How to get sponsorships for your adventure

by Jun 19, 2020 | First published in 2017Advice

Although this guide on how to get sponsorships is specifically designed for adventure….it can be applied to other forms of sponsorship too. So whether you are looking for companies who will sponsor your sports team or a brand to support your event or project, this guide will be relevant.

Before I went on my first adventure, I would have thought that sponsorship was something reserved for impressive bearded men and big names in the adventure world. This is just not the case though. Adventure sponsorship is a great advertising tool for brands and companies – an existing and dynamic way for them to get their name out there.

And there is no reason why you can’t be a part of that!

Note that this post is part of a series on money and adventuring and expeditions. Also check out:

Before we start….

If you are new to this blog, I’m Bex Band – a full-time UK adventurer and founder of the women’s adventure community, Love Her Wild. I’m on a mission to make getting outdoors and going on adventures as easy as possible. You can read more about me here.

If you have any questions, please do use the comments box below. And for ongoing tips and inspiration on camping and adventure, make sure you follow me on Facebook and Instagram. I’d appreciate it 🙂

Financial sponsorship vs sponsorship in kind

There are 2 ways you can be sponsored. The first is with sponsorship in kind. This is companies providing you with a free product or service.

The second is financial sponsorship so a company paying you money. Needless to say, this is harder to secure!

For a company, offering a service or product for free really isn’t much of an investment (if at all). While a pair of shoes might cost £120 the cost price might only be £30 so if you get these for free the company isn’t losing much in the process. It’s pretty risk-free for them!

There is no reason why you can’t get multiple companies on board with your expedition or event to get what you need, as long as you make this clear early on. If you look at my previous expeditions and how I fund them you will see I often work with multiple brands on the same expedition.

If looking for financial sponsorship a big appeal for a company might be exclusivity though so it’s worth bearing this in mind as an option.

Should I get sponsored?

It’s worth mentioning early on that there is a lot of effort involved in sponsorship. You’ve got to weigh up the amount of time you will put into pleasing a company against what you are getting in return.

Personally, I’ve found sponsorship to be really rewarding. Sure, it’s great to get free gear but beyond that, I’ve found it a great way to build relationships in my industry and to get my work ‘out there’. Often the companies I work with will go on to share my blogs or adventures with their audience.

If you want sponsorship, either in-kind or financial, these are the basic steps you need to follow:

Adventure sponsorship #1: Your approach

Before you start asking for outdoor sponsorship, take some time thinking about the approach you are going to take.

Be original, be different, stand out

Your adventure has to be something that will engage people and make you stand out from all the others who are asking for sponsorship as well. There are thousands of people signing up to the well-known challenges – cycling John O Grats to Lands End, Hiking Machu Pichu, climbing Kilimanjaro. But companies want to be associated with people who are thinking outside the box and doing things that will get them noticed.

Really that’s what sponsorship comes down to most of the time. They want you to get noticed so in turn they get noticed too.

When I came up with the idea for Kicking the States (kick scooting the length of the USA), it was a lot of things:

– It was unique and had never been done before.

– It was interesting and unusual. The novelty factor of doing it on scooters meant that people wanted to hear more and made it a talking point. There are other ways you can stand out. It could mean following an interesting route (a route of historical significance or something that connects your start and end point, etc). Doing something different along the way (meeting groups, taking pictures of one particular thing). Or having some meaning or significance to your journey (an interesting personal story, or as a result or something that happened)

– It was self-organised and personal. I was doing the challenge just me and my husband and we had organised everything ourselves. There were no big organisations or companies involved.

– It was simple. The concept and purpose were very clear to me before I set out. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t go ahead with an expedition plan if it is a complicated one, but it is worth bearing in mind that it is a lot easier to get help if there is less needed along the way and a lot easier to keep people engaged if you can explain it in one sentence.

– It was tough and therefore exciting!

Another huge advantage of doing something different is that most likely the type of help you will need will be different. Lots of people take on cycling challenges meaning that bike companies get hundreds of sponsorship requests.

How many people do adventures on scooters though? A hell of a lot less!

Kit list, adventure sponsorship

Do it for a good deed 

I’m a big believer that everyone should try and do their bit for charity and doing an adventure is an ideal opportunity to fundraise and make a difference in the world. Even just asking your friends for sponsorship counts, although there are loads of other ways to raise your target.

As well as doing good, supporting a charity will make your adventure have a bit more substance and should help encourage companies to support you. Think about it, if you saw a hungry looking runner who told you there were on an adventure, would you be more likely to buy them a sandwich if they were doing it for themselves or if they said they were raising thousands of pounds for charity. People like to help people who are helping others.

I want to make a point on the importance of separating charity and your adventure. If you are fundraising and are using the money to cover the costs of your adventure (a practice I don’t support), you need to be very clear about this.

For more advice on fundraising check out:

Adventure sponsorship #2: Compile a list 

Before starting to actually approach companies, do your research. Get a list together of all the suitable places that you can contact to ask for help. Put them in order of preference, based on your needs but also the ethos of the company and the ones that you think is most suitable to your challenge. Keep the following in mind when you are putting a list together:

Personal contacts are best. If you know someone, or know someone who knows someone – great! Your chances of success with a connection are going to be considerably higher

Think local. Businesses like supporting their community so look for companies in your area that might be suitable.

Small and new companies. Big companies do have larger budgets for adventure sponsorship but also get asked daily so finding smaller ones is a better approach as the competition will be less. If a company is launching a new product, it could be a good time to start a relationship.

Manufacturers and retailers. From my experience, suppliers are more likely to support sponsorship, mostly because the value of the product is less for them. Although you should defiantly include retailers as well to give yourself the best possible chance of success.

Adventure sponsorship #3: Start asking

Once you have a list, in order, you are ready to actually start asking.

Be organised

Use your list systematically and keep a good record of who you have contacted and the responses you get. It will be embarrassing and look very unprofessional if you contact a company twice! You also need to approach the companies one at a time if you are asking for the same equipment. If you send our bulk emails or letters and get 2 positive responses, you are going to be in a tricky situation having to turn one down.

What can you offer them?

Adventure sponsorship is effectively a relationship meaning that it is a 2-way thing. Companies will rightfully expect something in return. Before approaching anyone, be clear on what you are able to offer them in return for their product or services. Here are some ideas:

• Have a blog? You could provide exposure to your readers
• Large social media presence? You could provide regular social media updates advertising their service or product
Good writer? You could offer your services to write follow up articles or blogs for their website/newsletter
Take good pictures? You could take ‘in action’ photos for the company to use
Good videographer? You could put together some action promo films for them to use
A regular adventurer? You could offer to be an ambassador for the brand, regularly using them for adventuring
Doing it for charity? Emphasise the fact that they will be helping you do a good deed

Sell yourself and your skills, but be brutally honest.

To write or to call?

In my opinion, both approaches work well, so use what is best for you. I like to send out an email and then follow it up 2 or 3 days later with a call if I haven’t heard anything back.

Another good approach is to call first and ask for the name of the manager or the correct person to address your ask to. Receiving an email with a name is considerably more personal and shows that you have put some thought into contacting them.

If you send an email, you will need to draft a letter saying:

• Who you are
• What you are doing and why (keep it very brief)

• What you are asking for and why them specifically
• In return, what can you offer them
• Provide links and information to any blogs or media presences
• Finish by saying you will be happy to arrange a call or meet face to face to discuss further

Don’t make your letter too long – people are busy. Depending on the company or who you are contacting you might want to change the tone. A local small business will probably respond better to a chatty letter rather than an overly formal one.

A big part of adventure sponsorship is actually making the person like you enough that they want to support you personally so think about the impression you give. If you send them to sleep with a dull pitch, they won’t want to do you any favours.

Borrowing or cost price could be a better option

To better your chances of sponsorship when it comes to in-kind exchanges, an approach you can take is to ask for things at cost price. Alternatively, you can ask if you can borrow items. Most suppliers have spares of their products lying around so might be happy to lend you what you need.

Equally, asking for a product at cost price completely takes the risk out of the equation for the company. They do not lose money. I have used this approach many times to great success and have been able to secure the equipment I need for just a fraction of the retail price. Usually, with this approach, the company will expect less in return as well which can ease some of your responsibilities.

What to do when you reach success

It’s a great feeling when you get an email or call saying you have been sponsored. Take a moment to enjoy the moment!

Usually, they will state what they want you to do in return. Send a reply thanking them and confirming you understand and are happy with the terms. Say that you are especially excited to be working with their brand. Don’t say thank you too many times – they have picked you because they like what you are doing or value the services that you can provide.

If you have been offered equipment, it will then just usually be a case of providing an address for them to send it to. Don’t be afraid to ask if you can have it sent out before the adventure so you have time to test it during training.

Be persistent, be professional, be kind

If you get a positive response on your first email out, you are one lucky person! Most likely though, it will take a lot of time and effort going back and forth between different companies before you find one that likes you and what you are doing enough to support you. So, be persistent. I’m always told I’m lucky. It’s not the case though (at least not in the way that people mean when they say it!). I’m just unbelievably persistent and stubborn with everything I do (ss my husband will gladly confirm).

Having said that, persistence can also have a negative effect. It can make you too pushy and demanding. So tread carefully. With every email or call be professional. Even if you don’t get the answer you want, respect their decision and thank them kindly for their time and consideration. They don’t owe you anything so be grateful that they even took the time to respond.

Making enemies is never a good idea. Maybe a certain company won’t help you now because your adventure isn’t right but down the line, you don’t know what will happen or what opportunities will arise. Stay on good terms with everyone.

Exceed expectations with sponsors (even if you are cold, tired and hungry)

Once you’ve got sponsorship, make sure you deliver or, even better, go beyond their expectations. Doing a good job for a brand will solidify your relationship. I have been able to build good ties with my sponsors meaning that when I returned for a second adventure, they were happy to support me again.

It’s a good idea as well to send an occasional friendly update to your sponsor in the build-up to the adventure. Keep them posted and let them know if you are training with the equipment and how it is going. Equally, following the adventure, send a final thank you for their support and say that you look forward to hopefully working with them again in the future.

outdoor sponsorship and adventure sponsorship

Adventure sponsorship #4: Believe in yourself

A big part of asking for adventure sponsorship is having self-belief.

I am not a big adventurer, I don’t have a massive website with hundreds of thousands of followers (yet!). I don’t know anyone big or important. I had put off doing an adventure for years before deciding to make Scoot the Loop work. Despite having no idea what I was I threw myself into adventuring and just started asking. It really was as simple as putting myself out there.

Your idea might be small and you might feel small, but your adventure is no less or more adventurous than the next one. A regular Joe taking on an adventure is far more adventurous than someone who does it all the time. Have a bit of self-belief and make it happen. The worst that can happen is you get a no!

How to get sponsored

To help you with the process of getting adventure sponsorship, I also put together this helpful video:

Hopefully, my thoughts on the process has given you some ideas to help you take your first steps with securing sponsorship. Remember, those rejections are all part of the process. So roll with the punches and use them as motivation to not give up.

If you are looking for financial sponsorship then my top tips here will give you an idea of the best approach to take.

Use the comments box below to ask any questions you may have.

If you found this blog helpful, follow me on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. Or you can subscribe to my YouTube channel. I give all my advice out for free on my website. If you want to say thanks, you can buy me a coffee!

*Any women reading this?* I founded a women’s adventure community called Love Her Wild. Check out our private Facebook page and see what adventures we have coming up.

17 Comments

  1. Ashley Crombet-Beolens

    Thank you for this post! I’m currently walking 2500 miles through 2017 (total miles not one long walk, sadly I have to work lol), and have been thinking of ways to approach potential sponsors, this post has given me a lot of thoughts.

    Now I just need to put them into action.

    Reply
  2. Meg

    This is very helpful! I’ve been toying with some ideas on getting sponsorship for a big challenge and I loved this! Saving for later :).

    Reply
    • admin

      Really glad it was helpful. I wanted to show that sponsorship is open to everyone.
      Oooo what’s the challenge? I love adding new things to my bucket list!

      Reply
  3. Lauren M

    This is something that I always wanted to know more about, so thanks! It’s taken me ages to get to the point where I’m confident enough to approach people but I should really have more faith in what I can offer. Great post, will be reading more of your stuff later when I can put my feet up 🙂

    Reply
    • admin

      Glad it was useful 🙂
      The biggest thing with asking for sponsorship is confidence. Once I had done it with success, it became easy. All brands have a marketing budget and they are on the lookout for people with an audience who can help sell their brand. I look forward to reading about your first sponsorship opportunity on the Helpful Hiker!

      Reply
  4. Sally Carrer

    Bex so so glad I stumbled on your ML assessment piece on FB last night…I believe everything happens for a reason…and things seem to be beginning to make sense…excited where my path might be taking me…your site is full of super, down-to-earth tips from someone who has had the guts to go out there and give it a go…

    Reply
    • admin

      That’s so great to hear Sally, thank you!!! Wishing you all the best on your journey. Don’t give up! 🙂

      Reply
  5. Sarah

    First want to say how incredibly helpful your blog has been in getting started on our adventure!! The honest and realistic advice provided here has been invaluable! We are in the early planning stages and are beginning to see how autonomous (and terrifying) and adventure planning can be.

    My boyfriend and I are interested in visiting all 59 National Parks in the U.S. while hopefully raising money for environmental charities. It is a starting idea that needs a lot of growth but I have a feeling your blog will come in handy! The biggest concern is raising money while also making money. We want to travel in a camper but worry about funding the necessities like food, toiletries, and campsites when needed. Any wisdom is appreciated.

    All the best, from Massachusetts, USA. 🙂

    Reply
    • Bex Band

      Thanks Sarah! I try to be as honest and open as possible to help those who would like to follow a similar journey. Your adventure sounds brilliant! Such a great idea and cause.
      Earning on the go is the hardest part. If you have an existing skill (designing, website building, writing) that you can do remotely, this is the easiest. I’ve managed to build myself up as a blogger and also through the community I set up, Love Her Wild, but am still in the stages where I am trying o earn a stable income and balance it with adventure life. If you check out my ‘Advice’ page I have lots of posts here about how I grew an audience and how much I earn.
      A big part of my life is keeping costs as low as possible. Blogging helps with this a lot as I can rely on sponsorship for gear, hotel stays and experiences (ie getting them free in exchange for blogging).
      Bex x

      Reply
      • Sarah

        Thank you so much for your quick reply Bex! I can certainly see how this would be challenging! I currently work in higher education which is definitely not a remote field but have a background in English and am confident in writing and editing skills. Hoping to find something in that realm. Also a passionate “crafter” so may consider beginning an Etsy shop with adventure themed items.

        We shall see where it takes us. Thanks again and all the best on your continued adventures!

        Reply
  6. Tom Middleton

    Hi, we love your page and thank you for the sage advice.

    We have been travelling in our VW Camper since July. We have been home schooling both of our children since we left.

    We hope to be in Russia in the next few weeks and then we will head east!

    Social media is all very new to us, but we are working on it!

    We desperately need to replace our boots etc, that we have totally worn out. Hopefully armed with your words of advice, we will get some responses!

    Thank you!

    Reply
    • Bex Band

      Thanks so much Tom!! What a cool story you have….we’d love to do that with our own family one day.

      Social Media is a bit overwhelming but you just need to keep learning and experimenting. It makes all the difference when it comes to getting sponsorship. I definitely think you should be able to start getting some gear. You’ve got a cool story.

      Definitely check out the Meek Family if you haven’t already. They made a great success of travelling with their kids and even ended up with a sponsored caravan!

      I’ll be following 🙂
      Bex

      Reply
  7. Dr Wiqar Hussain Shah

    Bex i need sponsors for my air expedition trip. Many peoples have successfully completed but my expedition will be unique in the sense, that it will be around the globe. It will touch all 5 continents and most of the country of the globe.
    Approxumately i will need (500000) half million USD. This will take about 4 years to complete.

    Reply
    • Bex Band

      Good luck…that’s a huge project ?

      Reply
  8. StefGreece

    I’ve been in the industry for a few years now and have managed to raise some pretty impressive sponsorships (at least for my standards), however I have to admit this guide is more than complete. Perfectly well-written, concise, honest. Just what I needed to read before embarking on my next sponsorship quest. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Bex Band

      Such a nice comment to read – thank you! I’m really pleased it helped and good luck with the fundraising! 🙂

      Reply

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