Pushing limits to achieve the extraordinary | Kiko Matthews
Kiko Matthews is the embodiment of pushing limits to achieve the extraordinary. Earlier this year she became the fastest-ever woman to row solo across the Atlantic, covering the 3,000 nautical miles between Gran Canaria and Barbados in just 50 days. Her attempt broke the previous world record by almost a week.
It also raised over £70,000 for London’s Kings College Hospital, where she’d received treatment for Cushing’s Disease and overcome two brain tumours, one less than a year before training began. She shares her proactive and forthright approach that led to a network of sponsor partners providing practical and charitable support.
caytoo: Your website lists 27 sponsors. How did you go about attracting them?
Kiko: Through direct cold calling, but also a lot through connections and knowing people. Just being who I am, saying ‘this is my challenge, this is what I’m doing, this is why I’m doing it’. That was probably what sold the sponsorship, along with being a woman doing a world record, which some think women don’t do in this area.
caytoo: And when you mention ‘connections’ can you give any examples?
Kiko: I seem to meet people who just want to help me, which is really lovely. When you’ve got something which has a good purpose and direction, people just set out to help you. I’d tell people and they’d say, “oh, I know someone who would be interested” and then the next thing you know is you’re being introduced and sponsored by them. I would then approach them with, ‘this is what I need, this is what I’m doing, this is what you’re going to get from me’. Such as being in the book, Tweets, other social media, that kind of thing. Depending on their sponsorship, it determined what I provided them.
caytoo: So you identified them because you needed specific things?
Kiko: Yes – food, clothing, training. I should point out that the wine ‘sponsor’, Farr Vintners, was one because I know them so they gave me £10k for the charity. Some of the sponsors listed were there in the same sense, in that they gave money to the charity.
caytoo: What sort of brands and sponsors are most relevant to you and why?
“I’d only ever partner with a brand that follows my values –
it needs to be aligned with what I’m doing”
Kiko: I’d only ever go for a brand that follows my values. I had a cosmetics brand approach me, it was creams and makeup, but not really me and I said, ‘unless you’re organic, fair trade, 100% recycled, I’m not partnering with you’. As a brand, you need to stick out, be a bit different, have similar values and like what I’m doing and want to support me. There’s no point giving me some sunglasses and asking me for a Tweet because I don’t want to be that person going, ‘here’s a picture of me in my sunglasses’. However, if I loved them, they were made from bamboo and giving back to the environment I’d do it. So, the brand needs to be aligned with what I’m doing, it’s not just there for brand purposes, the name and sponsorship. I won’t just go for anyone.
caytoo: What’s your unique selling point? How do they benefit from that association with you?
Kiko: If they were to have a look at my social media (e.g. Instagram and Twitter), I’ve got a good engagement. It’s not at the 30,000 level by any means but every post I do gets over the average percentage of engagement, which is pretty good.
“my unique selling point is a bit ballsy, slightly fearless, but
it’s got a purpose”
I’m very honest and authentic, I reach out to quite a few different groups, men and women, young and old – it’s a pretty equal crowd and backgrounds, so I really do feel like I appeal to a variety of segments. In terms of what I offer and unique selling point, looking at the last project, it was quite extreme, bit ballsy. I’m slightly fearless, I suppose, but it’s got a purpose, I’ve got a reason for what I’m doing. Pushing limits to achieve the extraordinary.
The next one is all about the environment and bringing communities together to overcome the challenge of plastic, we’re developing an app for that. It’s not about me winning or me being the fastest or the first, that’s kind of secondary. The primary thing is to bring everyone together and raise awareness of something and then try and make a difference. So that’s probably also my USP. And to just be a bit silly and fun and enjoy life and not worry about the ins and outs of make-up and that stuff.
caytoo: How would a brand benefit from being associated with you?
“what I do creates a huge amount of content, which is
something that sponsors like”
Kiko: I’m just doing cool stuff. Would you not want to be associated with the world’s fastest solo crossing? Be associated with cycling around the UK and getting everyone together and supporting a great cause? With my honesty and my authenticity, I have that ability to connect very quickly and if there’s a brand that’s associated with me, that’s good for them. You don’t to have to have someone famous like Keanu Reeves. I’m very honest, I’m not doing anything naughty and, on a day-to-day basis, outside of social media, I’m meeting people all the time, doing talks or doing this and that. There’s a connection there and, therefore, I think that the brand association is important. Also, what I do creates a huge amount of content, which is something that sponsors like.
caytoo: Your sponsorship pack is incredibly detailed, particularly when it comes to the different packages available. How did you go about creating it?
“I just thought about what can I offer, what my budget is
and what I need – I did it on my own”
Kiko: Basically, I just thought about what can I offer, what my budget is and what I need. It was about I’m just an individual who’s doing something, what can I physically offer people for the price that they’re paying? I did it on my own, without any help. But I didn’t actually end up using that sponsorship deck but just went down the women’s community route instead, where women paid £1,000. I created a deck for them as well which included a talk, a photo on the website etc. I thought it was good value for £1,000. Now I’m selling at £2,000 so people who paid £1,000 got a good deal.
caytoo: How do you generally work with sponsors and how do they help you? What’s your philosophy?
Kiko: My philosophy is it’s a community, a family, we’re in it together. Of course, if someone says “here’s £20k, see you later,” I’m not going to complain but obviously the sponsor wants something in return, so I’m very much a communicator. I hate doing things wrong. So, if I’m doing something wrong I don’t want them sitting in the background saying “oh my gosh she’s doing this wrong, we’re not going to go with you next year” – I want to know that from day one.
“sponsors have to be willing to communicate, discuss and change ideas
based on what they want and what I can actually give”
They’ve got to be willing to communicate and discuss. Develop and change ideas based on what they want and what I can actually give – and is there a halfway point in-between? Can we work on the next thing together?
It also partly depends on how much they’re giving me. I only want to work with sponsors where I feel that I want to do a Tweet for them, or I want to promote them. Because if I approve of what they’re doing, like what they’re doing, I want to get their name out there.
caytoo: So how do sponsors help you?
Kiko: It could be anything. For example, a gym sponsor would help me with personal training. But it’s more about all the things that come with a challenge – PR, marketing, social media, logistics. Plugging the message – PR and social – is so important. For example, the message for the next one is about plastics and behaviour. If sponsors are associated with me for that, then it’s about plugging that message because essentially we want the word out.
“PR and social is so important from a sponsor because it’s about
plugging a message, getting the word out”
But also, it would be great if then the company got on board with my vision as well. So it wasn’t just “here’s £20K, wear my T-shirt”, it’s “right, here’s £20K, wear my T-shirt, and we’re going to make a difference in our office with the plastic situation” or “we’re going to download your app and we’re going to use it as a company.”
So, the idea is that we can connect. They can help me and I can help them. It’s a family, a community.
caytoo: What challenges do you face in attracting sponsorship?
Kiko: Just knowing who to go to. There’s a yellow pages of sponsors out there as big as the sun but it’s also having the time to do it really. I don’t have the time to sit down and go, ‘oh right, now who am I looking for, what are their values?’ It would be great if I could say ‘these are my values, this is what I’m doing’ and then the sponsors felt “yes, that connects with our message”. But I’m not sure that’s been the reality. They probably have more time to look for the sporting people they want than I do to find them.
“just knowing who to go to is the biggest challenge
in attracting sponsors”
caytoo: What do you think you need to work on to make you more compelling to potential sponsors?
Kiko: I am very me and I am very ‘this is what you’re buying into’. Unfortunately, I’m not going to make any massive changes. I’m not suddenly going to become this beautiful person who’s doing a ridiculous photo shoot for them. I’ll do a photo shoot but it needs to be in an environment I’m happy in. So one might say I need to work a bit more on my professionalism. But then, at the same time, people seem to like the fact that I’m still Joe Bloggs from around the corner. I’m just Kiko.
caytoo: What help, advice or training have you had in regards to getting sponsorship?
caytoo: Your website is pretty impressive, how did you go about creating it?
Kiko: I just did a shout out on a Facebook website community and said ‘this is what I’m doing, anyone want to give me a website for free?’ And Karen Cooper from KC Graphics helped me out.
caytoo: And your promotional video?
Kiko: Again, I just gave a shout out. Everyone just wants to be involved – they love it! It’s infectious. I took quite a lot of that footage myself or gave it to someone to do it.
Clip Stone TV got involved and I woke up one day outside my boat and there was a drone above me. They’d taken some drone footage, so I used that. They also put their money into taping all the footage to create a documentary which we’re now trying to sell. So, there is a load of footage of my crossing waiting to be sold, which they did for free as well.
caytoo: How did your 100TOGETHER community of ladies and business owners supporting you come about?
Kiko: I thought to myself, I’ve been single for so long. How am I so happy?! It must be due to all my friends, which are mostly women and I was in this place because of them – being happy, pushing limits and achieving things.
I’m not really in the corporate world. I had no connections and I like the idea of working together, supporting each other, plus. For someone who’d never rowed before and was going to row solo across the Atlantic, everyone’s like “no thanks, it’s a bit of a risk”, so I went smaller and I built a team, I built a community.
“being really happy, 37 and single I wanted to show other females that
you don’t have to go down a particular route”
My sports psychologist asked me, “what’s your purpose?” I said, ‘getting the world record’ but she said “no it’s not, not when you’re feeling crap, you need to have a reason to do it.” I said that I want to show people that you can do anything, particularly as a female who’s not really like a ‘woman-woman’ that you see promoted in the media.
Being really happy, being 37 and being single I wanted to show other women and girls that you don’t have to just go down that particular route. You can just be who you are, essentially – ‘this is who I am and what I’m capable of.’ And you can do exactly the same. Therefore, if we can work together and support each other, you can achieve it. So, that was that was the purpose really and it kind of came about as a result of looking for purpose.
caytoo: How much effort do you put into your social channels? How important are they to you?
Kiko: On a daily basis, I’m tweeting, interacting, a bit of Facebook-ing. Up to and during the challenge I was doing a lot more Facebook and a lot more videos. I’m pretty active on Instagram, my Stories and my Twitter – so once every day or two days I put out a post. I’d love to not do it but we have to don’t we? There are people out there earning big bucks without doing any social media but my messages and what I want to promote is about connecting.
“it’s about getting to people and the more active you are on
social media, the more you can spread that message”
It’s about getting to people and the more active you are on social media the more you can spread that message. My tweet about plastics at Wimbledon was retweeted 65 times. So, you’ve got the message out, whereas if I was just sitting here trying to create policy that’s all well and good but if, as an individual, you want to make a difference, social media helps through that sharing and inspiring.
caytoo: You promote yourself as a speaker, how did this come about and how do you go about it?
Kiko: I just love talking! So, in the build up to my campaign, to get people’s attention and to spread the message, I promoted that I’ll do a talk and tell you my story. The idea was that would potentially bring someone to my 100Together or bring a sponsor in, because you never know who’s in a room.
“one of the things is about inspiring and showing people the legacy”
One of the things is about inspiring and showing people the legacy, you want it to continue. So you’ve done the row, you succeeded and now you’ve got something you want to go and show to someone – whether they’re a corporate who’s stuck in their 9-9 job, a kid from school, or someone in a woman’s network – the idea is to prove anything is possible and I’ve proved that.
caytoo: How important are image rights to you? Do you have any deals in place?
Kiko: No deals in place, I don’t give a shit. I would like to think of it as a family – I’d let my family use photos of me and they’d let me use photos of them. That’s how I’d really like to work with images.
I would say to my sponsor if we do photos and you use them, just credit us and vice versa. You know, just be honest. Be nice. Respect me and my stuff and I’ll respect you and your stuff. Lets not have any lawsuits and arguments. I want a simple life.
caytoo: Are you doing any planning for a career after your challenges finish?
“the current career with the challenges and the sport acts as
a marketing tool for what I want to do next”
Kiko: The idea is that my challenges create a business so that when I start popping babies out or I decide to go and do something else, or retire, then I might be the director of about 10 different companies that can be run by someone else! The one that’s coming up, the idea is that there’s an app at the end of it, which is then a business, there’s also an event potential, which then goes on for the next 10 years. The current career with the challenges and the sport acts as a marketing tool for what I want to do next.
caytoo: Are there any key lessons from your experience for other athletes looking for sponsors?
Kiko: Anyone who’s looking to create a team, just be yourself and know what your brand is and, therefore, what brands you want to work with because those are the ones that are going to last. If you lie just to get a sponsorship deal then you’ll have to work every day on something that isn’t you. You want a relationship where it’s easy for you and they like what you’re producing. So, if you’re honest from the start then it’s always going to be easy. It’s the same with jobs and relationships and everything else. Start out where you mean to go on.
caytoo: What have you got coming up next?
Kiko: In August, I’m involved in By the Ocean we Unite, a sailing expedition to prevent plastic from ending up in our ocean. Then in October I’m doing the Wadi Rum Ultra, a 5-day 260km race in the desert of southern Jordan. I’m very happy to hear from any potential sponsors!
If you’re interested in sponsoring Kiko, visit her profile to view her opportunities. Be part of the story push limits to achieve the extraordinary.
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