Part 2 – Sponsorship : How do you prepare to run across a continent?

So, you decided to run across a continent, you have your route planned, and decided on how you will be supported along the way. Now it’s time to move onto something just as important… Sponsorship. Now I would say that a good 90% of people I have followed on their crossings have run for a charity, weather it is to raise money or awareness for them. For me this plays a big part of how easy it will be to gain sponsorship from companies.

So, you decided to run across a continent, you have your route planned, and decided on how you will be supported along the way. Now it’s time to move onto something just as important… Sponsorship. Now I would say that a good 90% of people I have followed on their crossings have run for a charity, weather it is to raise money or awareness for them. For me this plays a big part of how easy it will be to gain sponsorship from companies.

Now obviously you could fund your crossing entirely by yourself, people do this all the time. You could go through the route of crowdfunding on site such as Gofundme.com where friends, family and strangers can donate to your crossing. The third and most common way is to try and get companies to sponsor you with money or products to help cover your crossing costs. Now is probably a good point to note that I have seen many people cross the country by just packing there bag and heading off, no sponsors, no huge plan, and only a vague idea of a route. It is possible, people do it, but for me I prefer to have all of the boxes ticked before I set off even if the moment I get to the start line I have to scrap all of them!

My first emails were bulky and full of confusing information which, at the time, I thought was very important.

Finding corporate sponsorship can be an extremely daunting task, how do you ask for money and products for free from people, hopefully this blog can help you out. One of the most important things to note is that the companies that you ask for sponsorship do not have to be associated with what you are doing, for example with running, Adidas, Nike, Hoka, CEP. Yes you will always have your event specific companies that you will want to focus on, just make sure that you don’t limit yourselves to them. Get the word out through family member and friends that you are looking for sponsorship, and mention it to anyone who will listen. I have mentioned it in passing many times to people and have received one off donations from Lawyers, building firms and even a local theater once!

One of the things which I am asked the most when it comes to finding sponsors is “How do I ask for sponsorship?”. Well this is something that I worked out through trial and error. I made sure that my first sponsorship requests were to companies which I could test the waters with so to speak. My first emails were bulky and full of confusing information which, at the time, I thought was very important. Eventually I worked out that the best format to ask for sponsorship was;

1, In the first line say the you hope that the reader is the correct person to talk to, if not could they possibly put you in contact with the best person at the company.┬áIt’s also worth noting that you can always check via a Facebook message, live chat on their website etc on the best contact email beforehand.

2. Now in no more than a few sentences you need to sum up the whole email with what you are looking for. Quickly introduce yourself, tell them that you are running across a continent for charity, Tell them that you love their products and that you are looking for X Y and Z as sponsorship from them. If there is no solid direction of what the email is about within the first 30 seconds of reading then the reader will switch off. Don’t forget that the will probably get tens if not hundreds of sponsorship requests every year. If you are not direct about what you want and what you are doing then your request will end up in the pile with everyone else’s. The same thing goes for telling them what you are looking for in the terms of sponsorship, they don’t know what you are needing from them.

3. After you have”put your request through”, tell them what you can offer them in return, be it advertising on social media, clothing, you running cart or RV. Let them know you will be trying to be as media heavy as possible. Companies love to hear new ideas of how they can get their brad across to new audiences.

4. Now that you have told them the brief of what the email is about, you can move onto more information about your challenge. Now is the time you get get into whatever parts you would like, they have seen the request, if they want to read on and find out more about the crossing, then they have the option to do so. If they don’t they have to read it all first before you ask them for sponsorship then chances are they might not even make it to the end of the email! Don’t forget that they still have their jobs to do and don’t always want to spend 10 minutes reading through and email to find the point of it!

5. Close by letting them know how much you appreciate their time in reading your email and that you hope to hear back from them soon. Include links to your website and social media platforms so that they can see more of who you are

It is very important to keep yourself sounding positive, a lot of companies will be investing their time, money and products in YOU and not your challenge. If you do not come across as honest and genuine then your chances of gaining sponsorship will be almost null.

In my search for sponsorship for the run I have learned a LOT of important lessons. One of the most important is not to rush things. Yes you may be very excited about landing that sponsorship deal you really want, but don’t forget that the person you are communicating with has their job to do as well. It is very common that you won’t receive a reply for a few weeks. If this is the case then after 2 weeks you can drop them another message just politely following up on the request and if they have any updates for you. After another 2 weeks of not hearing back then you can do the same again. Remember to keep yourself fresh in their minds but don’t be pushy and annoying! I have also found that the smaller companies tend to be a lot more generous and accommodating than the bigger companies. Almost all of my sponsors so far are what I would class as small companies (Apart from FitBit, who surprisingly contacted me regarding sponsorship!) and they have been insanely helpful and generous with their support.

Again, don’t forget to always stay positive. Almost 95% of my emails either come back with a “sorry”, “no” or “not interested” or even no reply at all. This happens. Your challenge does not interest everyone! If you run out of specific companies to ask then broaden your search, for example, you have emailed all of the running shoe manufactures directly, try searching for outlets that stock their shoes and the smaller shops where you buy your kit! There are hundreds of different routes to gain sponsorship for what you want.

If you have any questions about gaining corporate sponsorship then just leave a comment below and i’ll get back to you. There is a lot I missed out but I think that the main points have been covered here. This section turned out to be a lot longer than I expected, so I think that I will cover the fundraising side in another blog next week!