Sunday, November 18, 2007

SPONSORSHIP

Start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race
We can't do it without our sponsors!



How does SP Kennel run financially?

Allen and Aliy are like many Alaskans – they have a "summer job" and a "winter job".

Summer jobs in Alaska are the norm. (Usually May through September.) This is when the sun shines 24 hours a day, the temperatures are reasonable and plenty of outdoor work can be done. Allen and Aliy have built a spec home every summer for the last 5 years. They build the home from the ground up - from clearing trees to hanging cabinets. The income from these projects provides the money for their personal living expenses.

Winter jobs are less common in Alaska and many "Snow Birds" fly south to find employment in the Lower "48". Obviously, winter (October – April) for Allen and Aliy is spent working at the kennel, training dogs and racing. SP Kennel makes money through race winnings, dog sales and a limited tourist operation in April. These moneys go directly to the kennel and can be significant. However, the most critical source of operating funds for SP Kennel is sponsorship.

Sponsorship varies widely. For an extreme example of sponsorship, look at any NASCAR racing event. Most of the car drivers are paid big money to decorate their cars with name brands, drink certain soda pop while on TV or wear a ball cap with a particular logo. SP Kennel does not, thank heavens, go to that extreme. But, our sponsors are a wide variety of people and companies from around the world.

SP Kennel has several important Corporate sponsors. HORIZON LINES of Alaska and EAGLE PACK Holistic Brand Dog Food are two of our large sponsors. Horizon Lines has a reputation in Alaska for dedication and professionalism, just like SP Kennel. Thus they identify with Aliy and use her for community outreach, public speaking and company entertainment throughout the year. Eagle Pack, developer and producer of a unique formula for long distance racing dogs, expects top race performances. Our teams are highly competitive thanks, in part, to their diet of Eagle Pack brand dog foods. The teams’ performances are true and just advertisement for Eagle Pack products.

As we have mentioned previously, the health and welfare of our dogs is the most important goal of SP Kennel. Dr Jean Battig, of Chena Ridge Veterinary Clinic, helps us care for our dogs throughout the year. Her sponsorship, through her veterinary services, allows us to routinely provide every dog (pups, racers and retired) with the very best possible health care.

SP Kennel also has Individual sponsors. These are people who want to be a part of the SP Kennel team. They want a team to root for and want some inside information on "what it’s all about". These folks end up being the heart and soul of the team.

We have different levels of individual sponsorship depending on how much an individual cares to donate. Larger donations are received with the commitment that these donors will be an important part of the SP Kennel team throughout the season. They often make a trip to the kennel, the Iditarod start or even to the finish in Nome. These folks become very familiar with the dogs and the kennel set up.

Smaller donations are just important. Some folks may not have the time or means to visit the kennel or Alaska this season, but still would like to be a part of the SP Kennel team. Often these people will agree to sponsor a dog for the season. They receive updates on ‘their’ dog’s training and racing progress. These individuals are an integral part of the team because, as we have stressed, it is the individual dogs that make sled dog racing so special.


Venus, one of our 'special' individuals, gets harnessed up to race. She is a hardworking and opinionated team leader.



We have also had people sponsor a specific checkpoint along the Iditarod Trail. In doing this, they pay for all of the supplies needed at that re-supply stop during the Iditarod. This is an exciting learning experience. These sponsors become intimately familiar with the geography, population and weather for a portion of the race trail while having a tangible impact on the race progress of the SP Kennel teams.

Lastly, some folks have a limited budget but still want to be part of the SP Kennel team. These sponsors will send a small donation that is directly responsible for an item needed on the Iditarod trail. For example, we have a regular sponsor who buys 20 Chemical Heat Warmers for the Iditarod and he knows that he is keeping Aliy’s hands warm!

Regardless of the level of sponsorship an individual or corporation chooses, we at SP Kennel are thankful to them all. Sometimes it’s the smallest gesture that gets the team to the finish line!

For more details about sponsoring SP Kennel go to http://www.aliyzirkle.com/ and click on ‘Sponsorship’.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

SLED DOG AMBASSADORS

Kennel life is full of dog chores, training dogs, running puppies and racing in competitions. But there is another side to our kennel life that is just as critical to the future of Dog Mushing. That is publicly supporting and promoting Sled Dog Sports!

Dog Mushing is ambiguously understood by animal enthusiasts worldwide. There are Sled Dog Sports on most continents and Mushing has a history dating back hundreds of years. Many people have heard a story about a Sled Dog team clambering across the frozen tundra, but few people have ever seen a Sled Dog and even fewer have ever been Mushing.

If Dog Mushers, and those concerned with the future of Sled Dog Sports, expect to be understood by a continually evolving world, then we have a responsibility to educate the public the very best that we can. By doing this, we create future mushing enthusiasts and hopefully… racing fans!

Aliy and Allen spoke to well over 10,000 Princess Cruise tourists this past summer in Denali National Park. We were ‘Ambassadors’ with a job to educate people with the truth about Dog Mushing in Alaska. We were able to connect to folks on a very personal level, speaking about nothing other then our favorite topic….the Alaskan Husky, the elite dog of long distance racing.

The summer tourist rush is certainly over now! Denali National Park and every Princess Hotel or Lodge in the area stands vacant until the snow melts and the leaves return.

But, the job of Ambassador continues.

Every high school student in Alaska must take an Alaska Studies course prior to graduation. Since Dog Mushing is an important part of Alaska history, and our official state sport, SP Kennel is committed to bring our Mushing message to area schools. This past school year, Aliy spoke about her passion at several local high schools. She is prepared to do so again this year in both the Fairbanks and Anchorage areas.

In the same vein, not every Alaskan youth attends high school. In tandem with our major sponsor, Horizon Lines of Alaska, we visited Covenant House Alaska (Anchorage) in late October. Covenant House provides a safe haven and positive role models for homeless and run away kids. Here Aliy was able to talk to the kids about the path her life has taken and the joys and tribulations of living her dream. Girlfriend, the Super Talented Sled Dog with very humble beginnings, was really the star of the show – proving that a lot of determination and hard work can provide a road to personal success.

October was a busy month. The Alaska Dog Mushers Association sponsored its annual International Symposium in Fairbanks. Hundreds of Dog Mushers and fans from throughout the U.S. and Canada gathered together to share stories and hear from the experts. Aliy spoke on breeding and puppy raising techniques. Her philosophy of limited, selective breeding and intensive, hands-on training was a favorite of the attendees.

Aliy and Allen discuss puppy training techniques with an International Symposium participant.


Many people came from the Lower 48 for the symposium. SP Kennel is located in Two Rivers, a 25 mile drive from downtown Fairbanks and arguably the ‘heart of dog mushing’ in Interior Alaska. Symposium attendees from Idaho, North Dakota and Maine drove out to visit our kennel, meet with our canine athletes and experience a training run.

The bottom line is: We love our job as Ambassadors! We will continue to share our passion for Dog Mushing locally, within the U.S. and world wide. We encourage you, our fans, friends and future dog mushers, to visit SP Kennel when ever you come to the Fairbanks area.