Raising the funds

In spite of the high cost, there is bang for the buck when it comes to polar adventure. The Arctic Ocean is one of the least explored places on Earth. Whilst Everest still holds a magic grip on most people, the mountain has been exploited heavily in recent years and the climbing tales are losing their golden touch.

The North and South Poles are instead still very much a terra-incognita - perhaps even our world's last extreme wilderness. Most nations of the world are not yet represented at either pole; in fact North Pole expedition individuals still only number in the double digits as opposed to the thousand on Everest and in space. In terms of difficulty, a full Arctic expedition without support equals high altitude climbing without supplementary oxygen, and even with that, several top climbers including Messner are still to come back for success at the North Pole.

The remoteness of the area and the challenge of the task make raising funds somewhat easier than with other areas of adventure. Sponsors recognize that high value equals high prize and the area intrigues people.

It's pretty simple mathematics for a sponsor to give you the funds. Large companies have to advertise their name and services to beat competition. There is a yearly budget set aside for the purpose. The money is usually divided between various marketing agencies, whose purpose it is to create the most noise for the least money.

The marketers and the company management get together and discuss various projects and ideas. There is a whole lot of guesswork involved and some campaigns flop whilst other turn great successes.

The importance of a campaign is the message it communicates and the media it attracts. An event signaling intelligence, hip-factor, courage and determination is a success. A PR communicate valuespush so unique that the media writes about it is a home run.

Company PR is both external and internal. The company need to expose itself to not only customers, but also the staff and associates. They might use your expedition for marketing ads, or they might use it for trade shows and staff pushes. Either way, It's up to you to convince the company that their sponsorship in your expedition will give them equal value for their money as their traditional strategies.

If you explore an unusual part of the world, you signal courage. If it's a difficult expedition, you prove determination. If it's a first you are a pioneer. If you do cool technology or scientific projects you add a message of intelligence.

All of those signals are important keywords to a company. If your expedition can act as a good example to the company staff they'll be willing to invest in you. If the expedition receives a lot of media in addition, then it's added value to the sponsor in terms of free name branding.

Yet the most important key word to any long term leader is integrity. Don't exaggerate, don't lie, and don't bend the truth to attract the ears of media. Live a life that matters, find challenges that are real. Don't become just another adventure clown. It is all too easy to persuade ignorant journalists to print headlines about expeditions and projects lacking true value. We see it all the time at ExplorersWeb. But the victories gained this way are short term and the price very high, you'll sell out your soul and the companies that jump on your band wagon will prove brief companions.

Plan of action

1. Find a booming market or players that face hard competition. Pay attention to the TV ads. Aggressive ad placers are the ones to call. The market changes in cycles: Sometimes car companies are doing great, other times it's a specific cereal brand or an entire new technology sector that have the funds and need to establish itself by creating some buzz.

2. Prepare two pitches. One brief for the phone and another for personal presentation. Give facts. Use statistics, history and current events to describe your mission and its value. Be yourself; describe how important the expedition is to you and why you want to set out on it. Remember the keywords: Innovation, pioneering, courage, determination, intelligence and - integrity. And don't forget the most contagious; joy of life.

3. Make a pay back plan. Media, speeches, banner ads, goodwill, pictures, video and attending of events. Put a price on everything: 20 magazine articles - how much is an ad in each? Speech value - 8000 USD. Banner ads, say you can attract 10 000 visitors with the help of adventure portals to your site - that's another value of 5000 dollars. Pictures - 200 dollars each, 50 equals 10 000 USD. Video - another 5000 USD and so on. Before you know it, you value ads up to 50 000 USD and the rest can be good will.

4. Pick up the phone. Expect one hundred no to a yes. When you get the yes, go up for a presentation, bring pictures and written material, preferably envisioning the expedition with the sponsors logo already printed on the leaflet. Make your presentation sharp but short - max 30 minutes. By a few self help books on selling (Tony Robbins, Tom Hopkins, Napoleon Hill and such).

5. Never give up. Many sponsorships have come through only a week before departure.