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ADV PreppingInsider Tips: Getting Brands to Sponsor Your Motorcycle Journeys

Insider Tips: Getting Brands to Sponsor Your Motorcycle Journeys

 What you ought to know before seeking out sponsorship for your travels.

Published on 10.03.2017

With adventure riding becoming more and more popular every year, sponsored travelers are cropping up across all countries and continents. But is it worth it, what’s it really like, and how can you get sponsored to travel? We talked to both companies and sponsored riders to find out.

Have a Track Record

Most companies who sponsor riders expect them to already have an established website or blog and a following on social media.

Mark Kincart, director of marketing at Klim, explains that if you’re hoping to get sponsored to travel – either by discounts, products, or cash – it’s important to be able to prove you’ve been on the road for a while. “When I get sponsorship requests, number one thing I do is I investigate how legit they are: are they really riding? Are they leading the life that’s portrayed on their social media accounts? At Klim, we prefer to sponsor people who are already underway as opposed to newcomers, because most startups never leave the ground, or the idea sounds great but in reality, it becomes too hard for riders to accomplish”.

get sponsored to travel

“We usually look for a rather large following, or potential to grow in a new market”, – says Alyssa Bridges, Sena’s Multimedia & Sponsorship specialist. According to her, a rider might also be considered for a travel sponsorship if he or she is doing something truly unique. “Is their adventure or upcoming trip something totally different? If they are not extremely popular online, but make exceptional content, we may consider supporting them”.

Peter Day, founder of Mosko Moto, says it’s all about exposure. “We look for a big viewership of potential customers. This could be lots of followers on social media with a high engagement rate on posts, or a history of high view count ride reports in online forums, or a popular website/blog. We also look for print exposure, i.e. a history of published print articles and/or gear reviews in major publications. In a few situations, we’ve also offered travel sponsorship in exchange for professional-level photography”.

Be Prepared to Offer Value

Michnus Olivier, a South African traveler who has been on the road for seven years now, has experience on both sides of the fence. Him and his wife Elsebie ran a successful overland gear company, All Terrain Gear, which was getting sponsorship requests frequently. After selling the company and hitting the road, Michnus and Elsebie have experienced what it’s like to get sponsored to travel – they are currently partnered with Nigor, GPS4Africa, and Cogent Suspension. Michnus says it’s very important to decide what are your overall goals for the journey, and what can you offer as a sponsored rider.

get sponsored to travel
Honesty, great reputation and value to the community are your best assets. – Michnus Olivier

“The first question to ask is why would you want a travel sponsorship? To get free stuff just because you want to save a few dollars on gear or can’t afford to travel? Or is it to help and add value to others and a brand? Brands are looking for people who are truly part of the community, who share regularly, are consistent and post valuable, original content, not just brand hashtag spam. How that person can be a valuable ambassador to their brand is a big consideration for companies. Their reputation is key, and a brand might not want to see posts from religious, political or other contentious topics”, – says Michnus.

Paul Stewart, better known as rtwPaul, a traveler and photographer sponsored by Big Agnes, Seat Concepts, Klim, Mosko Moto and Warp 9, has been on the road since 2011. According to him, it’s the attitude that matters. “I don’t think trying to get free stuff just for the sake of getting it free is a good idea. I only approach companies for sponsorship if I have tried their products before, and if I am truly convinced that that’s the best product out there. That way, I know that I can honestly recommend the gear for people, the company gets exposure, and other riders can shop for the best ideas out there. If you only ask for free stuff because you can’t afford it, can you then be honest in your reviews?”, – asks Paul.

Finding Travel Sponsorship
Only ask for sponsorship if you truly believe in the brand – otherwise, the relationship might quickly turn sour for all involved – Paul Stewart

Don’t Expect Cash

A popular notion that some sponsored riders also get cold hard cash to fund their travels isn’t so common in reality. Very few companies are willing to fund people’s travels, and those that do are extremely choosy with their generosity.

“Sometimes we have supported riders with money, however this is usually after a relationship has been built and they become one of our “Sena Adventure Seekers” – more like a brand ambassador and an extension of our team. We may support riders with a general yearly payment as they will create a certain number of videos featuring Sena or at least the payment can help keep them out on the road longer”, – says Alyssa Bridges.

But Sena is among the minority: most companies prefer to simply offer product.
“We have never offered money. I like knowing that the riders out there using and promoting our bags are doing it because they really know it’s the best gear on the market, not because we paid them”, – says Mosko Moto’s Peter Day.

“We do offer cash, but only to professional athletes. When it comes to adventure riders, we prefer to sponsor them with products or discounts”, – says Mark Kincart of Klim.

Michnus Olivier adds that even if you do receive a payment from a company, it won’t be enough to cover all of your expenses. “I don’t think it is worth pursuing. Most companies do not give cash easily. Even the well-known travelers do not earn enough funds to sustain a trip solely from the sponsorship money they receive. And then they sometimes work like dogs to keep the brands happy. Brands gain much more from you than you from them: when you travel, it is your time, money and gear. They pay nothing towards that, get good content and only offer up a discount or a product. You will work for that, and essentially you pay for what you think you get for free”.

Be Original

Paul Arcaria Travel Sponsorship
Being a fresh face in the ADV riding scene doesn’t have to mean your chances of getting sponsored are zero – you’ll simply have to work harder. – Paul Arcaria

Can you still get sponsored to travel even if you’re just starting out, don’t have thousands of social media followers, and are setting out on your very first adventure? Paul Arcaria, sponsored by Nexx, Sprocket Apparel, West 38 Moto, Mosko Moto and Moto Z Tires among others, who has left on his first round the world journey just months ago, says that anything is possible – as long as you’re prepared to do the legwork.

“Frankly, a lot of it is about who you know in the industry personally. Most sponsors want big names, impressive numbers on social media, an established Youtube channel, and so on – and they do get a lot of sponsorship requests. So as completely new faces on the ADV traveling scene, my partner Aida and I simply went to a lot of motorcycle shows and talked to a lot of industry people face to face. If some of the bigger names in the ADV community can vouch for you, that’s already a big bonus. I would say, if you’re genuine, if you are out there in the world and if you have something unique to offer, don’t be afraid to ask”, – advises Paul.

Motorcycle Show Mosko Moto
Motorcycle shows are a good place to find Adventure Travel brands to talk about sponsorship opportunities. Just make sure you can convey what’s unique about your planned journey.

Most companies agree: being unique definitely helps to secure a sponsorship. If your trip is extraordinary, or you have an unusual bike, or are original with your content, your chances of getting sponsored increase. “My recent personal favorite story was Ride4Alzheimers, where a father and daughter took off on an adventure and were using the Sena headsets. Donni was able to comfort her Dad when his Alzheimers flared up and didn’t know exactly where he was”, – says Alyssa Bridges.

“If it’s something a lot of people are doing, then it’s probably not going to be as interesting. So many people are going up and down North and South America right now, but I just heard about a group of riders attempting the Darien Gap on motorcycles. That’s cool! Or it’d be cool if riders were on a trip through the Congo. We feel more drawn to trips that are exciting and unknown, so we can go along for the ride. Being interesting or unique can happen in more ways than just the trip though: for example, going a long way on a tiny bike. Or traveling a long time on a small budget. Or traveling and camping with super-minimalist gear. If we’re inspired, we’re a lot more likely to consider sponsoring those riders”, – adds Peter Day.

Ready to try for a sponsorship? Here are a few pointers:

Michnus Olivier get sponsored to travel

• Always be honest! If you receive free stuff it’s hard to criticize or be honest about its failures, and that is of no value to the public or other riders, you add no value to the community. When we have issues with products we will first take it up with the brand before we do a review, and all our reviews are always 100% honest. – Michnus Olivier

• Talk to people. A face-to-face chat is always better than cold-calling emails. ADV events are great places for networking. – Paul Arcaria

• Miles ridden don’t mean a thing if you don’t let people know about it. You might have ridden around the world four times now, but if you haven’t blogged, written, or talked about your journey in videos and photographs, you simply don’t exist. – Paul Stewart

Paul Stewart get sponsored for your travels

• Check what markets is the company currently exploring, and see if you can help them with it: for example, as we have released more products recently for more of the cruiser market, we have been making more effort to support users and create more content in that market. – Sena

• We love to sponsor people who are genuine, have great personalities, and provide real value to the community – either via their content, active presentations and workshops, or their shared experiences and tips. – Klim

• It doesn’t matter whether you’re just riding the Trans American Trail or going round the world – if you’re a great brand ambassador and can offer great exposure, we’re interested. – Klim

• We love to help riders who take risks, who aren’t afraid to be vulnerable, riders who travel with the bare minimum and those who wander more than they plan. We’re often drawn to riders on low-budget, scrappy trips through unusual or dangerous places. We favor dirt over pavement, and camping over hotels – Mosko Moto

Photos by Stephen Gregory, Paul Stewart, Michnus Olivier and Paul Arcaria

 

Egle Gerulaityte Author ProfileAbout the Author: Riding around the world extra slowly and not taking it too seriously, Egle Gerulaityte is always on the lookout for interesting stories. Editor of the Women ADV Riders magazine, Egle focuses on ordinary people doing extraordinary things and hopes to bring travel inspiration to all two-wheeled maniacs out there.

Author: Egle Gerulaityte

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16 thoughts on “Insider Tips: Getting Brands to Sponsor Your Motorcycle Journeys

  1. Time to be brutally honest here. I DESPISE all this sponsored crap. I’ve gotten to the point that I avoid reading about people doing these big trips if they have sponsors. I’m way more interested in reading about people who are just going it alone (or in a very small group), who didn’t set out with attracting a huge following in mind. I’m also way more interested in the ride itself, and things that happen in rural areas, than playing tourist in some crowded city.

    Another thing… if I was to ever do a big out of country trip, it would NOT be on a late-model fancy ADV bike. It’d be on my trust old ’96 DR650. Why? It’s old, it’s ugly (purple frame) and doesn’t look like something worth stealing. Same with my gear. I’ll ride with full gear, but it won’t be shiny new Klim or Rev’It (which screams, “I can afford way overpriced gear!”) stuff, or other high-dollar stuff. I want to blend in and not attract attention.. not be a target for a mugger. Not only that, the bike is incredibly simple and easy to work on. Parts are plentiful.

    But one thing is for sure… any trip I do I will do without sponsorship, without expectations from an outside entity, and without being beholden to anybody.

    • Rob, thank you for sharing your views! I’d just like to point out that all three of the riders interviewed in the article are actually riding DR650’s, too, adhere to the policy of simplicity and their goal is adventure, not tourism. They are all riding solo or with their partners, not in groups, and as for gear, it seems that any motorcycle apparel won’t look like much if you ride off-road (which all of the above riders do) – dust hides the logos rather well:) – whereas the quality matters for safety. It seems to me that riders rarely fall into strict categories and most of the time, it’s more of a complex mosaic deal.

  2. Very good article! I’ve also written and spoke about this topic and for awhile Inwas compiling a kind of Nielsen ratings type scoring of ADV riders. One quote I recall is from a riders’ perspective and that’s “it ceases to become my trip if all I’m doing is riding for other people.” Companies get let down a lot but many good riders with robust social media end up doing open ended relationships and deliver thousands of dollars in impressions for maybe $200 in gear and then find their sponsor doesn’t even leverage their photos.

    • Sponsor-rider relationships are certainly a delicate matter! I think it’s all about discussing expectations and boundaries openly beforehand, so there’s no disappointment (or even resentment) later from either parties. Being a sponsored rider can mean all kinds of things – gear testing, reviews, images, mere hashtags or any combination of those; I think we need to ditch the extremes – from a “sell-out” to a “brutally honest self-sufficient rider” because there’s a whole spectrum in between.

  3. I made this film with no sponsors. I even gaffa taped over every brand name visible. It allowed me to make a more real film, to try different things, different styles, fail, and in the end produce a film that only captured the essence of the experience of taking a year off to ride a motorcycle around Australia. I’m happy with my decision. After the film I developed a relationship with many of the Aussie manufacturers whose products I used. I think if I did another mototrip, we would both know what the outcome would be, and that would be a better place to be in than to go in cold with no previous mototrip examples
    http://www.overlander.tv/australian-motorcycle-adventure-film-now-available-for-download/

  4. The one part that people don’t understand is that companies have heard “I’m going to Alaska”, “I’m going to South America”, “I’m going around the world” a thousand times. There is not too many more “epic” rides that no one has not done that is left to do. What would be your pitch to promote their brand that would be any different then say the last dozen people that did that same trip? You see the issue here?

    Also the riders shouldn’t expect FREE product as if they are owed it for some reason. Companies don’t owe you anything. I remember a motovlogger saying he wanted a brand of luggage to test but it came across as that he felt owed some free luggage. Sorry you are not owed anything. Which was funny to me because the owner of that brand had talk to me about how people feel entitled and he hates that. Even told me after he give a discount they would complain it wasn’t enough or that they were owed it because they have been a customer for so long. *shaking my head*

    In marketing what are you going to do to promote the brand? You do realize marketing is a 24/7 career and do you want as a rider to spend all this time on a $80 item? You might get people that ask about that Jacket you are wearing, will you take the time to talk to other people on the side of a trail or on your Adventure? Not many will do this and once they learn of the full time career that it can be might not want to promote a brand. Also you are R&D sometimes for a brand, let’s say you think those pants are missing features! Are you going to suggest to that company some ideas? You might say “well that’s their job” and yeah you are right but at the same time why would they stay with you and support you?

    A lot more work goes into getting free items then just using them.

    You are also a face to the company and hence sort of customer service. Let’s say you come up to another rider and they are bitching that their zipper broke after a few weeks wearing those new pants. Are you taking the time to explain to them the company has a pretty good customer service and that they will fix that issue most likely FREE of charge!

    You wear a lot of hat’s for some FREE product.

    So why do some of us do this?

    We do it because we love the companies we work with. I would wear the gear I’m wearing even if not supported (maybe be a little older but I truly love the gear), and I would use the bike parts that I have been supported with.

    See that is the thing people just don’t get. You don’t ask companies for stuff that you wouldn’t usually buy yourself. In fact you would be amazed in my proposals that I only ask for items I am interested in that I can truly promote and that I am planning to buy anyways. I’ve had companies say “no we can not do anything for FREE” but here is 20% off or 50% off…and you know what, I go an their site and I buy what I asked for. Because I’m only asking and I am an adult and I can take a NO. Sometime’s I have gotten a flat NO and still bought items. Then in a way it’s nice because there is no expectation to do a video, to promote, to do this and that like I laid out. I’ve also had companies take notice of that and then offer support the next time because they saw I truly used their product and wanted THEIR product.

    Riders being able to showcase product is no different then magazines having ads. The difference is a company can have a multi-million dollar ad campaign but unless you happen to be turning that magazine page, and stop on that page, and then go to the dealer or store or online and then to actually click buy is a low rate. Where as a rider will be able to promote direct to the group that is truly interested in a product. A magazine is hit and miss whether a potential customer will see the ad or even go much further then the ad. If you are already online and you see I posted about X with a link you are more likely to click the link and go to the site and at least look.

    You might say but your getting stuff for free so how do I trust what you have to say. I’ve told riders to look at other gear that seemed like it would have fit their budget and needs. Everyone has different size bodies, everyone has different needs and wants, and everybody has different budgets.

    Obviously a book could be written on this. If you are looking to get into this, I’ll end it with this. Look deep into yourself as you have to market yourself every day, every hour of your life and promote the brand which is you. Promoting a jacket is no different.

  5. How are you doing, Egle? I read your content a lot, and I value your stories / articles posted here.

    I hope you’re well, and that you’re happy with the compromises I’m sure you live with, travelling on the road, having to work and eat, and / or being sponsored along the way.

    If you can, if you want to, tell us about your situation re: sponsorships. I would like to learn how you make it work, day to day.

    • Hey Bob! I’m great, thanks, enjoying my last month in the US immensely – this country is just incredible for ADV riding.

      As for sponsorships, personally, I am supported by Klim, Mosko Moto, Warp 9, and Seat Concepts (products, not cash). All of them are fairly recent additions and mostly due to my digital media project, Women ADV Riders. I think women are not represented enough in the ADV scene, and accordingly, women’s gear is seriously behind men’s, so I’m very happy to test products, talk to other women and come back with useful feedback, which, hopefully, will inspire companies to do even better! So far, all the relationships have been great – I get free product, test it thoroughly, and come back with honest reviews as well as some photos and #’s. I certainly don’t feel like I’m “working”, though, it’s simply a mutually beneficial partnership.

      When it comes to money, I earn my living on the road as I go along, freelancing for different publications around the globe and getting paid to write books. Is it easy? No – I have crazy schedule, lots of uncertainty at times, and it isn’t as stable as a secure office job. Does it pay millions? No – that brand new Africa Twin that I’m secretly coveting will have to wait a decade at least:) But is it worth it? Absolutely: I have my freedom and I love what I do.

    • I think the whole ADV motorcycling scene is very dynamic, and it changes and evolves with every passing year. What worked a few years ago might not work today, what seemed like great ideas a decade ago have lost meaning now. Accordingly, the sponsor-rider relationships are evolving, too: a few years ago, it was all about sponsored posts and hashtag spam on social media, grand RTW trips and big bikes, whereas now riders are a lot subtler when they talk about products and companies are recognizing unusual, unique travelers – small bikes, extremely remote places of the Earth, solo females, or travel with purpose, culture and connection. In other words, I think what really matters today is a story: an original, extraordinary story that has a lot of potential to inspire. Adventure riding is getting more and more popular, more and more people do it, so the old story story of Ewan and Charley just doesn’t work any longer. It was fantastic and it inspired a lot of people back in 2004, but today, the world needs a different kind of inspiration, and I think companies are starting to recognize that and sponsor people who have something new to say.

  6. Graham Fields spoke about sponsers in interviews on Adventure Rider Radio and commented on riders literally missing the entire reason for the trip because they were owned by their commitments to sponsors. He made sense. I would rather work my way around the world and be my own man.

  7. It doesn’t hurt to be female either. I know, I know, no one is ever allowed to even hint that women have an advantage in any part of society, but the motorcycle industry is struggling to expand and grow. Most manufacturers would leap at the chance to expand into the mostly untapped female market. You put two equal proposals in front of a manufacturer, one male and one female, and they can only chose one, the female would get chosen every time. Now, go ahead and express your faux outrage.

    • Hi Rob! Interesting observation, although I’m not entirely certain it’s true – I recently had a similar conversation with a female rider sponsored by a couple of the big names in the industry. She said she had to work very hard to get those sponsorships and what was important to companies was her photography, storytelling and networking skills, not her gender. I can see how there might be a perception that women have an advantage when it comes to getting sponsored, but I doubt that it’s factual truth; at the very least it would be very interesting to see statistics. And as an afterthought, – in the West, only approximately 25% of motorcycle riders are female, which means the ratio of male and female riders is 3:1. At such odds, it seems that men have all the advantages when it comes to healthy competition, no?

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