New Public Appeal,
Benefits for Skydiving
Presented at the 1995 Parachute Industry Association Symposium, Orlando FL
© Copyright Dale Stuart 1996
Aerial Freestyle: A New Image for Skydiving
From Humble Beginnings...
- Patty Wycliffe performed "aerial ballet" filmed by
Ray Cottingham in 1974.
- Deanna Kent and Mike Michigan performed first widely-viewed freestyle
for Norman Kent in "From Wings Came Flight" released
- First World Freestyle Competition held in 1990.
12 teams from 4 different countries competed
To An International Hit...
- More than four countries have already incorporated freestyle
into their regular national skydiving championships.
- Fifth World Freestyle Championships held in 1994.
- 34 teams from 14 different countries competed
Aerial Freestyle is Boosting the Sport from the Inside...
- Freestyle is giving people more reasons to jump, and reasons
to jump more.
- New jumpers are entering the sport because they want to do freestyle.
- Many current jumpers are now devoting themselves entirely to
- More jumpers are making "between load" solo freestyle
And Working Miracles from the Outside!
- Freestyle is improving parent-child relationships (!)
- Skydivers tell me their parents who saw me on TV now understand
why they jump and accept their skydiving (whether or not they
- Freestyle is solving marital conflicts (!)
- A non-jumper wife began skydiving after seeing me on TV because
freestyle gave her a reason to want to jump (and her jumper husband
was eternally grateful!)
- Freestyle is winning recognition and awards for TV show producers.
- Freestyle is putting a "presentable" face on skydiving (at last!)
"Dale Stuart:" A New Story for the Media
Where I've Been in the Media, And Who's Been Watching
- Network prime time news/feature programs:
- ABC (World News Sunday, Good Morning America, Prime Time Live)
- NBC(Weekend Today, I Witness Video, EXTRA)
- CBS (CBS This Morning)
- CNN (Morning News, Sporting Life, Living in the 90's)
- Cable and major syndicated programs:
- ESPN, ESPN-2 (2 feature programs, 2 programs about the world championships)
- Prime Ticket (Trans World Sport)
- NBC Syndicated (Front Runners)
- Local News Features: 18 separate feature programs in 8 different cities.
- International and Foreign National Programs:
- 3 world-wide feature programs
- 7 different national feature programs in 4 different countries
- 10 programs about the world championships in 5 different countries
- National magazine feature articles or ads:
- Sports Illustrated (US)
- Glamour (US)
- Allure (US, Ellesse ad)
- Technology Review (US)
- Le Figaro (France)
- New Look (France)
- Regional magazine/newspaper feature articles: 7 different publications
Total Audience Estimates:
- US National TV: 190 Million
- International TV: 200 Million
- US National Print: 6 Million
- International Print: 2 Million
Why is the Media Interested in Me?
- Stories of individuals doing unique things are always popular.
- Human interest stories are a proven audience-pleasing formula
- Aerial freestyle is still unique and different
- Good aerial freestyle is beautiful and interesting to watch.
- The aesthetic value speaks for itself
- A multi-time world champion athlete is intrinsically news-worthy.
- People like to hear about winners
- The contrast of an MIT Ph.D. aerospace engineer becoming a world
champion athlete is unusual. Very unusual.
- MIT Ph.D.'s are supposed to be uncoordinated "nerds,"
according to the stereotype
- World class intellectuals and world class athletes are rarely
found in the same package
- Proper "packaging" helps sell the story to the media.
- Don't underestimate the value of a professional image and a professional
- A good publicist can help with the packaging, and can do the
legwork to make the right connections
My Message and Media Goals
Key Points I Communicate to the Media:
- Skydivers are not reckless thrill-seeking daredevils.
- Skydiving is a modern, sophisticated sport using state-of-the
art materials and equipment technology.
- Modern equipment makes the sport as safe as the individuals using it.
- Skydivers can be respectable, professional athletes.
- Skydivers jump for a purpose, not just to tumble aimlessly in freefall.
- Skydivers can maneuver under complete control while in freefall, and under canopy.
- Skydiving is a fun, sane experience accessible to nearly everybody.
Overall Goals for my Media Appearances:
- Create a positive image for the sport of skydiving.
- Introduce audiences to aerial freestyle and develop recognition
for it as a world-class athletic event.
- Explore the extent of current and potential future audience interest
in aerial freestyle.
- Pave the way to help future freestylists gain media exposure.
- Develop name recognition for myself to help attract future sponsors.
- Gain exposure for my current sponsors.
Aerial Freestyle Immediately Captures Audience Attention...
- Freestyle defies people's concept of what's possible for humans to do in freefall.
- Freestyle derives aesthetic value from its similarity to dance and gymnastics.
- Freestyle's unique dynamics allow moves which cannot be performed on the ground.
And Offers People the Gift of a Moment of Joy
- Freestyle allows people to believe that humans can "fly,"
and allows them to vicariously share that experience.
- Freestyle as a performing art makes a connection to the audience.
- Making People Smile is What it's All About
Creating and Using Media Opportunities
What Could You Gain From Media Exposure?
- Dissemination of information
- Image enhancement
- Low-key advertising
- Increased name recognition
How to Get the Most out of a Media Opportunity
- Identify exactly what you want to gain from the exposure.
- Choose the appropriate magazine, newspaper or TV program for exposure.
- Define your message in advance - keep it concise, and state it
in "sound bites."
- Know what you want to say, and how best to say it.
The Media is Not Your Friend, Nor Your Enemy
- The media will not come knocking on your door (unless you're an O.J. Simpson or a Nancy Kerrigan).
- Create your own story and actively market it to the media
- The media works to satisfy their own bottom line.
- The media business is highly competitive
- They want stories that will draw large audiences, and boost their ratings
- They may only want certain "styles" of stories for their particular markets
- Reporters may look for sensational tidbits, or try to fit your story into their format.
- Be careful and deliberate when answering interview questions
- Treat everything you say as if you were saying it "live," even if the story will be edited
- Stick to your message, and tell your own story
- It's up to you to make yourself look good - the media won't do it for you.
- Communicate your message with excitement, commitment and professionalism.
- Smile and communicate happy feelings
- A well-groomed, professional appearance makes your message more credible
- If you've never been on camera before, rehearse your story in advance!
- If you have been on camera before, rehearse your story in advance!
A Good Press Kit Can Help in a Lot of Ways
- What to put in a press kit:
- A one-paragraph synopsis of your story, in the most exciting terms possible (sell, sell, sell!)
- Biographical information about yourself, or key people in the
story (you only have to say the interesting stuff, not your whole life story)
- Background information about the event, sport, or other activities
in your story (one page max)
- Exciting photos of what you do, or what your event is about (three photos max)
- Video tape footage of what you do, or what your event is about (five minutes max)
- Copies of previous articles, ads or print media appearances (that
are less significant than the current one you are working on)
- Video tape footage of previous TV appearances (that are less
significant than the current one you are working on)
- Use your press kit to help sell your story
- Send a minimal kit (synopsis and one photo) to all potential
media targets (TV show producers and magazine editors)
- Offer to send further information (bio, background, photos, videos) if interested
- Use your press kit to help tell your story
- Give press kit info pages to reporters as soon as they show up
- reporters may not have much advance knowledge about what the story is about
- Chat with reporters informally about the story to educate them
before they formulate their interview questions - the more they
know, the smarter their questions
Finding Sponsorship and Endorsements
Start with a Focused, Professional Proposal
- Identify your "product," and define it in concise, easily understood terms.
- Your "product" is what you have to offer to a potential
sponsor - make it sound irresistible!
- Identify how your product is different from everybody else's,
and how it is so unique that you are the only person (team) who
can deliver it
- Explain why your customer should buy your product.
- Describe how your product is so essential to your potential sponsor's
business that they should wonder how they ever did without it!
- Explicitly identify the benefits of your product to the potential
sponsor, and how it will help their bottom line
- Anticipate and answer potential questions about risk, liability, contingencies, if applicable.
- State the "cost" of your product.
- Define what you want in return - give rough dollar amounts or quantities of goods
- Leave room to negotiate
What Should Go Into a Proposal Package
- Personal proposal letter (two pages max)
- Photos illustrating your "product" (three photos max)
- Summary list of your significant achievements in support of your product (one page max)
- Video tape footage illustrating your product (three minutes max)
- Any material showing use of your product by other companies or sponsors
How to Make Contacts and Find Possible Target Companies
- Attend product trade shows and conferences - marketing managers are always there.
- Read trade journals and magazines to see how various companies advertise.
- Contact advertising agencies and ask for referrals to their clients.
- Use an agent.
Improving Your Chances of Survival
- Assemble your proposal into a professional-looking package.
- Your proposal appearance speaks implicitly about the quality of your product
- Make your proposal stand out among the hundreds that it might be buried under.
- Carefully select your target companies.
- Do your homework and research your target company's policies
- many cannot accept unsolicited proposals or have policies against
- Find the right person to talk to - get to the decision-maker
as quickly as possible (usually a marketing director or advertising
- Use phone communication judiciously.
- Try to make personal contact with the individual to whom you
want to send your proposal
- Call in advance to introduce yourself, but don't give your whole
pitch right away - just give a teaser, and ask for permission
to send your proposal, then send it overnight
- Follow up in one week "to make sure it arrived"
- Follow up after another week "to offer to answer any questions"
- Maintain communication with your contact until a decision is reached
- Take the role of a salesman, not a beggar.
- Listen, and be responsive to a potential sponsor's needs and concerns
- Don't appear to be asking for a handout.
If You Get a "No"
- Accept it gracefully, and ask for as much information as possible
about why a "no" was given.
- Use a "no" as a learning experience to improve your
proposal and your pitch to the next potential sponsor.
- Recognize that many companies get hundreds of unsolicited proposals
per week, many of which are not given more than a few seconds
of their attention.
If You Get a "Yes"
- Congratulations! Now proceed cautiously with negotiations - it
isn't over until the contract is signed.
- Have a legal-minded friend or lawyer review all contractual material
before you sign it.
- Make sure you resolve all your concerns and clearly understand
what's expected of you.
Aerial Freestyle's Benefits for Skydiving
Aerial Freestyle Instantly Communicates Positive Messages About
- Good freestyle communicates a safer, more sophisticated image
of skydiving and raises public acceptance of the sport.
- Frequent favorable exposure makes positive images replace sensational
negative images of skydiving.
And Helps the Bottom Line for the Sport
- Good video footage and photos can capture people's attention
for promotional stories or advertising for skydiving.
- Improved image of the sport attracts more first-time jumpers.
- More reasons to skydive makes more people want to skydive, and
makes people want to skydive more.
Aerial Freestyle's Potential Long-Range Advantages for Skydiving
- Freestyle is spurring advances in skydiving equipment.
- Future freestylists may obtain individual sponsorship for full-time training.
- Sponsored, media-oriented events give higher visibility for skydiving overall.
- Connections with outside corporations brings access to larger
financial resources than those available within the sport.
Thanks to My Sponsors!
California City Skydiving Center
Sky Systems Ltd. - Tube Stoes &
Sky Eyes Goggles
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