Outdoor companies need to advertise their products and one way they do this is by sponsoring climbers.
Well known, high profile climbers can be a financially viable way of gaining media exposure for your products and every climbing and mountaineering brand has a 'team' of climbers and athletes that it supports.
This can be a very symbiotic relationship; helping top climbers do more climbing and generally be very unobtrusive and innocent. In the UK this is certainly the norm.
However there are certain climbers who view any commercial aspect of our sport as a bad thing. There are also those who think that sponsorship in particular has a negative impact on the media's representation of climbing.
Scott Semple recently wrote a blog entry titled Is Sponsorship a Sin? in which he states his case that the wrong people are often sponsored and this is a bad thing:
"Many of the athletes you often see in climbing magazines are phenomenal at self-promotion, but range from average to crap at actually climbing."
Where I disagree with Scot is in his assertion that sponsorship is about supporting the best climbers and significant achievements.
Scott does go on to comment that:
"The type of sponsorship which I think is worthwhile for both brands and sponsorees is when guides are sponsored. It makes sense. Trained guides are a valuable resource for brands to get their product in front of the target market (clients). It also works for guides, because it helps them out with reduced gear expenses."
Which is something that I agree with, but I feel it is important to note that any sponsorship deal is just that: a 'deal'. A business deal. If a company thinks they will get a good financial return in terms of media exposure from a person they either pay (rare in the UK) or give free equipment to (more common in the UK), then that is good business sense. It matters not whether that person is the absolute best performer, and also, that is impossible to judge.
"Truth is, many climbers are sponsored for what they say, or how well they're known, rather than for what they've done."
"Truth is, many climbers are sponsored because the companies that sponsor them think it will help sell more products."
However I do think that Scott brings some interesting points to the table and I congratulate him on a superb blog and great slideshow.
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