Admit that it's a very cool idea to travel around the world by bike and you get a bicycle and panniers sponsored. Yet there is only a handful of world travelers who get things sponsored. And there are even fewer who have made a living out of traveling. But that doesn’t mean that you don't stand a chance because everyone with a good plan and a good approach can find sponsors. How do you make a plan? How many followers do you need to be interesting for a sponsor? What do you give in return? What can you expect? We are happy to help you based on our own experiences.
The most important question that you have to ask yourself is: 'do I want to invest time in finding a sponsor?’. First of all, there are the preparations: setting up a website, doing market research, designing a leaflet and sending sponsor requests. Secondly, there are responsibilities if you have signed a sponsorship deal. You must comply with agreements such as posting on social media, a guest blog or photos. Maybe you invest a lot of time in the sponsor requests and you end up with a buff and 20% discount at the local bicycle store. We started our world trip without sponsoring because we wanted to enjoy the world trip without obligations. After one year, we chose to professionalise WeLeaf and set ourselves the goal of finding two sponsors. We like this challenge and invest a lot of time in it, but not everyone likes it.
You can compare finding a sponsor with setting up a company. Only with a solid plan a bank will be prepared to finance your company. A good plan must be SMART:
- Specific. What are your objectives?
- Measurable. Is it measurable what you are going to do? '5,000 kilometers of cycling' is measurable. 'Cycling as far as possible' is not measurable
- Acceptable. Are you, and your possible travel companion, willing to go 100% for it?
- Realistic. You have to believe that it is possible to achieve.
- Time specific. How long does your adventure take? This doesn’t has to be exact.
"Do I have to plan everything in advance?". Of course not, but a potential sponsor wants to know with whom he gets involved. He wants to know what kind of person you are, what your goal is and why you undertake this journey. The sponsor wants to know if your trip matches the goals of his company.
We left on our world trip with a very vague idea: 'we start by bicycle, head south and we don't know how long we stay away'. That is anything but clear and we barely got our parents convinced of our ideas. Our new plans, on the other hand, are very concrete: 'we travel self supported through North America, 5.000 kilometers by bicycle, 1.000 kilometers by foot and 1.200 kilometers by canoe'. The exact time and route is not fixed, but the goal is.
The world of marketing is shifting from the traditional marketing (famous individuals, tv commercials, etc) to micro influencers. That is good news for the unknown people with unique plans, like us. Yet numbers remain important for a sponsor. For a micro influencer you have to take into account the following figures:
From these figures you are interesting for a sponsor, but that isn’t the start of a gold mine. And everything depends on the segment you are in. Within beauty and lifestyle blogs the competition is big and higher numbers are needed.
If you still have to leave on a journey, you usually start from scratch and you have little chance. We had fewer than 1,000 followers on Instagram in the first year and only occasionally reached 3,000 page views. ‘Has a novice world traveler no chance?'. Off course you have! You convince the sponsor with your clear plan and not with your numbers. There are enough examples of world travelers that started their world trip with sponsors.
tip: you can increase your reach by contacting newspapers before you travel. Maybe they publish an article about your plans, or you can write an article from time to time. The newspaper has a much larger audience than you and you can use those figures for your sponsoring request.
Many world travelers undertake a physical challenge and collect money for a charity. Cycling for cancer, canoeing for diabetes or mountaineering for ALS. This increases sympathy with a sponsor because you have a clear plan and a commitment to charity. The most important thing is that the charity is your intrinsic motivation for your journey. What do you support and what do you think is important. If you choose a charity to get sponsors, you are doing something wrong.
We left on a world trip without any charity or partners and wanted to do projects while traveling. We have collaborated on permaculture projects, collected data for Sail & Whale and counted dead animals for Adventure Scientists. Recently we started a partnership with Rewilding Europe and we commit ourselves to the wild nature in Europe. It is not the main purpose of our journey, but it adds value to our trip. We don't think we will get more sponsors because of this, but we do get a bigger reach through the cooperation with Rewilding Europe. Indirectly this is a sponsoring for us because a greater reach means more followers, more visitors and a greater influence.
In the sponsor proposal you write your work in exchange for the sponsored product. The more quality you can offer, the more interesting the proposal. What are your strengths? A beautiful website, photography or videos? There are many options to think about what you can offer a sponsor:
Perhaps you can think of a lot more yourself. Be realistic in what you offer and make sure that you can make it happen. Depending on the company we approach, we select our offer. This is based on the value of the product we ask for. For a product value of € 200, a review and a number of social media posts is justified, but for a product of € 15 a post on social media and a link on the website is sufficient.
One of the most time-consuming actions is conducting market research. On our next adventure we go cycling, hiking and canoeing. Start with writing down the things you need. Bicycle gear, cycling gear, outdoor equipment, electronics, canoe equipment, outdoor clothing, training and insurances. There are hundreds of companies so you have to make a selection.
You get the most sympathy for your challenge from friends and family. You will be amazed at how much they want to support your adventure. Are you organizing a goodbye party, or do you need specific items? Dare to ask your friends and family if they want to support you!
In your village or city there are probably a lot of shops and you might even know the owner. The local bicycle mechanic can review your bike for free, a print shop sponsors business cards or the local bank might be interested.
Large companies receive sponsor requests every day. The big companies even have a special web page for all applications. Just like a job application, you want your letter to stand out and not immediately disappear on the pile of rejections. Most people send a sponsor request with a nice email, but you have to remember that the people who review your application have little time and will only read something if it attracts their attention. Zoë is a graphic designer and has created a beautiful sponsor brochure, but even if you have less design skills, Word can be used to create a beautiful leaflet that stands out. How does our folder looks like?
Tip: Less is more. The less extensive your sponsor brochure is, the better. Perhaps a one-pager is the most powerful!
Responsibilities are part of a sponsorship agreement. A company offers you a product in exchange for a number of conditions, such as posts on social media or a guest blog on the company's website. Make sure you comply with these agreements, inform the company if something doesn't work and send an update regularly during your trip. If you have one sponsor, it is not that hard, but if you have multiple sponsors and partners, you should keep an overview with all appointments and contact moments.
We wrote to more than 60 different companies for our next adventure ’Self supported through North America'. We would have been very happy with two or three positive answers, but zero was possible too. The companies receive many sponsor requests and it is logical to get a rejection. Of the sixty companies we wrote, we received 25 answers. The big companies like The North Face write that they only reply when they are interested so you probably don't hear anything. We are happy with every answer because we think that is professional. We received a total of 10 positive answers, including eight companies and two non-profit organizations. An unexpected success and a nice reward for all the hours of work. A big thank to all our partners and sponsors!