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Financing Everest - take two: Wall Street Journal and corporate sponsorship
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Agu 27, 2004 11: 38 EST

A few weeks back we ran an article on creative ways to finance Everest and other explorations. With expeditions becoming vastly cheaper in later years, explorers sell their house, take out mortgages or charge it all to Master Card. But a summit of Everest isn't priceless as you'll notice when you return home.

So, The Wall Street Journal chatted with ExplorersWeb about the various expedition costs, and ran their own story on the subject, focusing on good old corporate sponsorship:

Find your selling point

Gordon Janow of Alpine Ascents told the Journal that he has received an increasing number of calls from amateurs inquiring about corporate sponsorships -- as many as several calls a month.

The Wall Street Journal mentions two who succeeded: Will Cross, the diabetic who attempted to scale Everest this May: "Novo Nordisk not only helped sustain his life with its insulin drug, NovoLog. The Princeton, N.J., pharmaceutical company also footed the $60,000-plus bill for the climb."

Then there is Britton Keeshan and his AT&T-sponsored Everest climb in May: "Britton, the youngest for Seven Summits, sent an approximately 40-page business proposal in PowerPoint form about his climbing pursuits and his résumé to 20 companies, specifically tailoring it to several companies he thought had a significant "youth" demographic. AT&T wanted to associate its technology with "the kind of huge quest that [Mr. Keeshan] was undertaking in conquering the seven highest summits in the world," writes WSJ in the report.

Climbers with an interesting story

Next, the Wall Street Journal goes on to describe the value to the sponsors: "Ideally, PR at a good price. From morning news-show spots to speaking engagements, climbers with an interesting story can draw the kind of positive attention sponsors seek."

But the Journal also mentions the difficulty involved. Climbing is not a spectator sport (yet) and climbers must persuade their sponsors that they are different.

Will Cross used his Diabetes as his selling point: "He appeared on the cover of trade publication Diabetes Positive!; he was a keynote speaker at the American Diabetes Association event; and Novo Nordisk released print ads based on his climb in Diabetes Forecast and Diabetes Interview."

Ultimately, his Sponsors wanted to show that in spite of the disease - where there is a Will there is a Way!

A coming spectator sport

Climbing is in fact turning into a spectator sport these days, with the help of technology. Just look back at the tremendous thrill of the K2 Magic climb recently. A sports journalist wrote to ExWeb: "Thank you for your coverage of this years gripping and extraordinary events on K2. Those of us 'in the know' are quite aware that the human drama of a Tour de France or a tennis tournament, while compelling in their own right, pale in comparison to the life-or-death struggle involved in ascending (and descending!) the King of Mountains...thanks, it was unforgettable..."

This is a crucial change that will help bring big corporate money into climbing, much like it has done to sailing.

But forget the easy money. Working tech on expeditions takes commitment, skill and hard work. Plus, just like in sports, a sponsor contract must last through both victories and defeats.

Simone Moro: The contract has TWO signatures

Simone Moro, put it this way in an interview in Campo Base Magazine, April 2004:

"I think the most important thing is that you clearly know your objective, first of all. Then, it's crucial to know exactly what are you signing at the bottom of a contract. A sponsorship contract has two signatures, one of them is the alpinist’s. If a climber commits himself to ‘summit a mountain’, he will be in very big trouble if the weather or conditions are not right. He will climb under an enormous pressure and will assume more risks than he should - or he risks to come home with broken promises to angry sponsors.

Offer the sponsor the right thing

What I offer my sponsors is a series of ‘safe’ rewards on their investment, with or without a summit. I commit to take pictures throughout the entire climb, images they later can use for advertising, posters, etc...

I test their gear and write a complete report on their performance in extreme conditions. I commit to give lectures in different countries, and I will not only mention the sponsors, but also bring their climbing gear for the attending people to see it. I commit to send interesting pictures and dispatches daily to International media.

Give to get. It takes technology - and hard work!

Look, I'm not bringing my sat phone to the mountain to talk to my girlfriend. I use technology to send multilingual daily dispatches world-wide. I attend radio stations calls for interviews, even if I'm at 8000 meters. And, when I get to the summit, I don't just say, hey, that’s great! and start descending. I bring out my camera and do ALL the pictures needed for each one of my sponsors.

The result: Freedom to climb what you want

Moreover, this kind of agreement allows me to chose the climbs I really want to attempt. Had I committed to summit, I’d only choose easy goals, with a high probability of success. The sponsors view me as staff, and pay me a "salary". The result is that I don’t need to look for sponsors, and that I’ve been working with some of them for more than ten years. With or without summit.

You won’t make a life of climbing 9a - communication is the secret

So, do you really want to make a living of the mountains? Good, but let me tell you: You won’t make a life of climbing 9a; neither of opening new extreme routes; nor of climbing the 14 eighthousanders. You’ll make a life of doing some of those things, but tell a good story about the rest. Communication is the secret. And, in any case, remember that it's not an easy task, and you will definitely not get rich. You’ll get to live a climbing life. No more."

Find the full Wall Street Journal article in the link section. The article is free to view in next three days, after that subscription is required. Check also the link section for Alpine Ascent cybercasts from Everest this spring. Find Alpine Ascents current expedition cybercast from Cho Oyu in an article on this website today. Simone Moro is planning a new, exciting expedition. News will to be released on it soon.

Images top to bottom: Golden Everest, ExplorersWeb. Simone Moro working computers on the mountain and in BC, courtesy Simone Moro. Bottom: Contact 2.0 live image from Everest camp 2 earlier this spring, courtesy of Adventure Consultants.

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