“But aren’t Specialized a bunch of dicks, and they don’t match Eskapee at all. You’ve sold out dude.”
That was the statement someone made when we told them that Eskapee had finally negotiated our first partnership agreement (we call our advertisers “partners”). It hit us pretty hard as we were in a moment of celebration and excitement and to hear that was deflating, to say the least. But, it did make us think that maybe our audience is so loyal that they feel a sense of ownership and belonging and thus deserve a discussion and explanation. We understand that, and part of our Core Values is about recognising our audience. The least we can do is share this part of our story.
Let’s start with the money. Yep, we need it. We need it to keep going, we need it to make even better content, we need it to continue to pay (and even increase the pay) for all our contributors, and we need it to pay for all the Internet stuff that’s definitely not free.
Up until now we have paid for 100% of everything on Eskapee from our own personal savings and we did this because we believe in what we’re doing. Backing our ideas and ourselves is a risk but shows we’re invested beyond a simple thought bubble (ideas are free, execution isn’t). But our money isn’t limitless. We are in no sense of the word rich, we are not beneficiaries of some trust fund and we continue to work other jobs to pay the Eskapee bills.
We looked at other ways of making money – subscription, pay walls, co-ops, donations, cake stalls – you name it, we thought and procrastinated about them all. But as a general conclusion many of these ideas are based on economies-of-scale and even the New York Times, and Guardians of the world struggle with the concept of user pays. We have all grown up in a world where the Internet is free and hate paying for it. Maybe in the future those attitudes will change and as our as audience grows we will be able to re-think it all.
So what’s the money for? It’s not to line out back pockets and fund our #richkidsofinstagram lives. It’s all about making Eskapee better: better content, better contributor pay, and better mountain bike media. That will always be the case.
Now……to our first partnership with Specialized. To be honest, initially we kind of thought the same ourselves. We don’t live in a bubble and know that they’re not the most-loved bike brand in the world, especially for those who seem to make a social media living out of being a schoolyard bully towards them.
Yep, we know they’ve been dicks in the past, but so have lots of other companies we know. Apple got busted for being dicks and using slave labour, Uber are just dicks with how they treat women and their drivers, VW were dicks and lied about their cars, United Airlines seem to get frequent dick points for pretty much everything, and the list goes on. The point being, if we took the attitude of throwing stones, name calling, and boycotting every big company that was being a dick then we’d be best suited to living in Holmes, Ohio and enjoying an Amish paradise.
We, however, have a different attitude. To keep the same dick theme, we see two choices: You can be a dick back to them, or you can choose a higher ground and try and work with them and help make them better. Our mother’s told us that two dicks don’t make a right, so there’s no need for us to be dicks as well (plus not being a dick is actually written in our Core Values).
So we choose to partner with them and we will always strive to make it a true partnership (as we will with all our future partners). Our Core Values state: “Our integrity shall not be diluted; we will work actively with our advertisers and partnerships and won’t be their puppets.”. For us it’s not about just getting some cash, it’s about a true partnership in which we’re free to have open and honest conversations and have something that’s beyond the dollar signs. Specialized truly has many amazing and honest stories about their people, their beliefs, their ideas, their brand and telling those stories in an open and honest way is what Eskapee is all about. Maybe Specialized struggles to relax enough to let down their guard but the people we personally know in their office are some of the best, fun, and caring mountain bike loving people you’ll ever know. They truly aren’t dicks.
Plus, there’s another side to this partnership that struck us. They really, really believe in what we’re doing at Eskapee (the conversations were pretty damn honest) and that was very important to us. We have actually turned down partnership opportunities in the past as the brands were not about embracing what we’re doing.
Eskapee is not selling out, that’s for sure. Even this editorial is a testament to that as we’re pretty sure calling one of your partners a dick isn’t the best way to start a relationship. Eskapee is honest, and always will be. This first partnership is just that, the first. When we look to establish similar partnerships with others in the near future we will always be doing it with the same ethos: we want to make Eskapee better, we want to make better content, we want to ensure the future of the contributor community, and we want to keep our partnerships honest.
And this conversation is about you, too. Always let us know what you think. If we’re ever being dicks ourselves, don’t just throw stones at us and call us names, let us know and be a voice to help us.