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.
1st December 2010 at 11:21 pm #
Great advise that. I’m getting closer to leaving on my Round Britain-Cycle for Health trip (May 2011) and the workload has been pretty big. No bigger though than planning your first trip somewhere more exotic.
I think you have to keep hold of your idea and yourself to do this. I could have visited certain stores of a well known outdoor retailer, but decided this didnt fit in with what I wanted, so rejected the sponsorship.
I wont be tied to timetables in anyway, which I think is also really important. timetables and fixed mieages lead to pressure and stress, not what cycling is about for me.
If a company will supply gear you really need in return for advertising etc, this seems fine, but as said by TT, don’t just collect what you can, because you can.
Getting money is much harder. I’m not really trying hard on this front. I want control of the trip and how it pans out.
I have found the Autumn is great for getting gear. This is when I’ve had most success both last year and this. Local, or at least small companies, seem most generous.
Emphasise what you can do for them rather than appearing egotistical.
In order to do this trip, I’ve spent a lot of money and time. Doing this and working as well could be very strenuous. For me it’s therapy and a routine. I will raise what I raise and that will help, but I wont be falling on my sword if it’s not huge.
2nd December 2010 at 7:53 pm #
hi mr willgress.
my name is you from iran , now im going to finish my study in india, so im planing for do cycling for taking meaning from my life.i did some short trip in iran , and also in india
all the time im using bicycle.i want to try my chance.
and i need some advise and information about basic things
which mark of cycle is good for trip,
about practicing, food and all things that i need.
plz help me . thanks so much.
14th December 2010 at 12:38 pm #
I m sure not as expert as other cyclists might be, but
if you wish to I’ll do my best to introduce you to the basics.
You’ll find my mail on the “contacts” page of my website
2nd December 2010 at 12:18 am #
After 18,000mi I raised £3,000 for charity and was a bit embarrassed. Then I got an email from the charity (The Geoff Thomas Foundation) saying the ‘equivalent advertising value’ of publicity I got the charity took my contribution up close to £90,000!
You don’t have to raise much money yourself to still be doing something good for a charity.
14th December 2010 at 12:56 pm #
That’s great news!
3rd February 2011 at 7:42 am #
Hi Vin, first of all i want to say it was great fun following you on your epic ride from the comfort of my living room. I checked in on your progress sometimes 3-4 times a day. congratuations on your GWR too. what an achievement.
I am following still. in your footsteps… so to speak. i planned it all before you announced the actual race you were organizing had a start date etc and so will begin my attempt this april.
what you said about feeling embarrassed about the charity amount…i worry bout that too. can you explain the 90,000 bit to me, im an idiot when it comes to that stuff. how did the 3000 become 90000. Im only hoping to raise 16000. works out to 56cents per kilometer. but feel like it will never happen. are you saying that through your site and efforts, the GTF got the equivalent of 90000 worth of advertizing.
2nd December 2010 at 10:15 pm #
I’ve had pretty good luck with sponsors just by asking directly in small local shops. This method saved us over $1000 on our bikes and we’ve also gotten some free/ heavily-discounted gear this way.
In my experience, it’s best to be prepared with a business cards and a flyer about your trip. If you’ve got a newspaper article about your tour, of course that helps.
Most shops probably won’t benefit that much from giving you gear, so I think it’s best to focus on the support aspects. There are generous individuals and companies everywhere who want to encourage adventurers.
Go ahead, just ask.
3rd December 2010 at 7:44 am #
Good tip! I think it’s definitely worth asking your local shops. Chances are you can also get in your local paper as well, and that’s good publicity for the shop (a nice favour if they’ve give you a lot of gear).
14th December 2010 at 12:35 pm #
Thank you for the advices!I completely agree concerning the sponsorship part: chances are it would make one feel more fettered and I personally don t like the idea of being a living billboard!
I’ll in the future try to raise money for Survival International through justgiving, that will sure put some pressure on me as I know the the way I update my blog while travelling will influence the donations.
That’s a downer because I’ll have to think of it while riding or taking pics: I just hope it will get natural after a while!
Not having experience of this I can t really know.
On the other hand I made sure to tell the charity that my route is easily subject to change and I m not assuring anything (apart from completion and not cheating with trains etc.)
I ve thought a lot about doing it or not: at last it seemed as the right thing to do, I would have felt somehow guilty to be the rich westerner cycling through poor countries without giving nothing in exchange to “the world”.
Even if having some contraints, I m happy to think that this travel will have a meaning to others besides me!
14th December 2010 at 2:16 pm #
I totally agree that you first need to think if you want sponsorship.
See also the article I wrote about finding sponsors a while ago: http://biketravellers.com/how-to-get-sponsoring-for-a-bicycle-trip/
Once you need sponsors, you first need to think about what you can give, not what you can get…
14th December 2010 at 4:19 pm #
In my experience, it is hard getting sponsors supplying you with equipment. Like you say, North Face, Thermarest and all the bike companies constantly get overflown with requests.
The way me and my buddy ‘did it’ was finding a multinational corporation that operates in line with our ideas, motivations and philosophy. That sounds a bit vague, i know. What I mean to say is that you have to make clear to your potential sponsor what value you are going to give them. Be enthusiastic about your trip, try to get face-to-face meetings, look at your own network for contacts.
It helps if your cycling for a cause. It helps if you cycle for a unique cause. It helps if you cycle a unique route or on a special bike. It is all about standing out and standing behind your plan.
Good luck everyone!
14th December 2010 at 4:22 pm #
By the way, me and my buddy aren’t established writers, photographers or world travelers. In fact, we just recently graduated.
Financial support is available out there. Be persistent.
6th September 2014 at 12:34 pm #
Hey guys! I’ve got a question. We are currently preparing for an 11-month hitchhiking trip across Asia (I know, you are more familiar with organising biking trips but I think the principal is the same). We were thinking of getting in touch with a charity to raise some funds for them but I can’t find any information about the legal side of it. I mean, are we obliged to raise a certain amount of money? And what happens if we don’t? What are the limitations of involving a charity and what are the consequences if we pull out or something happens and we won’t be able to finish the trip?