No kidding on the sponsorships! I have a long history
of working with sponsors (17,000 miles around the US on a computerized recumbent bicycle before switching to a nautical substrate), but it was shaped by an event early on.
A cigarette manufacturer offered me major cash to do an epic South American voyage whilst flying their flag and extolling the virtues of tobacco. As a militant anti-smoker and cyclist, the notion was absurd so of course I said no, but it got me thinking that ANY "title sponsor" automatically devalues itself due to media/public awareness of the behind-the-scenes business relationship. If I had a giant Motorola logo on my sail and said in an interview that Motorola makes great radios, would anyone take that as a serious recommendation? Even though I really do like Motorola?
So instead, I only ask sponsors for product, never cash. Heck, I'd use the cash to buy product anyway. The hard part is that I ended up with about 140 sponsor
relationships on the bike (and even more on the subsequent nautical project), but those relationships were much easier to maintain, usually with engineers or principals instead of PR-types keeping a steely gaze on the return on investment
while trying to keep a renegade like me on-message.
Net effect of the product-only approach... good stuff that I would have willingly bought anyway, honest recommendations in articles and interviews, superb tech support, plenty of returned engineering value to the companies, mutual goodwill not based on performance, nice incidental PR, and lower stress.
Which is what it's all about...