I’ve been seen in the past as a crap ‘sponsee’ and some ‘cyber-wankers’ comments recently made me think it was a good opportunity for doing some serious slagging and putting forward some general thoughts about the era of climbing and sponsorship which we live in. As I didn’t want any potential sponsor to be put off by criticisms of my social media and general ethos regarding climbing promotion stuff.
Anonymous ‘cyber wanker’ said how he didn’t know who sponsored me and that it was my fault. They said I had shit pictures and was clueless about all things social media which is why Rab decided to part company with me. Now, I’d generally not take any cyber-wanker seriously because there are a lot of unbelievably clueless people who will enjoy voicing an opinion about something they have no expertise in whatever.
Secondly, I’m no photographer, but I’ve lots of friends who are and if I climb harder than 5c I always bring a pro-photographer with me, it’s a professional necessity.
Thirdly, I do actually very much dislike (is that hate?) Rab as a company.
I first got sponsored in 1998 by red chili and wild country because my friend Hock mentioned me to them. Made quite a difference to a skint 17 year old at the time and tbh they would have gotten little in return other than feedback of using their kit on a lot of E5s. My first money to be received through sponsorship came from none other than Ben Moon and the best moment involving sponsorship for me was many years later when he said his business had just started and was very small at the time he gave me it, I was really touched he’d thought to support me, I think I was 21 or so then. It’s probably the biggest accolade I’ve received in climbing.
I think it’s also worth questioning wether some elements of the new social media frenzy which have become prevalent are very healthy. Leo Houlding once said ‘the modest man goes hungry’ and it appears this has gone from a slogan for the odd extremely skilful individual to become the ethos for a large % of the sponsored climbing community. I know it appears unhealthy enough that the parents of the best youth sport climbers the UK has seen don’t want their kids involved with it and many other parents in similar position questioning wether they even want their child to be sponsored.
It gets on some news platforms, ukc, Climber magazine. Perhaps a photographers been on hand such as my friend Ray Wood (I never climb harder than 5c less he’s there with his camera). I’ll be wearing my sponsors kit, maybe they’ll make a poster and a news story for facebook or twitter. I’m no bear grylls so the amount of attention it will receive will be rather limited but either way when I send the links and pics through to Pedro Pons he makes me feel appreciated and Bransby is a mate and pretty clueless so I can get away with anything with him and although he’s meant to be team captain he seems to leave me to organise most of the DMM trips!
I’m not totally clueless about social media, after all I need to sometimes spread the news about BMC youth events I’m running and after that brexit vote I was forced to up my game. I was trying to hound UKIP and with the spats I had Ray showed me how I could block people to help me keep my feed that bit cleaner. I never got the # gamblingwithchlidrenslives tag into a proper campaign but I’m a more experienced practitioner now.
So back to Rab. I don’t mind saying I do have a bit of bad blood here. The marketing manager did say how they would be keeping me on but a couple of weeks later I received that classic ‘standardised’ and rather patronising email obviously sent to loads of other people. Even after I’d chipped part of my soul away for them wearing those bloody awful red trousers on loads of new routes, jesus what was I doing?
Anyway I can be reasonably thick skinned. That they’d kept on people who were so rich they could retire now and don’t need sponsorship was my own personal bugbear which I’m sure is a fairly standard routine across all sports. It just means I'll do more new routes in North Wales than climbing abroad. However, my good friend Emma had some reasonably nasty emails and communications with Rab that I was even thinking of getting off her to check if they’d been discriminating against her because she was female as I would have flipped out if I’d had the same dealings as her. I remember getting extremely peeved when 5.10 layed off Fran Brown, Britains Paralympic champion as well as lots of friends to align themselves (give more money to) with the ‘golden children’ of social media (myself included-how’d that happen?)
I guess in the end it may not have been discriminatory, just making her feel small and that she was unsuitable for the sponsorship she was getting, after all she’s only a strong contender for the best female sport climber the UK has ever scene. I’m afraid that’s what really finished off leaving Rab.
What I’ll leave you with is Nialls story he gave at a BMC agm which sums up how I see the Rab brand now:
When Nick got down from doing the hardest route in the Alps, the Colton Mac he was desperate to get layed but had got no money. He went round all the brothels in Chamonix and in the last one a prostitute said to him:
“If you can name who is on the tattoo on each of my thighs I will give you what you want”
Nick was there scratching his chin thinking about who they were before saying
“I don’t know who is on the tattoos, but the one in the middle, its RAB”
If any cyber-wankers have any top tips on marketing feel free to drop me a line