Adam & Sophie Marland: Michelob Ultra Pure Gold CEO Winners

Michelob Ultra Pure Gold CEO Winner

I wish I could photograph a feeling, because no words will ever be enough to describe the euphoric rush of receiving a life-changing email announcing Sophie and me as the winners of the Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold CEO campaign… For one brief, ethereal moment, I was weightless.

Even as I write this, it still does not quite feel real!

The announcement came in February — nearly 5 months from the time I submitted my application for consideration. After a decade of shoestring-budget travel, life was going to change overnight.

So what did it take to be chosen as the first-ever Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold CEO winner, what does it mean for us, and who are the Pure Gold Chief Exploration Officers?

Grab some coffee while, like that old man at the bus stop, I attempt to regale you in a long-winded answer to questions you barely asked.

The journey of winning the Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold CEO campaign and landing the DREAM JOB

It all began with an Instagram message containing a link to an article detailing Michelob ULTRA’s search for the ideal Chief Exploration Officers (CEOs).

The role of the CEO: spend 6 months living the van life while capturing the beauty of our National Parks, while enjoying free, premium organic beer.

My first reaction was that of any sane individual. That is, I figured it was a rigged contest and they had chosen the winner before ever announcing it… “just a PR stunt, I thought”.

And yet, I couldn’t stop thinking about that contest. I thought about what I had to lose and got lost in the “why not?” mindset.

The more I read the job description, the more I felt compelled to chase this down with fervor. It is not every day your dreams find YOU.

The Pure Gold CEO campaign received over 100,000 applications. The odds of even being seen were unfathomable. But I wanted this, more than I can remember wanting something, perhaps, ever.

Adam Marland and Sophie Clapton are the winners of the Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold CEO contest.
Living the Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold CEO life since before it existed.

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Step 1: Get seen.

I have been living out of cars and backpacks for a decade already. Since meeting Sophie three years ago, the only thing that has changed is that I now have company. We live for the open road.

Our true passions in this world are nature, travel, and photography, with a keen interest in beer as well. I was convinced no one could possibly be better-suited for the position than us, but how do we even get noticed in a sea of talented applicants?

The goal was clear. After submitting an application, I set to work finding out who may have a role in the selection process and spent the week seeking contact info for anyone who might be involved. I won’t share the “how” out of respect for these poor peoples’ email inboxes, but suffice to say I was relentless in shotgunning elevator pitches to every contact I could find.

Within the week, I received only two responses. One person was in no way involved, but told me that I had earned a new follower for what that was worth. The other was much more affirming:

At that point, I knew it was out of my hands for the moment and I had to hope that our body of work, undeniable passion, and glove-like fit for the job was self-evident. If not, I could live with the rejection — it was enough to know I had done everything within my power to chase the dream job.

FIND SOME TRAVEL INSPIRATION: 101+ Dream Destinations to Add to Your Travel Bucket List!

Step 2: The Field Test.

Near the end of November, I had started giving up on the whole idea of winning. The entry page hinted at an October announcement, and we were beyond a month overdue for word.

(Suffice to say, I do not think Michelob ULTRA’s selection committee was expecting over 100,000 applicants!)

I decided the outcome of this long-shot prospect would not predicate my ability, nor desire to spend 2021 exploring the national parks. Just as I began looking for a used vehicle that I could convert to a camper, I received an email…

My first reaction to reading this email and finding out I had moved on to Phase 2 was fleeting joy, followed immediately by a stress punch to the gut. Out of 100,000 people, I was being given the opportunity to prove my ability, desire, and fit for the job… that meant I could no longer blame a rigged deck or a lack of awareness if I didn’t get it. The reality of that prospect was intimidating for a delicate ego that, admittedly, could do with some strengthening.

Whether or not our lives would change forever hinged on 4 still frames and 1 video. Somehow, I had to showcase my history, personality, lifestyle, and my abilities, all in one short 60-90 second video.

After the initial panic wore off, I wrote my first script and video concept… then the next, and another… and by the 9th draft, I finally had one I liked. Then there was the matter of filming in the midst of winter snowstorms, during a pandemic, with Christmas coming up and Sophie stuck indefinitely over 5000 miles away.

With the help of a few people I barely knew, I was able to put together something I was proud of and sent it off a couple of days early. Once again, I felt content that I had done my best and if I wasn’t chosen, it could only be because I wasn’t right for it. And I could live with that… or so I kept telling myself.

Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold Chief Exploration Officer Adam Marland toasting.
My first time meeting this person, who will forever be a friend.

The next couple weeks were challenging. Sophie and I continued attempts to plan a way to be together, but the uncertainty of the pandemic, visa issues, and this job made planning simply impossible.

And then, another email came in… the team wanted to meet me!

Step 3: The Interviews

I would go on to meet with several members of the Anheuser-Busch, Draftline, and Michelob ULTRA team. It was very strange to be interviewing for a job again after freelancing for so many years, particularly because I cared so deeply about the outcome.

After each interview, I distinctly remember ending the call and thinking that things had gone as well as they could go. Honestly, they hadn’t even felt like interviews! Once again, I was content that if I was not selected as the Pure Gold CEO, it was simply because they had found a better fit; a thought I could live with.

But the feeling lingered that destiny was playing out… I refused to make any plans for 2021 until I had heard about this job once and for all. There was just a feeling that wouldn’t shake…

The Moment

For the next few weeks, I had trouble sleeping. Each morning, I found myself waking up unnaturally early.

An accidental ritual developed wherein I would tell myself positive affirmations before checking my email to start the day, just in case the news was not good.

But I mostly tried to envision how I would respond to the positive news — it was like an attempt to manifest destiny. They were daydreams of flipped chairs, boisterous yelling, and wild celebrations.

On February 9, I opened my email and experienced a very unexpected reaction upon seeing the following preview:

I sat quietly, finding my eyes welling with tears of joy. No wild hollering or exuberant displays, just a trembling mess of a human trying to appreciate the gravity of this all.

What does the Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold CEO do?

Michelob Ultra Pure Gold Chief Exploration Officer photo.

So some of you may be wondering, what does this actually mean?! Well when I say it is the DREAM job, I mean it is a job description written for Sophie and me.

Michelob ULTRA is providing us with a super slick camper (photos to come) that we will live out of for 6 months, enjoying the van life while working with the National Park Foundation (NPF) to showcase the beauty of our national parks and demonstrate responsible recreation.

In addition to photographing our nation’s most beautiful landscapes, our job is to enjoy a beer with sunset, socialize responsibly, and spread joy everywhere we go. That’s it. Photography, van-life, making friends, nature, and sunset beers… talk about a dream come true!

The Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold CEO Travel Itinerary

The first three months of the journey have been released! Check below to see if we are coming your way.

We would love to meet up with as many of you as possible and are always happy to answer questions, share our knowledge, and hopefully share a sunset-beer.

April 6th- Arrive to Big Bend National Park TX
April 13th- Arrive to Guadalupe Mountains TX
April 22nd- Arrive to Carlsbad Caverns National Park TX

April 31st- Arrive to White Sands National Monument, NM
May 9th- Arrive to Chiricahua National Monument, AZ
May 19th- Arrive to Saguaro National Park, AZ

June 5th- Arrive to Grand Canyon, AZ
June 16th- Arrive to Joshua Tree National Park, CA
June 25th- Arrive to Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park, CA

Closing Thoughts

To be perfectly honest, this all still feels very surreal to us both. For those readers who do not know us, Sophie is a British citizen and we are still battling numerous obstacles to get her into the country to partake in this experience. We have an Oregon Senator’s office helping to expedite our request and are optimistic we will have her here by April or May.

From now until October, we will not be collaborating with any other sponsors or partners. With the faith that both Michelob ULTRA and the NPF have shown in us, our only goal is to over-deliver and make this campaign as successful as possible.

It is not lip-service when I say how humbled and grateful I am to be part of the Michelob ULTRA team. Their planet-first ethos is evident in everything that they do. The love they show for both the natural world and all of us who inhabit it sets an example I hope more companies learn to follow, and one I am proud to be represent.

Dreams do come true.

Discover More

We have many different guides to some of our favorite parts of the world that we’ve explored, all of which are filled with lots of photos!

If you’re looking for some travel inspiration, or just want to admire some pretty pictures, our Dream Destinations post is a great place to start!

Being from Oregon, I’ve written a lot of posts about this area. To see some of the reasons I love this part of the country so much, have a read of some of our Pacific North West posts. If you’d like to daydream a little further afield, Sophie has put together lots of posts about her home country; England!

We do also have prints for sale, so check out our gallery or send us an email if you see a photo that you like 🙂

Photo of author
Written by
Adam Marland is a professional travel blogger and landscape photographer from Oregon. After over a decade of experience as a freelance travel photographer, Adam found national acclaim when he became the National Park Foundation's “Chief Exploration Officer” in 2021.

22 thoughts on “Adam & Sophie Marland: Michelob Ultra Pure Gold CEO Winners”

    • That is so humbling to hear Niki! Thank you for the support and please reach out if you see an opportunity to meet up on the trip for a beer! Otherwise, we will continue to joyously share them through our socials and blog 🙂

  1. Loved reading this and hearing the details. I am so very excited for you all and the wonderful things that will come out of it. Well deserved!!!

    • You have been the absolute best Kelsey! I cant believe how long and how loyalty you have supported this whole crazy life. Literally, since BEFORE the beginning. It will be so nice to find a time and way to thank you properly 🙂

  2. Congratulations! Well deserved. As a fellow Oregonian I am rooting for you to have a wonderful adventure. Just yesterday I found this podcast that I think you would enjoy. It’s about National Parks with a lot of insight from Jon Jarvis, the former National Park Service Director. If you can’t get it on Apple Podcasts, it’s on other podcast delivery formats also. Again, happy travels and keep the beautiful photographs coming. Thank you!

  3. I am so proud of you & Sophie. Glad I purchased your calendar before you became a “bigwig”. I’m sharing this with my friends that had also purchased your calendar based on pictures I shared from your site. Congratulations!

    • Hahaha I do not think this is going to make us “bigwigs” by any stretch… the celebrity ceiling for landscape photographers is pretty low 😉 We are just grateful to be able to continue doing what we love a bit longer and are so excited for the opportunity. We also think the 2022 calendar may have to be a National Parks calendar 🙂

  4. OUTSTANDING. Super happy for you both and wishing you the best with all of your future travels and endeavors. I’ve been following you for a bit ever since I seen some of your spectacular photographs. Please let me know if you do get to travel to the Big Island of Hawaii. I’ve got room for your stay and can take you to breath-taking locations that most tourist have never had the opportunity to view or take photographs of. Keep your nose in the wind and your camera ready for the next spectacular shot. Aloha Jeff Po

    • Wow Jeff, what an incredibly kind, gracious, and thoughtful thing to say!! We actually spent 2 weeks on the Big Island in 2018 and enjoyed our time there more than any other island!! We are very keen on returning to photograph some volcanic activity in the years to come and would like to meet you and hopefully photograph together!! Please please please feel free to contact us directly absolutely any time — whether it be because our paths may cross, photography or travel questions, you name it!! I am going to send this response to your email as well so you have direct access to us!

  5. Wow! You did it!! So happy and proud of you and Sophie. A Dream come true , getting paid to do what you love. Does it get any better? Looking forwards to the Big Adventure as we ease out of the pandemic.

  6. Well I sure have been out of the loop, but I caught up, and I am so happy that you succeeded in getting this wonderful job! I love your calendar, and tons of your other shots, and I know that you’re going to be sharing some wonderful photography over the next 6 months! And I hope Sophie gets here soon!

    • Well better late than never!! haha.

      We are being a bit restricted with what we can share but if you are interested, the Moment of the Month Club is new and is where you can read all about it and see photos!

  7. Just happened upon this page! Brings back all the excitement from when we first heard you WON!!! Can’t wait for Sophie to come join you too!!



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