is “write properly.” You also note the importance of putting “apostrophe’s [sic]” in the right places. I could not agree more but your use of an apostrophe in the word apostrophe’s indicates the word is either possessive or that it’s a contraction. It is neither. The word apostrophe in your sentence is plural and should not contain an apostrophe. Your errors highlight the importance of proofreading.

    Congratulations on being named one of National Geographic’s Adventurers of the Year. Cheers!

  11. suresh babu Posted

    I too was thinking of a walk round the globe, now i have decided not to go after sponsors , i will sell my property and i will fund myself, Can any one tell me the average expense for a trip like this

    • There is no average for this or any other long distance trek. Some people have done these things for free, relying only on donations while en route. Others will tell you the bottom price is $1 per mile. Boat and plane transportation, the inevitable occasional medicine, food, lodging if you need it, can go to $5 per mile or even more. Gear is additional cost. Hope that helps. I’ve crossed 31 states in the US and so far, I spend about $2.50 per mile on food and lodging during each state crossing of around 500 miles.

  12. This is an interesting article and the discussion below. I’m kind of adventurer, I run a travel blog and before I go to the winter expedition to Lapland in 2015 I am checking the chances to get some high quality outdoor gear in exchange for media coverage and photos. This article is really helpful: realistic but also encouraging. Thanks very much!



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