Gear and kitLife on bikes

How to get sponsorship for a motorcycle adventure trip

Getting sponsorship for your motorcycle adventure sounds like a great idea. But in exchange for the free gear or financial help, you’ll also have to give something in return. Our resident adventurer, Dutchie, explains.

Just so we’re clear from the off, the definitive term for sponsorship is the act of supporting an event or person financially, either through products and services or sometimes, though rarely in adventure biking, with money.

In real terms, this means committing to an exchange of your services for the prospective brand sponsor. ‘Your services’ can come in the form of social media posting, creating videos on channels, gear review blogs, maintaining websites and so on. In return, you’ll get access to your sponsor’s products and services at a reduced cost or hopefully even free.

For most overlanders, sponsorship is something they choose to not chase after. After all, this is a once in a lifetime trip for most, and many don’t want to have it ‘bothered’ by obligations to anything other than their special overland ride… something to consider very carefully!

The first question you should be asking yourself is ‘Why do I want sponsorship?’. Is it for the gear? The extra advertising? To create a network for future events? For a charity? To make money?

I ride bikes because I enjoy riding bikes. I don’t want to turn that into something that’s going to jade something I love. When you represent something you don’t like, you have to carry that with you everywhere – luckily I carry the flags for sponsors with products and services I believe in and have used previously.

So before you even decide on applying for sponsorship, think hard about your motives… and decide if you are prepared to do some work along the way.

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Sponsorship and free gear

Sure, getting cool, functional, top of the line gear is great! It’s cheap or even free a lot of the time, which helps maintain at least the semblance of a healthy bank account since much “adventure” gear costs just as much as a new leg with a pedicure.

Sponsorship will give you access for the most part, to discounts or perhaps free gear, which is a huge help. After all, gear is extremely expensive for these types of trips but there is a responsibility that comes with that, and do you really want to have obligations on your trip of a lifetime?

If the answer is no, just buy it and save yourself the trouble. Seriously. Sponsors won’t want to support you if you aren’t willing to at least help drive the brand in the agreed fashion. Plus you’ll lower the chances for legitimate riders who are more prepared to commit and deliver.

Sponsors to help establish yourself

Having sponsors is a great way to begin a small networking base for prospects to help at the launch of your next trip, project or, as in my case, a new store (when all this overland malarky takes a break). As you will have continually developed a good working relationship with your sponsor, this will make business with them in the future more breezy.

Sponsorship to help a charity

It seems like every Tom, Dick and Harry is crossing the world for “charity” these days. I’m not a fan of charity runs to gain sponsorship – unless it’s a case that’s close to your heart, like a loved one for example. Even so, without wanting to sound like an evil antichrist, if the person you love is so sick and so unwell, wouldn’t you rather hang out with them instead?

If you really want to help, what’s stopping you from starting your own charity, or donating your own cash instead? There is absolutely no need to ride a bike halfway around the world if you want to raise money for charity. With that said, there is some legitimate cases where riders have been very driven and followed up for their nominated charities, years after their rides have been completed!

Sponsorship to raise money

If you chose sponsorship to make money… well you chose the wrong line. Unless you’re riding in MotoGP or something of the like, the chances of you walking out of a sponsorship for an adventure trip with any money is extremely low.

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What’s involved in a sponsorship?

Most riders I know with sponsorships, myself included, earn our way into a deal by getting gear and in return offer tags in social media posts on platforms like Instagram, Facebook, self-created websites or blogs. The simplest sponsorships I’ve found from my experiences are the ones that involve a few pictures with a tag and related headline in exchange for a discounted or free item. Simple, and completed quickly.

As an example, a trade off to one sponsorship company was my photography. While my photography still needs work, I felt it was good enough to perhaps try to pitch a company the idea of trading my photography of their product in exchange for their product. I had samples which I showed them in a portfolio. I ended up receiving a brand new heavily discounted motorcycle with road and phone support.

In return, I would tag them in social media posts related to their bike, and give them the original photos from my travels with their bike, which they could use for their business, how they liked, when they liked, whenever they liked. I had that deal for 2 months, which then butterflied – afterward they ended up sending me a brand new $400 topbox for the bike I’m riding now.

This was one of the bigger sponsorship deals I made, which ended up being worth around €2500 – with the parting gift of an amazing friendship.

Part of the reason that we’ve remained on such good terms and became friends was that I delivered on what I promised… not that it was so difficult, they were very easy to work with and just amazingly awesome people.

I have, of course, gotten other sponsored deals along the way (for bike gear, parts and servicing). Some are worth a fair chunk and some worth only a little, but at the end of the day, if you are willing to put a little work in and develop good working relationships with your sponsors, I believe this will put you in line for more along the way, should you want or need it.

Make sure the terms are clear

The sponsored deal should be clear between you and your sponsor to save confusion and so both parties know exactly what you are getting yourselves into. The last thing either of you wants is different aims and then for the relationship to break down – this makes you look bad, and in such a niche world, not a good thing if you’re looking to continue on with other/new sponsors.

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The business side

From a business perspective, sponsors are investing their income on somebody they know nothing about, so for them, it’s a much bigger risk than it is for you – you have nothing to lose. So you need to be offering them some incentive to view you as a worthy investment. The best way to do this is to pitch them an idea that will help grow their business and customer base, and then follow up on it.

Pikipiki Overland Blog covered the business perspective of sponsorship very well, and have a great understanding of how the business side of the sponsorship table works being former business owners and sponsors. They wrote a great article on it from the business perspective.

How to go about a sponsorship

So if you’ve read all the above, and are still committed to donating your free time to your prospective sponsors, then keep reading. Below is a very basic guide of how to go about the next step – gaining sponsorship. After all, every person and brand is unique in their approach to things.

Generally a sponsorship is customised specifically for each person and the brand they are representing.

First off, the sponsorship you are chasing should be related to what you’re doing – which in my case is riding motorcycles overland. This means camping and motorcycle gear (but geez, I really wish Shipping and Insurance would be on the same page as the others). I look at the gear I’ve been wanting to get my hands on but can’t afford and preferably a name that holds a good reputation with its customers in the motorcycling world.

When you’ve decided what it is you need or the brand you want them to represent, the next step is an email/face to face/phone call with their marketing department. Introduce yourself, tell your prospective sponsor about your goals (and perhaps your riding history too) and what you can offer them in exchange for their support or products.

Usually, I’ve found these emails go directly to the head of the company, or at a minimum, to the marketing managers if it’s a huge company. They are the people who will assess whether you and your pitch is worth their investment.

If you’re pitching your social media feed to them, then make sure before you do, you have your feed in order and that it already has a build up for your trip relatable to the product.

It’s very likely they’ll want brand placement on quality pictures and/or videos. This means you’ll want good photography/video gear to follow up on your promises. A decent post processing unit as well, like a speedy tablet or laptop. As well as the internet to upload everything after processing. You’ll also be seeking those spots that are best for photography, brand placement and film. You see where I’m going with this right? It’s a lot of work.

You are not the only rider looking for sponsorships, so get creative and show them some flair.

It is imperative you have goals and also just as imperative you can OFFER YOUR PROSPECTIVE SPONSORS SOMETHING OF VALUE to make their investment worthy. If you just say “oh hey, yeah I’m riding a bike around the world, wanna sponsor me?” you are doomed to fail.

If the sponsor cannot see how your feed links to their product or believes your pitch isn’t strong enough (for example, that your pictures are barely discernible from the poo of an old bear), the sponsor will likely not invest in you.

Occasionally a sponsor will renegotiate your pitch with a different product or perhaps want you to trial a new set of sample gear and leave direct reviews with them (and usually only with them). If the product isn’t something you were looking to use, it might pay to be flexible just so you can keep building a relationship with the brand.

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Is sponsorship for you?

If you’re thinking of doing a trip, and you don’t have the initial funds to do it on your own – then I wouldn’t even bother with sponsorships in the first place. Wait until you have the cash before you begin. The reason being, if you have just enough to get by, then something goes terribly wrong, then what? Your sponsors will be let down, making it more difficult for other potential riders in the future.

Sponsorships have been nice to my bank account – which means I saved a wad of money by receiving gear I use every day (because no, nobody has paid me in cold hard cash, and probably won’t ever, unless I’m riding for Red Bull). However there is some work involved, it’s not “free gear”, so don’t go in thinking you won’t have to do anything.

Once sponsored, YOUR ONCE IN A LIFETIME RIDE NOW HAS OBLIGATIONS THAT NEED TO BE MET – so once you make a promise, don’t go back on your word. Maybe it’s just a simple tag or a shout out on a social media platform, perhaps it’s a full on photoshoot or video collaboration showcasing their gear in your riding clips – all that is between you and your sponsor, but make sure you understand fully the commitment you are making.

Sponsorships can be, and usually are fruitful to both parties when there is a clear intention to follow up on both sides of the agreement. It may help keep your wallet full for other emergencies like burnt out clutch plates or broken bearings. Just make sure you have the time and inclination to repay their commitment too.

Get yourself sorted:

Get the traveling bug by reading about Dutchie’s epic trip back to Oz, at athehandlebars.com

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The Author

Dutchie

Dutchie

Dutchie is a truly global nomad. He's currently heading home from Britain to his native Oz via Turkey, Iran, Pakistan - places that are home to some of the kindest people on the planet when it comes to looking after a biker on the road.

His first experience of bikes was tooling around on the back of his dad's BMW R80 (in teal, rusty as hell and noisy as f#ck).

An ace photographer (that'll make him blush) and blogger, he's been riding since he was 19 and has spent a decade on bikes, from lithe Kawasaki Z750's, through crotch-rocket Daytona 675's and on to today's continent-busting Triumph Tiger 800 XC.

You can read up on his latest progress at http://atthehandlebars.com