top of page

Ten Tips for Negotiating Expedition Sponsorship 

David Concannon

Appeared as APPENDIX V to You Want to Go Where?: How to Get Someone to Pay for the Trip of Your Dreams (Skyhorse, 2009),

by Jeff Blumenfeld

Exploration is fraught with peril.  Explorers encounter danger not only on expeditions, but they must also successfully negotiate a myriad of issues just to get their expeditions into the field.  One such issue is negotiating expedition sponsorship.  Expeditions cost a lot of money.  In fact, many expeditions would never get beyond the dream stage if it were not for the support of generous corporate benefactors.  To help explorers achieve their dreams, here are ten tips for negotiating expedition sponsorship. 


1.  Consult a Good Attorney 


Remember, where explorers go, lawyers follow. You may be good at handling expedition logistics, but you will never be able to successfully negotiate expedition sponsorship unless you know the business of exploration.  You need a good attorney.  Find a lawyer who is experienced in the business of exploration, including the licensing of photographic and video rights, determining the value of the project, and legal issues related to the Internet and liability.  Your lawyer should also have experience participating in expeditions in the field. If the attorney understands your business from personal experience, he or she will be better able to represent your interests. 


Although the thought of needing an attorney before you leave for an expedition may be unpleasant, it is less painful than dealing with an attorney after something goes wrong in the field.  A good attorney who is familiar with the business of exploration can help you foresee problems before they arise.  Having an attorney on your side will also level the playing field, since corporate sponsors will almost certainly be represented by counsel in conducting their negotiations. 


2.  Understand Your Legal Rights and Responsibilities 


Even though you should be represented by a good attorney, it helps if you understand your legal rights and responsibilities.  Every corporate sponsorship agreement will have provisions for indemnification, performance obligations, and payment.  These provisions should be fair to both sides.  You need to understand what is expected of you so you can let your lawyer and the sponsor know what you can and cannot do.  Don’t make promises you cannot keep. 


3.  Understand Intellectual Property Rights 


Intellectual property rights include copyrights, trademarks, photographic and video rights, and rights of publicity.  These are valuable assets that should not be overlooked.  In fact, many expeditions are substantially or completely underwritten by the sale or licensing of video and photographic rights.  It is essential for you to know what intellectual property rights you have and what they may be worth. 


4.  Know How Much Sponsorship You Need 


One of the most common problems explorers face in negotiating corporate sponsorship is knowing exactly how much their expeditions will cost, and therefore how much sponsorship they will actually need.  This is especially true where the expedition is venturing into uncharted territory.  Resist the urge to under-budget your needs.  Instead, put together a realistic assessment of what the expedition could cost and plan accordingly. 


5.  Consider In-Kind Contributions 


When budgeting for an expedition, first put together a list of what the expedition could cost if all of the equipment, transportation, supplies, services, and other logistical components were paid for in cash.  Then identify which components could be obtained through in-kind contributions. 


Many companies will donate equipment in exchange for an endorsement, publicity for their product, or the chance to test it in the field.  Moreover, it may be cheaper or easier for a company to donate equipment or services instead of cash.  You can substantially reduce the total cost of your expedition by obtaining in-kind contributions. 


6.  Know What Type of Sponsorship to Seek 


When you have a realistic assessment of what your expedition is worth, you can begin to identify potential corporate sponsors.  Be creative.  You never know who may be interested in helping you achieve your goals.  Equipment manufacturers may get thousands of requests for sponsorship each year, but food manufacturers or telecommunications companies may not get any.  Identify each potential sponsor’s target market and determine how your expedition will help the sponsor achieve its marketing goals.  Then pitch the potential sponsor by showing how your expedition will fulfill their objectives as well as your own. 


7.  Know What Other Expeditions Are Getting 


One way to determine the worth of your expedition is to know what type of sponsorship other expeditions are getting.  Are similar expeditions getting equipment donations?  If so, what kind?  Were they able to sell or license their video or photographic rights?  If so, how much did they get? 


By answering these questions, you can determine how much corporate sponsorship to expect for your expedition and where to look for it. 


8.  Consider Incorporating Your Expedition 


Incorporating your expedition as a legal entity provides you with protection from personal liability as well as other benefits.  If possible, you should consider incorporating your expedition as a nonprofit organization under either federal or state law.  This provides the added convenience of allowing your corporate sponsors to take a tax deduction for their contributions to the expedition.


9.  Maximize the Potential of the Internet 


The explosion of the Internet has dramatically changed the field of exploration.  The Internet can be the most lucrative avenue to corporate sponsorship, but it is often the most overlooked.  Proper use of the Internet ensures maximum exposure for you and your sponsors.  However, the Internet carries special legal considerations, such as the propriety of linking between commercial and nonprofit sites, copyright and trademark protection, and properly evaluating the value of corporate sponsorship and electronic media rights.  This area of the law changes rapidly, so it deserves special attention. 


10.  It Is Never Too Late to Obtain Corporate Sponsorship 


If you want to be a successful explorer, you can never stop marketing yourself or your expeditions.  You should seek corporate sponsors before, during, and after your expedition.  It’s never too late to obtain corporate sponsorship, even if it’s for the next expedition after this one. 


About the Author:  David G. Concannon, Esq., is the founder of The Law Offices of David G. Concannon, LLC and Explorer Consulting LLC, in Wayne, Pennsylvania.  Concannon is a Fellow of The Explorers Club and the former Chairman of its Legal Committee.  He has been a legal advisor to two Everest expeditions, six Titanic expeditions, and several other international expeditions.  He served as General Counsel to the X-Prize Foundation when it awarded $10 million for the first private space flights, and to a variety of organizations involved in exploration.  An accomplished explorer, Concannon has climbed to 17,000 feet; made four submersible dives to the Titanic, at a depth of 12,500 feet; and a submersible dive to one of the world’s deepest shipwrecks, at a depth of 16,109 feet.

bottom of page