To sponsor or not to sponsor?

I have been stalled by indecision today, specifically about the role sponsorship might play in my expedition, if any. To elucidate the arguments for myself, I have written them down. 

An obvious benefit of having sponsors is getting free or discounted equipment. There are numerous bit of equipment which I need but haven’t yet bought. A sleeping bag, most of my bicycle, a cooking stove to name a few, fairly important things basically.

Having sponsors would increase the profile of my KRTW. A sponsor might feature a photo or article about the expedition on their website, which would increase exposure for Parkinson’s UK. 

A sponsor would also give me legitimacy. Most of my research on how to pull off a large scale expedition has been based on browsing the websites of successful adventurers, all of whom have lists of ‘partners’ on their websites. These stamps of legitimacy assure supporters that you have responsibilities beyond yourself and are trusted by others. If supporters view you and your trip as legitimate, they are more likely to engage, financially or otherwise.

On the other hand finding sponsor is time costly, with probably little or no reward. Considering my expedition, the most important goals are finishing it and documenting it as well possible. Where’s the benefit for anyone in committing all my time to plastering my website with flashy logos if I then don’t manage to complete the ride for lack of route research or a foreseeable bike malfunction? Better to achieve the goal and give your charity a story of success to market. Documenting it well means a significant commitment to this blog, both before and during the trip. 

Finding the right sponsor is vital. Good sponsors have products and an ethos you believe in, and produce a personal two-way relationship. You give them feedback and coverage for products you wholeheartedly support, and they provide essential equipment, exposure and legitimacy. The alternative is to rapid-fire pleas for sponsorship to anyone who will listen and see what sticks. The risk here is you becoming inextricably linked to a company you don’t actually like for the rest of your trip.

I also found that looking for sponsors was skewing the reasons I wanted to take this journey  in the first place. To get sponsorship, your story must be sellable, be individualistic, be the first or the fastest, have a USP. Whats my USP? My route is well trodden, and the bike is probably the most popular self-powered transport in the world. I may be young, but by no means the youngest person to have attempted to cycle to New Zealand. My story is not sellable enough! I had this epiphany this morning, and then spent the next two hours trying to retrofit a USP to it. I was commercialising my expedition for the sake of some free equipment. I don’t want to be the first or the fastest, or cycle the whole way in a chicken costume. First, you have to do what you actually want to do, everything else come second.

So, sponsorship is a double edged sword. Sponsorships might bring me support, legitimacy and exposure. But they have to be the right sponsors, for the right reasons.