Sponsorship is a vital link in the chain between the explorer and the the dream expedition. So, what is the recipe for gaining corporate sponsorship? Perhaps, it takes creative genius - An adventurer willing to map out something extreme and desirable (Running from Pole to Pole, Walking Home from Mongolia, Round the World Cycle Expedition, Circumnavigate China (make a Guinness World Record, then plan another like circumnavigating India on motorcycles (and compare the sponsorship lists between the first China ride and the second India ride), or for a rather extreme example of fame and expeditions, you become a famous actor and take the Long Way Round, or television personality who loves adventure to try to become the first to cycle to the South Pole just to name a few here). All of them have used their talents, connections or their own creative abilities to share their experience in the public (media attention, blogging, news and/or television appearances, foundation links, credit and credibility that the product or service a company is offering is valuable to the companies that supported them). The audience could be as small as a few friends trying out a famous race as individuals or big when they build an audience in the thousands. The idea for the expedition needs to be sound, purposeful, connected to community in some way, and require use of a product or service that generates interest and hopefully for the marketing department - more interest, more customers.
Most large companies have been in business for many years, have now well established reputations by producing and standing by their craft, research and development and support community development or environmental protection programs. Northface as an example, supports community programs which is good for community and supports a philanthropic corporate image. Although their tents, outdoor kit and clothing is used in a wide variety of situations and sports - they only sponsor a select athletic activities. These products or services that has been designed, tested and are being promoted by a field of professional atheletes.
In any major sporting industry - from extreme mountain bikers, global explorers, mountaineers, ocean rowers, arctic and polar adventurers, extreme sports enthusiasts (name them), and let's not forget the long-distance touring cyclists, are all adventurers with a unique drive to take on the world, all also trying to succeed using the right equipment.
The bigger geographical expeditions, however, require more planning, logistics and financial investment to prepare and share them in professional media venues, and finally launch while maintaining social connection with an audience as the expedition is live in the field. The more "live broadcast" the expedition or sporting event is receiving or transmitting through Satellite in remote locations, the greater the potential for sponsors to capture their target audience. Not all events are equal, nor are they broadcast the same way. And some require a great deal of planning and preparation - some seek professional advice.
Gaining sponsorship takes time, commitment and a partnership formed from a mutually-beneficial relationship. Companies need marketing, but most successful companies already spend millions of dollars to successfully capture their customers interest, time in the field of expeditions and money invested in the quality gear upfront definitelty proves something to potential sponsors down the road - that you have commitment. And some have enough talent to make a movie. Now that is going to bring home support for expeditions.
Starting off as a new explorer, adventurer, travel writer, ambassador isn't easy and most established companies have lists of applicants asking for their commitment, support, free product and/or service.
A friend and sponsored long-distance cyclist recently said to me, "What makes you different from all the other world touring cyclists out there?" Sponsors want to find something or someone that is pitching something unique, professional photography, advice about creating or carrying out expeditions, or the lucky ones that just complete expeditions, many of them over a lifetime and others that publicise it as television programming. Some operate on small budget adventures, others take on almost impossible odds to reach the Poles. Whatever your talent may well be, it better be thoughtout and trained and tested in the field.
It's best to use the sponsors equipment or services first, and talk about what it does for you. Also proving the expeditions are worthwhile and can be continued in the future draws interest -but sustainable (and successful) races, treks, attempts to reach the poles, start new expeditions - are all really what everyone is reaching for, isn't it? This is an important consideration for explorers and their sponsors to understand that the journey isn't over when the trip ends, the contract binds the explorer to share it with their audience, big or small.
Skills in expedition scheduling is a careful consideration - how much time do you have to compete and complete the races, expedition, ocean row, canoe journey -time management in exploring starts from planning, preparation, training and continues until completing whatever goals were drawn from the beginning. This is so important, calculating and creating outcomes, placement in races, completion in endurance, and sharing when the experiences can be worked into material suitable for blogs, social media, corporate media or public broadcasting
How much is this expedition going to cost me and how am I going to pay for it?
How can you travel the world and still have time and money to afford to travel some more? Afterall, expeditions are forms of traveling - although the conditions may be extreme. Before asking for something in return for the time and effort you've put into planning, complete an expedition, a race on your calendar, or start recording events and share them when they happen. After all of that, return from events you planned and executed with results - spending time searching for sponsors will hopefully speed up a notch or two.
Completing expeditions, competing in internationally recognized events, or researching and doing something different - will all help the process of gaining sponsorship a possibility, rather than remaining a distant notion or vague idea.
Work a little more, save a little more, test out yourself on local events, regional cycle rides or races, or train for the Himalayas closer to home first. And buy and use the equipment you really need to get the job done safely and professionally - that's a start and will require enough effort, time and money to make results payoff.
There are lists of equipment manufacturers posted in many successful blogs offering 'information' and they have afterall worked hard sharing information through that website (which helps their sponsors attract new customers who want to do the same thing). Most well known online retailers you know will carry the new equipment required for your next adventure, expedition, race or round-the-world tour. But do your homework first, determine what products you really need, and can they be found locally - another brand with similar quality perhaps? Can you build one yourself, could you do with just the basics to get started?
Some of the best travelers and explorers known in the world started out without sponsors, without credit to anyone but themselves and their keen interest and satisfaction at going out into the world, equipped for what they were getting themselves into, and came back as Adventurers with stories to tell their friends and families and found sponsors later. And perhaps, afterall, that is what exploring is all about - taking on a big adventure, challenging yourself, pushing to new limits, and coming home to share the experience with others. If the adventures take on new heights, the sponsors will understand what you need and offer it to you.
I have been fortunate to have a family which supports my dreams, and accepts the idea of global exploring. This hasn't been easy to come away with as a father, teacher and adventurer wrapped up in one. It's taken time, new experiences and development, long and thoughtout negotiations with a spouse, the long gaps of time between adventures - filled with work schedules, family obligations and the training required to return to expeditions in the coming year. It's tough and at times - very stressful trying to live both lives at home, and out on the road where adventures live and breathe with opportunities, risks, and new hopes.
But nothing is impossible - Inspiration is out there, a living adventure in our daily lives. It just takes time, pressure, creativity and experience to know how to design a life that is worth living, and risks in adventure that are worth taking. I appreciate all the chances I have been given, all the blessings, and luck to complete the missions.Himalayas and western China by bike in 2011 and Crossing Mongolia in 2012 and I shared thoughts about being a father and an explorer with Global Explorer - Mikael Strandberg after successfully completing my second major, independent expedition of Outer Mongolia by bike.
Inspiration and the will to overcome -are essential ingredients for explorers and adventure seekers at achiving all their dreams and reaching the end of the road - a measureable success and life experience, big or small.
Life is good - when I live to Ride.