I must reiterate that I’m a novice to hiking, let alone a thru-hike of this magnitude. So the idea of approaching potential sponsors was a daunting prospect. However, as you read on you’ll understand how I’ve had relative success in this area with plenty of time to spare before I set off.
The reason for approaching sponsors can be about your current financial situation. Thru-hikes are expensive. I understand that it’s difficult to calculate your budget until you’re long into it too. I’m in my twenties and so haven’t had a lifetime to prepare/save for this either, so sponsors are necessary for my ability to even make it to the trail wearing more than a pair of socks (that’s imagery for you).
Even A-list celebrities have to work for the brands they promote, so don’t think that you’re any different. It’s a partnership at the end of the day, where both parties aim to benefit. There’s several things I’ve done to help build my ‘brand’.
How to attract sponsors?
1 – Have a Following
We all know that sponsors aren’t going to back any Tom, Dick or Ryan Goggin. Building a following is therefore necessary. There are many ways of doing this, such as Social Media, Blogs/Websites, YouTube, and Articles among others. Enhancing these areas gives you the ability to reach out to more of a sponsor’s target audience.
I started with Instagram (relatively successfully) and recently began using Twitter, Pinterest and this website too! You MUST post valuable, high quality and interesting content otherwise people won’t be interested. Keep it relevant the demographic you’re targeting. You’ll see on my Instagram (@Lost_Outdoors) that 95% of it is focused on hiking and the build up to my trip.
Additionally, more of my local community have become aware of what I’m doing, since it made my local and county papers and website last week. This made approaching local businesses an option.
2 – Have a Brand/Story
If you’re not aware of my story, then go to this blog post and scroll down to the “Why” section. It sums up why I’m doing the trail, which is predominantly to raise funds for Cardiac Risk in the Young. Click here for the Fundraising page.
Additionally, I’ve now built my brand for the future around ‘Lost Outdoors’ with a focus on outdoor adventures. A trend among the most marketable celebs have been to change their name to something more memorable. Eldrick Woods and Edward Grylls don’t quite have the same ring as Tiger and Bear respectively. ‘Lost’ is relevant to my lack of navigational skills and where I’m at in life currently… so it just felt right. Although, I’ve kept my actual name prominent because “Goggin” is certainly memorable.
3 – Have Informative Reviews
Brands will love to see that you’ve not only taken the time to review products, but also added links, high quality images or even videos.
I’m also new to the thru-hiking world and products that come with it. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It means that I’m able to give an alternative point of view to the traditional one you’ll read. When I started out, reading about a backpack’s capacity, pockets, durability etc… it was a bit much. The lingo was something that I hadn’t heard before. With that in mind, I’m going to take the simple approach as I expect many of my readers will also be unfamiliar with it.
4 – Contact Them!
Get an idea of what gear you’re after and put some time into sending messages or even calling the companies. Don’t be afraid to ask, the worst outcome is that they say no or they offer a discount. However, there are ways to improve your chances of a positive response (mainly the previous points).
Do your research into their brands and products and make them aware that you know what you’re talking about. Tell them about your story. Explain how you will promote their brands. Send them links too.
You can also approach them via social media. This could make them aware of your following and create interest.
My Success To Date
I’ve been very fortunate, as a newcomer, that my story has appealed to various sponsors so far. Not all of which have been the manufacturers themselves, as sometimes a third party will sponsor you to have their logo put on your equipment.
My sponsored equipment now includes…
an ultralight pack (thanks to www.havagear.com)
an ultralight tent (backed by www.rockinfrastructure.com)
Sawyer Products are sending me a new gravity water filter, insect repellent and first aid kit.
It’s only been about two and half weeks since my website became active. I began approaching sponsors in January. So this can probably be seen as a successful method for any first timers who want to try and do the same. I’m in the early stages with others too.