Every so often an email drops into our inbox from someone hoping to raise a lot of sponsorship – either in the form of money or free equipment – for a big trip.
“How can I do it?” they always ask, and our answer almost always is: “Do you really want to do it?”
Of course, on the surface, it sounds great. By being sponsored you can get free gear, publicity and perhaps funds for your trip. But first, you’ll need:
- A really good pitch to stand out from the crowd. Just imagine how many sponsorship letters a company like North Face or Thermarest gets during a year.
- Good contacts. These may be at your local businesses rather than the big international brand names. Someone who knows you is much more likely to support your cause than a stranger in a big corporate office.
- Lots of time and energy. Is it worth it? Could you make as much money to buy gear if you just spent the time working an extra job?
- A willingness to give back to your sponsors. They may ask for product reviews and presentations in return.
It’s also easy to get carried away with sponsorship. We once met a cyclist who got so enthusiastic about writing companies and asking for free gear that he ended up with more samples than he really wanted to carry around. He felt compelled to carry all his extra base layers, socks and travel gadgets in his panniers because he’d promised reviews to the companies. The gear might have been free but it still came at a cost.
In a similar way, raising money for charity is something many of us are tempted by. After all, gathering funds for a worthy cause is always to be commended. Knowing you are working for a greater good may motivate you to start a tour and see it through to the end.
On the other hand, you may feel compelled to do presentations along the way or start a website to encourage donations. You will also have to make clear that donations are going straight to the charity (some people think that bike tourists siphon off funds to pay for their trip).
With both sponsored and charity rides, you can feel an extra pressure to complete your trip exactly as described. Before you go down either route, ask yourself what will happen if you feel like returning home earlier than planned or just want to change the route or style of your tour?
All of this is not to say that you shouldn’t try for sponsors or ride for your favorite cause. Just be aware that it will require some work on your part, and you need to be aware of the full commitment before you start.