A guest post by Australian kayaker and adventurer Sarah Davis. Sarah brings a background in risk and project management in the banking sector to her upcoming project to paddle the length of the Nile. She is aiming to raise A$150k in sponsorship for the expedition. She has written about why and how she decided to create a 'brand' in name and image for the expedition, and what it brings to the project.
It was New Year’s Day and I was sitting down at Bondi, watching the first sunrise of the year, thinking to myself, ‘Yeah, life’s pretty sweet!’. But at the same time I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something missing. Work was great, life here in Sydney was awesome, but there was a need for more fulfilment. Continuing as a desk jockey with my four weeks’ annual leave a year from now until retirement wasn’t going to cut it. After much soul searching and researching I came up with this expedition.
I was going to paddle the length of the Nile and be the first woman to do so.
Why brand it?
Next was to make that idea a reality. I have set up and run a couple of businesses and decided to treat this the same. There are so many people out there doing amazing things. I felt that to stand out and attract a following and sponsorship, building a brand was the way to go.
I wanted to use it to create a positive, professional perception and credibility.
define the brand
For me this was having something that clearly communicates who I am, what I’m doing and why. As I am a one-woman show, the brand is me, so it has to be authentic.
The brand is about the look and feel, it's about consistency across platforms, the messaging and the voice used.
[Related blog post: Creating A Consistent Online Brand]
find a name
It didn’t take long to hit on ‘Paddle the Nile’. It says what I’m doing, where and how. The domain was available (and cheap), I registered the company and set up the social media. Tick. It’s worked well – people ask, How’s Paddle the Nile going? When does Paddle the Nile kick off?
create a Logo
Next was the logo. I wanted a simple design. The first draft was in Word which formed the basis of the brief to the designer.
You can spend big dollars on logos, but this had to be cheap, so I jumped on www.fiverr.com. After looking through the designers I picked ‘desiox’. I gave him the brief and it wasn’t long before the initial designs were sitting in my inbox. A couple of tweaks and I had exactly what I was after.
I got a great bonus to boot. He went onto my draft website, ripped off an image, gave it an ‘oil’ picture effect and added the logo. I loved it! I’d never have thought of this, but it’s proved handy for sponsor packs, business cards, header for my newsletter, social media banners and more. All of this for a mere A$33. Bargain!
Build a Website
Initially I engaged a web designer found from searching for websites I liked the look of. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out. History suggests this was a case of it being ‘me not him’. Previously I’ve sacked one web designer and had another say I was a demanding client. What can I say, I know what I want and am not the most tolerant of people.
Given it only needed to be an information-based site, and I’ve created those before, I went onto Squarespace and created my website. I love Squarespace. They have beautiful templates, simple to use and customise, have e-commerce capability and no upgrades to the site are required.
Down the track I might get a professional update as there’s some functionality I want that’s beyond my skills.
[Related blog post: 12 Reasons You Need Your Own Website]
Create a Promo Video
Now this was a much bigger investment but in my mind worth every cent. An introductory video sets the tone and I think it brings a number of benefits:
- It creates a professional look and positive perception. It shows I’m serious about this - it’s not some whim.
- We’re a visual bunch and prefer videos over reading, so it's likely to get more people aware of what I’m doing and why, if there’s a video to watch.
- It's great to send to people and prospective sponsors. It shows what it’s all about and lets them see and hear me.
- It's also handy for a few grant applications.
Mat Morris was the genius behind the video. (His YouTube channel).
We ended up with a 5min 50sec version, as well as 90sec and 60sec for Instagram @PaddleTheNile.
[Related blog post: How To Build A YouTube Audience]
Powerpoint Pack for Sponsor pitches
Next was an introductory pack to send to potential sponsors. In my years of corporate life I’ve hacked together my fair share of powerpoint slides. I did the first cut, but it needed some creative magic. Back to fiverr.com and the best $15 I’ve spent. ‘rrgraph’ took my order and 24 hours later I had these beautiful, professional looking slides, using images from the website and a tonne of creativity. I was stoked.
As a marketing tool I got T-shirts and hoodies made up with the logo and website on them. These proved to be way more valuable than I’d expected. So many people, when seeing the logo, asked me what it was about. I even had people stop me on the street.
I went with a local company called ‘My Custom Tees’. They do low volume orders, have good quality products and you can design them yourself. Very easy to use.
My mates asked if I was selling them, so I did. This isn’t about money making, it’s marketing. What I make in selling them covers the cost of those I give away to sponsors, prospective sponsors, social media influencers etc. Well worth doing!
Business cards have been super handy to give when people show interest and ask where they can find more information or get in touch. Plus for any meetings it helps create a professional image and makes sure they have my contact details.
I use www.MOO.com where you create your design (or use their templates). They have great quality products, a variety of styles to pick from, complemented with a quick turnaround and good value. They deliver across the world.
I’ve also had postcards printed to send as ‘Thank You’ cards.
Social Media presence
On top of this there’s the social media:
- Instagram @PaddletheNile
- Facebook page ‘Paddle the Nile’
- Twitter @PaddletheNile
- YouTube channel
- Plus there’s a newsletter, branded of course.
All of this is very much in my own voice, trying to keep it natural. Because the underlying brand here is me, and if it’s not authentic, people will see straight through it and all the work to create a positive, credible image is lost.
Is it worth it?
I think yes, absolutely. It’s just difficult to quantify exactly how valuable it is.
Feedback I got from the Chairman of one of Australia’s top 20 companies included, “You will realise your goal if you keep pushing forward as professionally as you are”. I took that a big compliment and put a lot of that down to this branding.
expedition 'gift registry'
There are limited spots for paddlers to join Sarah Davis for parts of the expedition - both rafting and kayaking. To find out more, or follow her progress, or donate to her causes, visit https://www.paddlethenile.com/get-involved/.