By Guy Smith
Richard Branson once said: “If your dreams don’t scare you, they are too small”.
That certainly hasn’t been the case for serial adventurer James Ketchell.
Despite suffering from depression as a teenager, leaving school without any qualifications and then surviving a near-fatal motorbike accident, he had a dream, a big dream.
The 37-year-old always harboured a secret desire to row solo across the Atlantic. In 2010, he proved to himself that he had what was necessary – a single-minded determination to achieve his goal. Four months on the ocean waves, at one point running out of food for over a week, he finally made landfall in the West Indies.
He then climbed Everest and not long after cycled 18,000 miles around the world to become the first person ever to complete the so-called “ultimate triathlon”.
So when he came into Newgate’s offices in October 2018 and described his next challenge and how he needed help to maximise the sponsorship opportunity, we were all convinced he’d do it. We jumped on board.
On September 22, 2019 he went above and beyond. Following five months of ups and downs he claimed another world record, this time in aviation as the first person to officially circumnavigate the globe in an open cockpit gyrocopter. You may remember another James…..James Bond in the small flying machine in the 1967 film “You only live twice”.
It was such an inspiring story – an ordinary bloke from Basingstoke doing extraordinary things.
Indeed his aim was to inspire a million young people and raise vital funds for two very special children’s charities (you can donate here).
James Ketchell flew 24,000 miles around the world across Europe, traversing a bitterly cold Siberia, the Bering Strait to Alaska, all 49 mainland States in the US, Canada, across the potentially treacherous north Atlantic via Greenland, Iceland and Danish Faroe Islands, back to the UK and the tiny airfield in Hampshire from where he started.
The media loved it and in turn the key sponsors DHL, Barratt Homes, and Cain International benefited from a significant increase in brand awareness.
Newgate secured almost 1,000 pieces of coverage in international, national, regional, trade media and major broadcasters (BBC News, Sky News, ITV News, CNN, Good Morning Britain to name a few). Most of the print and online articles, Live broadcasts and TV packages, showed company logos on the side of the aircraft and on James lapel.
Almost every day, across different time zones, I was speaking to him on the phone, gaining updates on his epic journey. Despite the exhausting, relentless mission to get back home safely, James always remained upbeat and positive.
At the halfway point around the world, I recall waking him up from a well-earned sleep to tell him Sky News wanted him to broadcast Live from Alaska. He jumped out of bed (I know because I had him on Facetime!), he washed his face, listened to my pep talk and within 10 minutes he was articulating his record-breaking attempt to TV viewers.
His simple philosophy is, if you can breakdown an almost impossible challenge into smaller, more realistic actions, then anything is achievable. We took a leaf out of his book in how we approached the media. Small steps to build momentum eventually led to widespread coverage.
If you want to view some highlights of James’ amazing journey, click here.