Financial Travel Tip #52: Getting Sponsorships

by Nora Dunn on October 27, 2012

 

I’ve had a few questions and comments lately about traveling with the help of sponsorships: how to get them, portray them, and satisfy sponsorship requirements without diluting content or compromising your personal voice.

 

Let me first say this is a giant grey area, and nothing I say will be unanimously agreeable. Everybody has a very different take on sponsorships and partnerships – those differences are part of our individual styles and preferences as travelers and entrepreneurs.

 

I have a fair bit of experience with sponsorships, from paid text links or sidebar banners, to free stays in hotels, upgrades, transportation, tours, press trip events, etc. Probably my two most involved sponsored experiences were my Aussie Train Pass (which I used to the max), and the Ultimate Train Challenge which involved coordinating a variety of sponsors to subsidize a 30-day multi-blogger event.

 

Here are the basics on getting Sponsorships:

Step 1: Have a Business with Influence

For travel expenses to be sponsored, you need a travel-related business that has a demonstrated influence on a target group of consumers. In many cases the business in question is travel writing, either in the form of a travel blog or regular columns (or letters of assignment) for various publications.

Until you have an audience, don’t bother trying to get sponsorships.

 

Step 2: Types of Sponsorships

Once you have an audience, some sponsorship opportunities will come to you. These are normally proposals for sponsored posts, text links, and banners for your website. Some offers are better than others, and it’s up to you what’s acceptable. (Don’t be afraid to negotiate!)

Other sponsorships you’ll have to go digging for. Here’s a list of potential types of sponsorships you might have access to:

  • Sponsored Posts
  • Website Banners or Links
  • Free/discounted hotel stays
  • Free/discounted transportation
  • Free/discounted travel experiences/attractions
  • Free all-inclusive trips (press trips)
  • Travel gear
  • Books for review

 

Step 3: The Approach

For free or subsidized destination-based travel (for example you’re headed for “x” city/country and want to make the most of the experience), tourism bureaus are great to approach. Find their website, then search for press/media pages on the site. This often provides you with basic sponsorship information, and at the very least a media contact.

Once you have a contact (be it a tourism bureau or hotel manager or tour operator, depending on your needs), send them an email covering the following points:

  • Who you are
  • Your travel-related business
  • The dates of your trip
  • Who your audience is, with a quick summary of your influence and reach
  • What you want (I usually ask if they have a media discount or complimentary pass)
  • Why this will be great for them (ie: you have an audience that is keenly interested in their destination/activity)
  • Media page (see below)

Oh yes, and keep it short and to the point. They’re not interested in your life story.

 

Generally, the more notice you give them the better. If you can provide a couple of months’ notice, you’re more likely to receive an offer for a fully-subsidized press trip with activities etc all covered.

 

Your Media Page

It helps to have a one-page document that you can send to media contacts. This provides a quick summary of your site and audience, with detailed information on the demographics, reach, unique visitors, page rank and Alexa ratings, social media followings, etc.

 

Step 4: Disclosure and Promotion

Prior to the sponsorship taking place, make sure everybody is clear on how the sponsorship will be disclosed and what promotional activity will take place.

I’ve had agreements that stipulate details as minute as how many tweets I’ll write and the exact number of links I’ll provide across however many posts. Other agreements are more undefined, utilizing a certain amount of good faith.

The degree of disclosure you provide is dependent on the sponsorship itself, and how you are portraying it. But generally you need to stipulate to your audience if you received something for free.

 

Step 5: Follow Up

It’s important to follow up by showing your sponsors how effectively you’ve covered the event/destination/gear/etc. Send them links to posts/articles you produce, and cross-link to their twitter and Facebook pages in your posts and status updates.

For more involved sponsorships, it’s nice to send a summary report after the fact, illustrating the visitors/tweets/FB shares etc for each related post.

The tourism bureau world is a small one, and it behooves you to nurture each and every relationship you have in the industry, meeting if not exceeding expectations.

 

Appendix: Bad Experiences

Sometimes the experience/product isn’t good. What do you do? Here’s another giant grey area.

If a sponsorship goes badly, I’ll usually email my contact and say so. I’d rather write nothing at all than say something bad, and most often they’re happy to keep it that way as well.

But then again sometimes it’s good to warn readers if there’s a legitimate ongoing problem that could affect their experience. This boils down to communication with your sponsor – during both the approach and follow up – to ensure expectations are properly set and met on both sides.

 

 

Intrigued by having a sponsor-able business on the road? Here are a few more posts that might get your entrepreneurial juices flowing:

Financial Travel Tip #19: Earning Money as a Travel Writer

Financial Travel Tip #30: Taking Your Business on the Road

Financial Travel Tip #31: Location Independent Careers

Financial Travel Tip #42: Earning Income by Online Tutoring

Financial Travel Tip #43: Starting a Business You Can Travel With

 

 

 

 

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Arnis (Tripify) October 27, 2012 at 11:19 am

Great advice. I’ve been running a blog for some time now (we now have a bit less than 200 posts) and many of the questions covered here are what I was thinking about. Do you have some advice on what to charge for posts/links/reviews?

Reply

theprofessionalhobo October 28, 2012 at 10:58 am

@Arnis – I’m glad this was useful! As to what to charge, that depends on your site’s traffic. The higher your site is ranked, the more money you can command! For a link within a post, many bloggers start at $250; reviews vary depending on the value of the goods you’re given to review – which is usually compensation unto itself (you can also use affiliate links in review posts to boost revenue); sidebar links and banners depend on what the advertiser is asking for, but tend to be on monthly/semi-annual/annual rolling renewable terms.

Any other input from travel bloggers on this?

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Gigi October 28, 2012 at 2:54 pm

The first paid links I took were for $150 each and were inserted into uber relevant already-published posts (the client’s main goal was SEO value).

I believe a good number of bloggers (including myself) will often do reviews for free as long as the items being reviewed are relevant and exciting to us and our audiences.

P.S. I encourage everyone to take Nora’s advice to heart. Thanks to this same advice from her a few months back, I’ve been able to build up my PR skills (something that wasn’t my strong suit) and secure both information and assistance from various tourism organizations and companies. Thanks again, Nora!

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theprofessionalhobo October 28, 2012 at 3:09 pm

@Gigi – Thanks! It was our initial conversation that inspired this post!

And you bring up a nice point with regards to relevance; there are ample opportunities to dilute your content with irrelevant links or links that are obviously planted/compensated. We all have to make money – but if your blog relies heavily on your personal voice, it pays more to be choosy and not to compromise your voice for some cash.

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Anonymous October 28, 2012 at 11:21 pm

“I’d rather say nothing at all than say something bad”.

And how exactly does that help the audience that is faithful to you and help support you?

Reply

theprofessionalhobo October 29, 2012 at 7:28 am

Sometimes we have bad experiences with a product/service that are bad for more personal reasons than for reasons that other customers would experience. In these cases it’s important to be objective in the review and not necessarily project your own isolated experiences onto the entire product/service.

But it is important to address bad experiences with the sponsor to work out what is best for both your audience and the sponsor.

Here’s an example of a “bad experience” I had and wrote about after giving the sponsor a head’s up that I wan’t pleased with the product:
http://www.theprofessionalhobo.com/2011/07/florida-with-no-baggage/

In regards to helping an audience that helps and supports you – you’re absolutely right: our followers and readers are paramount. But does that mean I’m obligated to pepper my site with negative reviews to tell people what to stay away from? Would it not be better to leave the negativity to one side (as long as it’s not something readers legitimately need warning against), and instead to promote tips/services/products that will help them instead?

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Anonymous October 29, 2012 at 10:15 am

Thank you for your reply Nora. And since you asked, the short answer in my opinion is: No.

If it is o.k. to pepper the site with positive reviews of “paid” advertiser’s (getting free rooms, etc. in my opinion is getting paid), who are in a way influencing your experience in order to get a good review, then it should be equally o.k. to pepper the site with negative reviews as well. Otherwise, you risk not being balanced in your approach.

Just my opinion.

Reply

theprofessionalhobo October 29, 2012 at 10:56 am

I appreciate your viewpoint. And I’m grateful that I’ve been able to be honest and objective about my experiences and the things I’ve reviewed. I’d still rather say nothing than say something bad, but there’s something to be said for constructive criticism.

Reply

grasya October 29, 2012 at 4:01 am

these are great learning points.. and 150 for a paid link!? hmm.. I do hope to get those too! ^_^

Reply

theprofessionalhobo October 29, 2012 at 7:29 am

@Grasya – Glad you found this helpful! Good luck!

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Tony October 31, 2012 at 6:15 am

Sponsorships are a great way to help your travels. The biggest advice I ever received was be bold, be professional, and ask.

It is amazing how many great activities we’ve done just because we asked. In my experience, a lot of smaller businesses don’t care as much about site traffic if you are just asking to get an activity sponsored in exchange for a review on your site. They get a nice link and a hopefully positive review that pops in google when their company name is searched.

Great advice, Nora!

Reply

theprofessionalhobo November 1, 2012 at 12:50 pm

@Tony – I’ve really enjoyed all the activity-based sponsorships I’ve done. You’re right – it helps the company to have a recap of the experience and a link, and as long as the activity in question is in keeping with the theme of your site/travels, it’s great for readers to learn about these things to do around the world too.

Reply

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