Rebuilding Sponsor Relationships

Backcountry Babes
The Challenge
Backcountry Babes was losing sponsors and underutilizing current sponsor relationships. We needed to better articulate who we were to stoke excitement with sponsors to reap the benefits of those relationships.
Our Solution
I created a small printed portfolio to share with sponsors during annual in-person meetings at the Outdoor Retailer conference.
My Contributions
This was a solo project I did as one of the co-founders of Constellation Outdoor Education. I conducted informal stakeholder interviews with current and potential sponsors. I synthesized the research and created the deliverables.
Backcountry Babes clients hiking uphill to ski in Silverton, CO.
Unprecedented success, but losing sponsors

After my company, Constellation Outdoor Education, acquired Backcountry Babes we overhauled the brand, website and social accounts. This change resulted in a significant increase in enrollment and community engagement, but at the same time we saw partnerships decline.

For a small outdoor experience company, relationships with sponsors are vital to extending the advertising capabilities of a limited budget. Why were we losing sponsors when by all other metrics the company was doing so well?

Uncovering Barriers to Trust

Though we had become experts at understanding who our clients were, our sponsors were still a mystery to us, invisible to us except for a couple emails and boxes (or pallets) of product that showed up unpredictably. We made assumptions about what being a good partner looked liked.

Maybe it was lot of tagging on social media, maybe it was talking up their brands on our courses or using their products exclusively or posting about them on our blog.

I reached out to a handful of our sponsors, friends that were brand reps for outdoor companies and cold called a few brand reps to ask about what it would take to bring them on board as sponsors.

We needed to be proactive about educating our sponsors about who we were, what we were doing, and speaking their langauge. 
People were excited about our social justice mission to reduce the gender disparity in outdoor leadership, our access to female skiers, and our high levels of trust and engagement.
Every brand has a different strategy and to uncover each one we needed to drive conversations about the two-way value promise of partnering tailored to that sponsor’s goals and needs.

A Successful 
Solution Will...

Make space to co-create future partnerships. Seek input about sponsor needs and articulate what we offer. 
Paint a vivid picture of our two distinct client types, our mission, and our unique positioning in the market.
Create a physical artifact to be paired with an in-person meeting guided by a conversation plan. Not just another email or blog post.
Speaking their Language
BUILDING Profiles of our Bimodal Client Base

We created two detailed personas based on our intimate knowledge of the Backcountry Babes clients. One persona describes a new client who is getting into the sport who needed guidance on buying new gear ("Getting Stoked"). The other is a long-time skier who loves having the best gear ("Still Stoked"). Reps were able to recognize our clients as customers that would be valuable to their brand.

We developed a social media dashboard and participation dashboard to show off our high levels of organic engagement online and the reach of our high-touch in-person events.
These resonated with brand reps who live and die by similar metrics.

A NEW plan for driving the conversation
We realized that busy brand partners didn’t often take the lead in defining the terms of partnerships. We had to be the ones in the driver’s seat, both through articulating what we wanted from them and showing off what we could offer. 

We used feedback from existing and potential sponsors to refine our materials to the topics and data brand reps found most compelling. These were an affinitized list of what we could offer to brands and mockups of how we were sharing sponsor content on our social media platforms and website. 

The tools drove a conversation about each brand’s unique values. We used these as a jumping off point to understand what a partnership might look like and build excitement about the places that our company could support the work that reps were doing.

  • Logo and link on website footer
  • Logo, description and link on sponsor page
  • Logo, link and message/image in newsletter
  • Links to your products on equipment lists
  • Sponsored social media post
  • Sponsored blog post (product review or educational)
  • Sponsored video content (product review or educational)
  • Cross-posting content (yours or ours) - blogs, videos
  • Logo in film festival or video content
  • Photography: trip, event (product feature)
  • Contest (in social media or newsletter)
  • Logo on course posters (in ski towns in CA, AK, and CO)
  • Sponsor film festival (logo on promotional materials, blurb from host at screenings, logo on screen)
  • Logo on Backcountry Babes van (seen at all the best ski destinations in North America)
  • Access to our trips/course for your photographer
  • Coupon codes handed out to participants
  • Branded items distributed to participants (stickers, pencils, keychains, lip balm, ski straps, etc)
  • Equipment demos on a trip or courses
  • Demo fleet of gear for all trips and courses
  • Logo in film festival or video content
  • Hosting demo day events
  • Hosting any of our events for a group you organize

Renewed relationships and new opportunities

Existing Sponsors
Shared inspiration and collaboration with existing sponsors--shoring up previously rocky relationships, galvanizing  promotional support for events and continued material support of our company.

New Sponsorships
New sponsorship with notoriously choosey sponsors and also with boutique brands whose social justice mission aligned with our mission to end the gender gap in outdoor leadership.
New Opportunities
Expanded sponsor relationships with a top-shelf, highly respected ski company and a top producer of avalanche safety equipment. This yielded a fleet of demo skis for use with clients and production and promotion of an educational video series featuring our guides distributed by the brand.