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: