Many artists dream of one day earning a sponsorship deal with their favorite clothing company or big brand.
The good news is that this dream may not be that far out of reach. The not-so-good news is that it’s going to take some work. You have to build a following, and you have to know what your value proposition is. No one is going to sponsor you if they don’t see the value in it.
While there are no guarantees, here are the steps you can take to get sponsored as a musician.
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Establish Your Act If You Want To Get Sponsored
The fact of the matter is that no one will want to sponsor you if you don’t bring anything of value to the table.
For better or for worse, the way the world works is that those who have are given more, so while a sponsorship deal can furnish you with extra income and other perks, you won’t be able to attract sponsors without first establishing yourself as an artist or band.
So here are some questions you should be asking yourself to determine whether or not you’re ready for a sponsorship deal:
- Are you consistently selling out concerts at the biggest venues in your hometown?
- Are your ticket sales exceeding guarantees monetarily? In other words, if a venue promised you a fixed rate for your performance, is the revenue from tickets and attendance greater than what the venue is paying you?
- Do you have a large and engaged social media following?
- Are your YouTube videos getting a large number of views?
- Do you have a substantial email list?
- Do you have a high quality, professional website?
- Is your niche well-defined? Do you know what your purpose and mission is as a band?
- Have you been publicly recognized, or have you won any awards as an artist or band?
You do not need to meet all of the above criteria, but a combination of different factors can work in your favor. Either way, you need considerable reach. If you’re a small-time band with no following, and your online presence is outdated and less than professional, you aren’t ready to negotiate a sponsorship deal yet.
Research & Make Your Pitch For Sponsorship As A Musician
Make a “hit list” of the companies that you could imagine endorsing, such as Rockstar Energy Drinks, Nike, or a local business. Tap into existing contacts, and if you’re in a band, ask every member who they know and who they’d like to be sponsored by. There are no wrong answers at the brainstorming stage, but you’ll eventually want to trim down your list based on the following criteria:
- What companies could you see yourself working with? Are your values aligned? Only promote products you like and can really get behind.
- What do you want out of the deal? What’s the ideal arrangement between you and your sponsor(s)? Are you looking for a boost in income, performance opportunities, or something else?
- What do you bring to the table? How will you benefit your sponsor(s)? Will you be helping them reach a new market, or can you help them generate more sales?
- Who are you, what do you do, and what makes your act special or unique (also see what was said earlier about your niche)?
- Who is your target market? Are there companies that share the same audience? There's a good chance they're going to want to reach more of the same people, and you can help them achieve that.
- What products or services are you already using? Is there anything in particular that would be second nature for you to promote, like a particular brand of beer, energy drink, or athletic wear?
With this information, and a one sheet in hand, you’re ready to start pitching. A one sheet, by the way, is a simple document that contains your contact information, your bio, and a high quality photograph. And yes, it should all be on one page. We'll take a closer look at how to put one together below.
The main thing to keep in mind is that the entities you’re approaching don’t necessarily care about what you want. So you need to think carefully about how you're going to add value to them. You need to make the offer compelling.
Also note: other acts are looking for sponsorship deals as well, so look for ways to stand out from the crowd. Consider approaching companies that aren’t already getting dozens of inquiries per day.
Getting Connected With Brands & Businesses
In an ideal world, you would have a mutual contact introduce you to the business owner or marketing director you’re looking to reach. This isn’t always possible, and it depends on the breadth and depth of the relationships you have in your network.
But if you can identify people who are likely to be connected to your prospective sponsor in some way, you could do a little research on them, and then reach out and establish a relationship with them. Keep in mind that you’ll have to play long ball if you want to take this approach. If you ask for an introduction the moment you meet the intermediary, you’re unlikely to get a favorable response.
And if you have no choice but to send an email directly to the marketing director of the company you’re interested in working with, don’t ask for anything upfront. Instead, ask to meet about a proposition that could be mutually beneficial. Think like a business person would – they’re not going to want to meet with you if you’re only looking out for yourself.
Putting Together Your One Sheet
If you’re serious about your music career, you should be putting together a new one sheet every time you come out with a new release. This is a valuable tool for getting radio play, gigs, media coverage, and sponsorship deals. You’ll also want to tailor your one sheet to the situation for best results.
One sheets usually contain the following information (you can also Google “one sheet” and use image search to find examples):
- Your act’s name.
- A high-quality photo of your act.
- Contact information for your act.
- Album art and a track listing (bold the one or two tracks you want the recipient to listen to).
- Your bio, highlighting your latest release.
Your one sheet should be attention-grabbing and not overly cluttered. This is the number one mistake most solo artists and bands make. The goal is to make a great first impression.
If you were looking to get booked at festivals, then instead of your release art and track list, you would highlight the various high-profile shows and events you’ve already played. This lends credibility to your name, and shows that your act is ready for the big stages.
If you’re looking to get sponsored, you would include things like:
- Show attendance and highlights. If your show attendance is not in the 100s, this isn’t something you should include in your one sheet. But if you’re consistently packing out popular local venues, it would be worthwhile to highlight your track record.
- Radio play. What radio stations have played your music? Has your music ranked in the charts (i.e. college or internet radio charts)? A sponsor will likely look favorably upon local support from radio, particularly if they don’t have any ties with that station yet.
- Press clippings or testimonials. Has anyone notable said something positive about your music? You don’t need music industry quotes from celebrities, but you do need clippings from people that have some pull in the industry.
- Past sponsors. Have other companies sponsored you in the past? If you’ve only had one sponsor to date, this may not be worth mentioning (unless they’re particularly influential). But if you've negotiated several sponsorship deals already, listing them on your one sheet will show your prospective sponsor that you’ve benefited various businesses before.
There is some leeway for creativity here, so think outside the box, and present the kind of information you think would appeal to the prospective sponsor. This will likely be a little different from one sponsor to the next.
But please, keep it simple, keep it to one page, and make it compelling. Also, make sure it can either be printed out or sent as a PDF for key people to evaluate.
Additional Tips For Getting Sponsored
The basic steps for getting sponsored are as defined above. First, you need to establish your act and build a following. Then, you need to research the companies (known brands, clothing companies, local businesses, and even small businesses) that are out there, and determine which of them would be a good fit for you.
When you’re ready, you can reach out and schedule a meeting to discuss the details. Assuming your proposal is attractive, you’ll be able to snag a sponsor.
But here are a few additional tips that can help you seal the deal:
- Prepare a proposal. Your proposal should be tailored to the company you’re approaching. It should include: a summary of the agreement, an overview of how you’re going to benefit them, the terms of the contract (i.e. is it for a single show, an entire tour, an agreement to be renewed annually, etc.), and how you intend to leverage the company’s resources. This information shows that you mean business, and companies will take you more seriously. This may seem like a lot of work, and you might not be excited about the undertaking, especially if you aren't a marketing, business, or numbers person, but inevitably, the decision makers are.
- Determine your value-adds. Signage at your shows, mentions from the stage, social media, email, links on your website can all benefit the company you’re approaching. But this is pretty standard fare, so it’s worth thinking about how you can add more value to them, as this could help you negotiate a bigger and better contract. For example, you could provide tickets to your shows, VIP seating, exclusive performances, jingles, promotional videos (for a radio or TV ad), and so on. Get creative!
- Follow up. When it comes right down to it, getting a sponsorship deal is a lot like booking a show. You need to figure out who oversees sponsorships, get in touch with them, and follow up with them until you get an answer. But don’t burn any bridges. Be polite in your follow-up efforts, and don’t get upset if you don’t hear back immediately.
Common Mistakes To Avoid
Here are several things not to do as you’re looking to get sponsored:
- Trying to close the deal too soon. Get a meeting booked, and don’t ask for anything from your prospective sponsor before sitting down with them. If you can get them in a meeting, you’ll have a much better chance of getting what you want.
- Not being realistic. Don’t ask for too much upfront. What are some small asks that would benefit you? How can you also benefit them? As the deal starts to unfold, you may be able to negotiate for more. But don’t ask for the moon immediately upon sitting down with your potential sponsor.
- Not being specific. Ask for what you want, and be clear about what you’re going to do to benefit the company. Also, be clear about who you are and the market you're appealing to.
- Not showing any interest the company. Most of your communication should be relevant to your future partner. Avoid being overly self-interested.
- A weak proposal or one sheet. If any of the details are unclear, or if your documents fail to make a good impression, you’ll hurt your chances of getting sponsored. Spell-check, grammar-check, get your photos done professionally, etc.
Most businesses only want to hear from paying customers. If you aren’t calling for technical support or inquiring about product purchases, you better have a really good reason for reaching out. That’s why you have to answer the question, “what’s in it for me?” upfront. Most businesses are open to exploring mutually beneficial propositions, even if they aren’t in any position to cut a deal. If you can make it compelling for them, they'll listen to you.
Also note that timing matters. Some businesses will have just approved scads of sponsorship deals, saw a low return on investment, and may not be ready to dive back in. Others may not have the capital to make something happen the moment you contact them. This doesn’t mean that they aren’t good targets – it just means that you might have to come back to them later to get a favorable reply. Follow up!