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How To Get Sponsorship Deals That Pay

Written by, Tim Sweeney with Shawn Fields (April 8, 2002)

Sponsorship deals...

This is a topic I always bring up and talk about when it’s time for the first NAMM (National Association On Music Merchandisers) convention at the beginning of each year. While thousands of industry buyers walk around to the various manufacturers booths talking about what products to buy and feature in their music stores, countless more independent artists are walking around the showroom(s) trying to get the attention of anyone who will talk to them--all desperately seeking a sponsorship deal from a coveted audio gear, recording equipment or instrument company. Only later will they learn that the deal they so desperately want doesn’t really provide them with the support money they seek. In reality, they will be lucky if they manage to get a free guitar or a discount on strings.

So once again it is time for me to remind artists, such as yourself, not to focus on approaching equipment or music-related companies for sponsorship deals but to approach consumer product-based companies. Why? Simple. These companies are more valuable because their customer base is potentially…everyone. You want to approach these kinds of companies first because they have more money to offer you than a music product company whose customer base is limited to only musicians.

Whenever I talk about this subject the inevitable first question is, “But why would a big company want to work with me?” Primarily, because the television, radio and print advertising they are currently doing in specific markets is not yet yielding the results they seek. Your band’s audience (or customer base) consists of the demographic(s) they are courting and you, your band, and your music may be able to generate something more effective than their expensive advertising campaigns.

Never underestimate the power of personal interaction and word of mouth.

Let me give you an example. A clothing company can sell millions of items globally but may have poor or limited sales in your local market. Since traditional forms of marketing might not have worked the way they wanted, they may want to build a word of mouth campaign for their cool new line of teen-oriented clothes. After reading over the proposal you have submitted to them (complete with the number of fans in your active user database, CD sales, Artist Profile and detailed audience demographic information), their interest may be piqued and they may want you to help them create a "buzz" in your area for their clothes. Now, your CD sales are primarily based on word of mouth, so you have the “control” over the potential customers they want! That’s what they are looking for--to use your influence to get your fans to buy their product. So, for this example, to start out, the clothing company may give your band a stipend (cash) and some free clothes to show off at your gigs in exchange for your promotion of their clothes from the stage.

Note: Word of mouth is particularly effective when it comes to movies, books and music.

Companies become interested in you based upon their “perception” of you. They may see you as an “influencer” who has the power to influence a like-minded demographic in your area to buy their products. They, in turn, will also become influencers. It’s a chain. This is what we talked about in the January workshop and article.

So where do you start?

* Research. What products do you and your audience identify with? Which products do you use regularly? What do you know about the products and companies that make them? Who is your audience/customer base? Who is the company’s audience/customer base? How would you define and describe them?

* Once you have answered those questions, start small. Find local companies or merchants with whom you can connect. Approach them first about sponsorship deals for your band.

* After you have researched local opportunities, then review the potential of partnering with national or global companies. Start by thinking about what products people talk about that are big somewhere else but not yet big in your home market. This is where you can help them spread the word about their product(s) in your area.

These are just a few ideas to get you started.

So what do you send these companies?

* Identify the key person at each company that will be your main contact. Usually start with the head of marketing and let them direct you. Then once you have identified which person is the right one, send them a modified version of your Artist Profile. Never send them a press kit! Remember, you always want to best represent yourself. Why send them a press kit when it symbolizes a “non-priority” artist. Is that how you want others to see you?

In your modified Artist Profile include a cover letter that defines your music, your audience, the product you associate with and your area of influence. Your objective is to set up a meeting where you can meet to discuss your specific marketing ideas and how it will benefit them. Never define or state how much money you are looking for up front. Do that in the meeting. The reason why is because you can sell yourself short. You wanted one amount when they would have been willing to give you twice as much. So they gave you the smaller amount because that is what you wanted.

The point of this article is to get you thinking about not limiting your potential sponsorship search down to only the music-related companies everyone starts with. Push yourself and your music to new levels.

Right now you are probably paying for stuff that you may not have to pay for. Don’t pay for future recording, CDs or CD samplers, T-shirts, equipment or even new cars or vans until you talk with sponsors. Take the money and spend it on something else that will be beneficial to you and your music career.