Make it bigger than you
No one wants to sponsor your vacation. It has to be about more than your personal ambition to visit a destination. Your sponsor partners will be looking to support your expedition for the cause that you represent and in doing so receive value in return for their investment. The value to them can come in several forms, such as media exposure and credit during your subsequent speaking engagements.
Know who to talk to
When approaching a potential sponsor, knowing who to talk to is as important as knowing what you’re going to say. When approaching large companies, look to contact someone in the Marketing/PR department, and with small companies shoot right for the top. Talk to the owner(s). You likely will not reach the right person at your first contact, so be thoughtful, follow up, and be persistent but polite. Don’t assume they are saying “no” until they say it directly.
Know what you want and what you have to offer
When going into a conversation with a potential sponsor, it is important to know what you want from them and what value you are prepared to provide.
Be clear on the level of support you seek.
What is the minimum commitment you are willing to accept?
Set expectations for the level of media coverage they can expect to receive in return.
Know all of the answers before heading into those meetings or else you run the risk of over-promising to a sponsor without appropriate support. Most large sponsorships will come with a written agreement so that both parties know what the expectations and responsibilities are. Best rule of thumb: under promise and over deliver.
Consider your “hook” - Know how to stand out
Standing out from the crowd is important when securing sponsors AND when getting publicity. Many articles you see about adventurers show them accomplishing a “first” e.g. “First Canadian to complete the Seven Summits” or “first person to skydive at the South Pole.” These distinctions are sure to attract media attention, but are not necessary to gain support so long as your trip has “nobility of purpose” and can make a difference for someone or some organization other than yourself.
Offer to test a product in harsh conditions
This is one of the most common types of sponsorship. If you are planning an expedition through the rainforest, testing a rain jacket or waterproof boots is a no-brainer. The value this creates for a clothing company is real-world testing in combination with the media exposure you’ll be generating. Your responsibilities in this partnership would include an in-depth product review, brand exposure, and perhaps showing up to your sponsor’s booth at trade shows or speaking at retail locations that sell that product.
Provide a service to an existing expedition
There are crucial components that every expedition needs and if you have the right skills, you might just hop onboard for a fraction of the retail cost. Medical professionals, photographers/videographers, journalists, or those with a large social media presence all have valuable talents for an aspiring team. Get creative and market the skills you have.
You can’t buy a plane ticket with socks
It is easy to get excited about getting a big equipment sponsor like Garmin or Nikon, but remember you can’t pay for your expedition expenses with gear. In-kind gifts, while important, are of secondary importance to cash support.
If you’re not going to do it, someone else will
The world of “Adventure Marketing” is constantly growing and you can bet that there are hundreds of other individuals or groups looking to make their dreams a reality by any means necessary. The famous polar explorer and leader, Ernest Shackleton, was constantly looking for innovative ways to fund his expeditions. He made huge gambles and took on large amounts of personal debt, but succeeded in funding several large scale expeditions.
Sponsorship provides the means to accomplish great things. What great things do you have in store?
If you have any questions for Jeff, you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org