Friday, June 14, 2013

Reaching out…My sponsorship hunt for MDS and support from twitter community

Running is a rich man’s sport. Gear, time and resources ssimply to participate in races, is a luxury many cannot afford. Yet, these are the very things that drive a runner. Better shoes; a lighter, even lighter backpack; tougher races… ultras…

The MDS is slated to be the toughest foot race on the planet. Undoubtedly, runners across the globe strive to participate and complete it. Needless to say, as a runner for over a decade, it was my dream too! And an expensive one at that!

The total cost of the race is about Rs 4 lacs (Euro 3,700 race registration fee ex-Frankfurt, Euro 1,000 for Bom-Fra-Bom, visas and transit hotels and about Euro 700 for specialty gear, food and accessories).

I started looking for sponsors in Jan 2013, using a presentation via social media http://www.slideshare.net/GirishMallya1/sponsor-girish-for-mds. I intentionally decided against using any of my professional media contacts, to avoid potential conflict of interest. I managed two sponsors - Sportizen (a sports ecosystem company) and Apollo Tyres, which helped cover a significant part of my cost. Given limited time and the state of economy, I was quite happy with this turnout. Sportizen happened purely due to social media (mainly Twitter), while Apollo Tyres cme about due to an offline lead. Fortunately for me, both my sponsors have been very supportive and reasonable with their requests.

These were two companies who knew nothing about me, expect the presentation I had put together and one telecon/meeting I had with them. In case of Apollo (they are based in Delhi), they had not even met me in person. So if you have a compelling story and present it well, there are a lot of people who are willing to back you.

I received a lot of help and support from social media for my sponsorship effort, especially from @surekhapillai, who went out of her way to help me at each stage (including http://surekha.posterous.com/for-the-love-of-passion-a-corporate-sponsorsh) The link is no longer available as Posterous does not exist anymore :(

Srini Swaminathan, my good friend and fellow runner helped me with a lot of the gear. His assistance in procuring things like the trekking spoon, dri-fit cloth as a towel, hooks, Petzel headlamp, etc as gear for my backpack made life a lot simpler J.

Maximum time was spent on contacting various sponsor leads and sending proposal letters. I used online and offline contacts to get these leads. All of this required a lot of follow ups via email and phone calls. This can quite demanding when you have a day job to keep.

Getting the gear in place

I always assumed that some compulsory items would be easy to put together. The anti venom kit was very difficult to procure and had to be shipped from a wholesaler in Delhi (We are a tropical country with lotsa snakes for crying out loud!). Or a compass with high accuracy (All I could find were very basic compasses). I was hunting for alcohol pellets for heating water in the desert, but this was impossible to find anywhere in Bombay or outside. And I had people going out of their way (online and local runner friends) to help me. The compass availability was suggested by someone on Twitter, and I found it at Wildcraft store in Bandra. The Shivaji Park running group members went all out to help me with my gear. One of them volunteered to assemble a suction pump as anti-venom. Another got me burning fuel in wax format for heating at MDS. An online contact (he is ex-Airport security) advised that this wax based fuel will not be allowed on the flight, and also mentioned alcohol based fuel is not allowed either. Another offered his specialty case for my iphone, to protect it from dust and falls.

Apart from this, the most heart-warming messages during the race came from my Twitter family. They  kept me going each day, knowing that many are gunning for me…

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