Becoming a sponsored climber is super tough to pull off and each brand has different nuances of what they’re looking for. One universal truth is that each brand is pitched constantly so they rarely say yes. Below are 7 tips to stand out from the majority of pitches…

Research the brand and their interests

  • Look at their website to find their values (to see how you align)
  • Look at their Instagram to see what type of content they post (to see how you could fit in)
  • Look at their blog to see if they feature guest posting (to see if this is a possible angle)
  • Look at their sponsored athletes and find themes or holes (if they only sponsor climbers who are x, show them how you have x characteristics. If they sponsor a variety of folks but you don’t see y represented, but you have y, let them know that).
  • Bottom line: Figure out what the brand needs / wants / is missing

Build rapport

  • Write helpful comments to their Instagram/Twitter/Blog posts to possibly gain attention
    • Don’t write throwaway comments like “Hot!” or “Nice!”. Write thoughtful, truthful comments. Something like, “I’ve bean using [this piece of gear] for awhile now and I love [these features] because [reasons]. The [x feature] is totally unique to the industry and makes [the product] stand out.”
  • Share and tag them on your media profiles
  • Try to attend events where the brand is
    • Webinars count – and ask helpful/thoughtful questions or comment helpful/thoughtful answers
  • Enter any of their contests with maximum enthusiasm and quality
    • Everybody notices somebody who goes above and beyond
    • Don’t just spam a contest, make sure your content is high quality (like if it’s a picture contest, submit high quality photos, not just a ton of not-so-great photos that you captured in a few minutes)
  • Try to meet the company at a festival or trade show to gain more insight into what they’re looking for and to have more people know you’re name

Show what value you’ll add for the company in your pitch

  • Showcase your value to the brand (don’t just ask for gear/money as the primary part of your message)
    • Let them know what assets this sponsorship will gain them? Pictures, videos, reviews? Where will those assets go? Your channel, their channel?
    • Mention if you have a large or niche social following, youtube channel, or a blog with an avid readership (even if the # of readers is small) and tell them how you’ll use this to showcase their brand
  • Do you have connections with other brands or people they want to be connected with? If so, say how your involvement would make this connection.
  • Avoid sounding whiney or needy. Also, sad stories or shaming comments are not a good start to opening a conversation / relationship.
  • If you have a portfolio, sample writing, etc link to relevant resources

Keep it concise

  • You’re cluttering their inbox and stealing their time and attention; show that you value their time by keeping to the point (avoid long / rambling stories)
  • Be specific about what would be helpful, like name specific pieces of gear & how you’d use them or speak to funding a specific part of the project — don’t just say “any donation would be helpful!” because that means more work for the other person to figure out what would actually work well and be beneficial to both partners.

Start small

  • Don’t ask a brand to fund an expedition if you’ve never worked with them before
  • Know that many companies don’t give out cash resources, even to their sponsored athletes
  • Think about multiple options of how somebody can partner with you – again, be concise and specific. Possibly, have one bigger ask that is incredibly compelling (in terms of value added) and/or have a smaller ask if that isn’t in their range.
  • Alternatively, try asking to review a piece of gear first (even better: review something from that brand that you already own and send them the final review or tag them as an act of good will)

Build trust

  • Brands like partners they can trust. Show them you’re trustworthy by answering emails quickly, following up on anything you spoke about, and delivering ahead of the deadline.
  • Share your ideas openly (it’s less helpful to write: “I have a ton of ideas but will tell you later” or “I have a ton of ideas but can’t share them until we have a contract”)

Customize your pitch (don’t use the same pitch for multiple companies)

  • Sooo many people who are looking to be sponsored send the same message to all companies and it is immediately obvious. If you’re not taking the time to personalize the letter, why would a company want to give you their time / gear / money?
    • For example, we commonly get requests asking us to donate our product, but we don’t have a product. Clearly, those requests are from people that don’t know or care about our brand.
  • It will take more time to create individual letters, but otherwise, I’d be willing to bet there is a less than a 1% chance that a form letter will get you any further attention
  • Take into account the size of the company. We receive pitches that seem the exact same as the ones written to The North Face or Patagonia yet we have less than 1% of their revenue. It would be impossible for me to accommodate those requests. Ensure your pitch is relevant.
  • If you can, avoid sending your letter through the contact form as the people reading those forms will be unlikely to forward your note on. To avoid the contact form, you could use LinkedIn to try and find more appropriate people to email.

Bonus Tip

You might have better luck reaching out to a PR company first. PR companies often have a budget for gear, are usually looking for a unique angle, and they are usually the ones that handle short-term sponsorships. They also have the ability to pass your name on, to the PR/Social manager of the brand you’re aiming for, and they can put in a good word based on your past collaborations.

Final Note

These are guidelines that we’ve used, or are based on requests we’ve received. They are general enough that they could be used for any brand (even outside of the climbing industry). Some brands may have further requirements to work with them, occasionally these are posted, but often they are not. If you do get ahold of PR agency, and once you’ve formed a relationship, feel free to ask them for tips on how to reach out or ask for more details on what kind of sponsorships a specific brand tends to give out.