When planning any kind of extended adventure be it skateboarding down the west coast of South America like Skateventure did here or paddling the 7 longest rivers on 7 continents like Mark Kalch is doing here, it’s very possible to partner up with companies in related industries to sponsor your trip, be it financially, through gear, or to support your cause. Sponsorship isn’t always a walkin the park though. You can’t just stick a GoPro cam on your bike and say you’re going to ride across America and therefore get a free $4,000 bike and Cliff Bars to last you the duration of the trip. While your passion, fitness level, and drive can certainly take you to the end goal of your expedition, there’s a lot more you’re going to need to get your industry friends to support your trip as a sponsor. To help help you get your adventure sponsored, we got in touch with Liz Froment, a rising star in the world of expedition PR, who has already played a big role in helping expeditioners like Dave Cornthwaite and Sean Conway secure sponsorships and spread the word about their adventures. She gave us the bread and butter of how sponsorship works, from determining which companies you should approach for sponsorship, to how to make sure you’re giving your sponsors the greatest return on their investment, to how to use your online presence to lock in sponsors. Without further interruption, Liz Froment takes the stage… First up, tell us a little bit about yourself, your business, and who you’ve worked with? I sort of fell into the whole adventure expedition PR scene, as my ‘official’ background is in corporate finance, but I’m really happy that I’ve been able to expand out into this, it’s really interesting and keeps me on my toes! I work primarily on getting connections with news sources primarily via sending out press releases or targeting magazines or sites that I think have readers that would really have an interest in the specific expedition. I also do some work contacting potential sponsors and setting up lists for ideas of which sponsors would really be a good fit for the team. I am very, very lucky to work with who I think is the best adventurer out there (though I may be biased), Dave Cornthwaite (http://davecornthwaite.com) for the last year doing PR and media for him. He is currently working on a long term project to raise $1.5M for charity by doing 25 different journeys each 1,000 miles or more via non-motorized transport. As we speak he’s sailing across the Pacific in journey #5, soon to be finished in Hawaii. In 2012, he will have a lot of US based plans including a bike car trip as well as a 1,000 mile swim, so it will be a busy summer season for me getting news for him. Dave then introduced me to his friend, Sean Conway, (http://cycletheearth.co.uk) who is in a massive 18,000 mile bike race around the world to see who can finish the fastest. He is also raising funds for a charity that helps eradicate kerosene cooking lamps in his native Africa. This is a monster of an endurance test, only ten people are out there right now in the world competition in this race. So, I’ve been very lucky to be able to help him out a bit as well. What I have enjoyed about doing this type of work is just meeting some really interesting people. It’s always amazing to see what makes people who want to do these grand things tick. I also love that at the end of the day some help is being given to some really good causes, and of course the creative aspect of it all appeals to me too. Let’s get the ball rolling with a basic breakdown. What are the key ingredients to getting sponsorship? There are a couple of factors that go into getting sponsorship, but I’d say probably the key ingredient is having a solid handle on your unique selling proposition. This is what separates you and your expedition from the average Joe down the street. It’s also really important, but probably goes without saying, to be organized, know the goals of your expedition or adventure and be able to communicate them in an effective way. Understand what ultimate goal of the sponsor is and be able to speak to that, make them know that you will be able to offer something to their brand. Obviously when getting your trip sponsored, the company doing the sponsoring must benefit from their own involvement. What are some specific examples you’ve seen your clients use, and what other ideas would you offer? I think featured branding is the biggest one. There are a lot of spots for advertising on most expeditions; between the clothing, equipment, vehicles, support vehicles, website, blog, Facebook and Twitter, you can really get your sponsor a lot of exposure if you do it right. Also, it helps if you do get any exposure from the media (especially via photos or video), to show off your sponsors in the shots. On the simple end of things, it’s really easy to make sure sponsors get good real estate on your main expedition website. Then mention them and/or their equipment in your blog posts and tweets. It’s also a smart move sometimes to take pictures of your equipment and get it out in your press kit as publicity shots, via newspaper photos or on news reels. Another way is to just add them into the signature line of your email. Then every person who is on the receiving end gets a nice bright sponsor logo filled newsletter or update. Every trip needs some sort of a unique selling point. It’s not just about biking across America, or paddling a river. There needs to be a story. What’s your advice to the adventurer in figuring out and relaying this unique selling point to potential sponsors and their audience? Good question. Some days it seems like everyone is out on an expedition, but most people do a great job of making theirs something unique and different. Unfortunately, sometimes it doesn’t matter what the cause or end goal of the mission is, some sponsors want something that pushes the limits. I think that is where understanding what your own goals are and that unique story and then being able to translate that into finding the right partnerships for your own expedition goals. Some obvious things could be being the first to do something, or doing it the farthest, coupling a few different challenges into one long expedition, or combining really difficult things into one journey. But if you are starting small that’s ok too, start for a local charity and then build up from there, because sponsors also like if you have a history of being reliably able to finish your adventures on time, within budget and safely. And sometimes, it might just be luck of the draw, what you are planning to do could hit a nerve with someone who might come across it and they, in turn, forward it along, and it gets forwarded again and so on, suddenly going viral. So, again, I think what it all ties into is really thinking about crafting your message and the why you are doing this into something that is really personal, that’s can make it pretty interesting. What if the expedition seems impossible or unbelievable? What happens if it stops in the middle? I’d imagine at first many expeditions seem impossible or unbelievable, that’s what makes them fun, right? But this question is totally on the mark, not all expeditions complete their goals, sometimes they don’t even get started for whatever reason out of the expeditioners control like bad weather or injuries. I think the key is to be upfront and honest with potential sponsors. Many of these expeditions take inordinate amounts of mental and physical endurance that many people can’t even fathom, make your sponsors aware that you know how difficult this can be, but you are prepared to see it through. This is why it is really important not to undertake one of these lightly, years of planning and preparation can go into just one phase of an expedition, so although it seems really fun and exciting, it still is a very serious business. I’d also keep sponsors and people up to date as the expedition goes along, let people know what is going on in your world, the struggles and the triumphs. Sometimes someone might get injured, and can’t go on; other times it might just be a lack of funds and equipment. If that’s the case and you put the SOS out a sponsor might come to the rescue to keep the expedition online and going. If you keep communication up, the sponsor might be willing to stick with you if you decide to get out there and try again on the next trip. How should the adventurer choose which companies they approach? It may sound strange, but I’d equate looking for sponsors to looking for your dream job. I think some people might just send out 1,000 emails to every company they can think of asking for sponsorship without much thought. But, I think to get the best success, any expeditioner has to think about finding sponsorship that works for them. For example, finding companies that have similar environmental alignments could be important if the expedition has an environmental aim. Another key thing is to look around, see what products you use and love. If you are obsessed with a particular energy bar, contact the company tell them how much you love the bar, and if they see your passion for their product, I think it makes the decision much easier. Also, although it is awesome to nab that giant multinational company for a huge sponsorship, it doesn’t always happen that way. Start out small. You might have more success with local family owned or small businesses. The second thing is to determine what kind of sponsorship you’re asking for: funds, products or charity donations. It’s really important that if you are raising funds for charity that any money for charity is kept 100% separate from the expedition. It’s just good business sense. But, if deciding between funds and products, some places might be more willing to throw some products your way than hand over a check. If you’re expedition centers around needing a canoe, rather than contacting every canoe company you can think of, try approaching a camping store or a water sports rental shop and asking for a canoe. There are creative ways to get things done, and for many expeditions having donated/sponsored gear is what really makes a difference. Having an online presence is one of the best ways to get your name and story out. What are some essential components a website should have? Having an online presence is huge. Right off the bat it gives any potential sponsors or media partners a knowledge of how big your reach is and if you are an effective social networker. Having a social media presence is pretty much mandatory. Setting up a site is just the basics. If you can, go beyond that and onto next step: get on Facebook and set up a fan page, and get on Twitter, which is an amazing way to connect with people and potential sponsors. I’d also do a blog as well, especially leading up to and during the expedition process. It also helps to have a YouTube or Vimeo account set up. So many people I’ve seen are doing either full video series of expeditions on their sites, or have been able to make a two minute intro video of what they are all about. Another good way to get the word out there is via the blogosphere. Making friends with websites who are interested in what you do is a great way to get your story out. Many bloggers will do interviews of explorers or write articles about them or do updates, so that opens up a whole new class of readers who might be interested in your story. What should be included in the press kit for the expedition when securing sponsorship and support? Typically, the press kit is something that is an easy (and pretty) way to get news, people and sponsors interested in you. Ideally it will have a concise and easy to read synopsis of what the expedition is and its goals. Include a biography of everyone involved, and also if the ultimate aim of the expedition is for something like donating funds to a charity or promoting environmental awareness, etc., then make sure to include pages in there that will discuss your charity or the specific environmental issue. Also, throw in a map detailing where you are going and information on how you are going to get there if you’re traveling by an interesting way. A press release and a fact sheet are also things that I have seen included, and always make sure to have all contact information clearly in there. What are the various ways someone can document their trip to spread the word about it? Best way is to keep up with their social media accounts, if you are going to be traveling in a place that has an internet/wifi capabilities, follow up and update your accounts. People who are following your expedition (as well as sponsors) are invested in you. They want to see you succeed and where you are or how far you’ve gone. So quick and easy blog/Twitter/Facebook/video updates are something to think about. If you can take it a step further and get a SPOT or other GPS type device, there is a way to get that tracking information to synch up with your site, proof positive that the expedition is moving along. If there is no way for you to update information while going, see if you can get a person on your team at home to log on and do a bit of updating and interacting with people every once in a while, even if it’s just pointing to your GPS location or what town/city/country you are in. I think it’s a bad idea to let your online presence go silent if it doesn’t really have to. Another great way is to, of course, get the media involved. Having someone either on expedition or at home to connect with local towns, papers, news stations and the like can work out well. Sending off an email press release, (or connecting via Twitter), can do wonders. A local news story will pick up many followers, and get people in the surrounding areas excited about what the expedition is doing, sometimes that works into a nice snowball effect. And, make sure to put any media you get up on the expedition website’s press section! On a scale of 1-10, what’s the importance of having an audience when requesting sponsorship, and why? I think it certainly is important. It’s not impossible to get sponsorship without a following, but it’s difficult. At the end of the day a sponsor wants people to see their brand and/or product and buy it, so having an audience of followers or some proven experience goes a long way in the eyes of some of these brands in making the decision to work together. It also definitely helps to communicate with sponsors that you understand their ultimate end goal, and describe what you are offering to them. It could be as simple as wearing the brand’s tee shirt in all video spots you shoot, or giving a large area of placement on the expedition’s website, or making sure to give them a shout out in any blog posts or tweets, for example. Any final words of advice for the expeditioner seeking sponsorship? Network, network, network. No one is going to be as passionate about your expedition as you, so tell people about it! If you can, reach out to other people who might have done something similar to what you are looking to do. More often than not they are a great source of information and ideas that can help get you started. Also, a lot of people are just interested in helping. You never know who might ‘know somebody’ to get that extra in somewhere that could have seemed like a closed door before. Also, try going to some networking events to push your expedition. I was able to get a couple of great connections that will be involved in an upcoming expedition by going to my local travel show and sitting in on a networking session. It’s not easy, but just keep pushing to get your name and expedition out there in front of people. Liz Froment enjoys spending her time on many projects, most importantly adventure media and tromping around the world whenever she gets the chance. During her downtime, Liz keeps her wanderlust under control by writing her travel blog, Two Weeks to Travel. Find out more about adventure media at LizFroment.com, and on Twitter @LFroment. HAVE ANY QUESTIONS ABOUT SPONSORSHIP? ASK IN THE COMMENTS! 12 Responses Harry Cloudfoot April 9, 2012 Great article OMM and Liz, thanks for the useful tips! As a slackliner, planning missions and expeditions is my first priority once I get some time off from teaching. I have some slacklining friends that are currently planning big highlining trips right now, so I will forward this article to them, and hopefully it will help them out a bit! Liz Froment April 9, 2012 Thanks for your kind words, and forwarding it along, Harry! Liz Froment April 9, 2012 Thanks for your kind words, and forwarding it along, Harry! Lauren Rains April 9, 2012 So awesome Harry! I JUST got into slacklining and am almost at the point where I can walk across it without face planting the ground! The fall is always worth it! Cheers! – Laur from OMM Harry Cloudfoot April 10, 2012 Lauren Rains So cool hearing of people's new slacklining experiences… You can walk already?That's awesome! How long do you think you have spent on the line (hours), roughly, out of interest? Lauren Rains April 13, 2012 Harry Cloudfoot I'd say it probably took me, hmm, maybe 1-3 hours of practice to be able to walk several steps, but I'm still not perfectly comfortable up there. I bought some basic webbed slack off of amazon but it actually snapped recently! Have any recommendations for something more solid? I was learning on a 1 inch – maybe be better to get 2? Your thoughts? 🙂 Harry Cloudfoot April 14, 2012 Lauren Rains Hi Lauren, will PM you to answer your question! Donna D'Errico May 28, 2012 I’m so glad I saw this article. Great info and advice! I have an expedition coming up in August and am on a shoestring budget…sponsors never even crossed my mind. I feel like a dummy! How much do you charge to rep people for their expeditions? Although maybe there’s not enough time left before mine to accomplish much! Warmly, Donna BicycleHobo October 17, 2012 Wow…thanks! I am just starting to tackle sponsorships for an upcoming trek and was really happy to find this article. I have bookmarked it and will reference it as I check tall the things off that you have suggested. andy July 25, 2013 Hi, very interesting read, had no idea Sean and Dave used a professional PR person! FYI The link to Liz’s site is broken. Cherie Smart April 12, 2014 So glad to hear of all the angles to getting sponsored. Me and my boyfriend are planning a backpacking trip to Africa, we would love to be sponsored! I guess I feel a bit nervousness I have no idea how to set up a website. I guess it's never to late to learn though. Should I try to get sponsored before or during the trip? Is it hard at first to start up all the media sites & advertising? What tips as a editor are magazines, newspaper and the like looking for when there is someone taking on a interesting adventure. Stacy Dixon January 6, 2015 Thank you so much for taking the time to write this article. I am currently traveling in Southeast Asia with a new project on the horizon. I am setting off for an expedition in May to sail from the west coast of Ireland to Greenland and am in charge of sourcing sponsorship for part of the crews funding, This article has helped me frame where to begin and where to aim. Gratitude to you and happy adventuring!