Whether you’re in a band or you’re just passionate about something that involves a board or a bike, everyone has the dream of making it big and raking in loads of cash and swag from sponsors. You may be years away from catching the attention of big name companies, but if you play your cards right you can snag plenty of gear and support from your favorite indie brands. From my own personal experiences owning Sugar Steak Apparel and receiving at least a dozen emails a month requesting sponsorship support, I have outlined what I believe are the five things you need to have straight when you start contacting brands with sponsorship requests.
1) CONTACT THE RIGHT BRAND
Before you contact a brand make sure they represent what you’re asking them to support you in. In other words, if you are contacting a macabre-themed brand, don’t be asking them to sponsor your extreme cup stacking skills or your Jerk Krew. Brands like that are most likely going to be geared towards sponsoring post-hardcore bands and other musicians. Email the right brands form the beginning, this will save you heartache when you receive numerous “no thank you, we aren’t interested” emails because you simply contacted the wrong people.
2) TELL THE BRAND WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR THEM
Everybody knows that sponsorships are a means for companies to advertise their products. So don’t think you have the loop on everything by telling your intended sponsor it’s a no-brainer because you will be giving them free advertising. First of all, it isn’t free; clothing costs money to make and when a brand sends you free stuff it eats into their potential profits. The intention behind a sponsorship is for you to spread the word effectively enough to bring in more customers, justifying giving you free products. Tell the brand how you can do this for them. Give specific ideas you have to help spread the word (i.e. posting YouTube videos of you wearing their gear while you board), don’t just say you will provide” free” advertising. Include a list of intended shows you plan to attend or competitions you will be competing in.
3) PROVIDE LINKS TO QUALITY FOOTAGE, PICS, OR MUSIC SAMPLES
I can’t tell you how many times I receive emails asking to be sponsored without any pictures, videos, or basically any idea how talented the individual is. Take the time to attach pictures, provide links to YouTube videos, etc… Chances are if you don’t show a brand what you offer upfront they won’t take the time to write you back. You’ve got to market yourself and show them why you deserve to be taken under their wing. Provide them with quality footage too. If you’re a skater, put together a solo video, don’t send a link to a YouTube video telling me to check you out 3:47 into it where you throw down something epic then the remainder of the eight minute video shows footage of all your homies taking their turn. Nobody wants to sit through 8 minutes of straight ollies or music with no lyrics either. Make what I like to call a “Sponsor Me” video, a 1-2 minute montage of your best stuff. If you don’t have this kind of stuff ready, don’t rush it, take your time and get something solid together before you start actively pursuing sponsors.
4) PERSONALIZE YOUR MESSAGE
This is perhaps the most important thing to do before you send off that initial email. The majority of indie brands sell via on online store; therefore as owners, we are familiar with emails and can easily tell if you have copied and pasted the same message into four dozen different contact forms. When I receive an email addressed to “Dear Owner,” stating you love my “product ” that doesn’t give me any kind of initiative to respond back. Take the time to write the name of the brand you are contacting, better yet read the “About” or “Bio” pages on the company’s site and address your message to an individual. If you can’t take 5-10 minutes to dig up the necessary info to write a meaningful email, don’t expect a response from the majority of companies you contacted by quickly emailing every new brand you found on the Big Cartel or Storenvy directories.
5) KEEP AT IT
If a brand tells you to send them better footage or makes other requests for more info, do it! Show the brand you really dig their products and take the time to jump through some hoops if you have to. If the owner tells you they aren’t currently taking on any new sponsors, but they like what you have to offer, save the email you were contacted from and get in touch with them a few months down the line, preferably with some new footage, pics, or samples showing them you haven’t given up on your dream and you are still progressing. Be resilient. You are going to be shut down by many potential sponsors, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you suck (sometimes it does though). Maybe the brand just isn’t interested in sponsoring anybody, maybe you just contacted the wrong brand for your sport like described earlier, or maybe you just made one of the other mistakes listed above. Regardless, if you really want to make a living doing something you love, go balls-out, make it happen for yourself and stay in touch with those brands that do take the time to write you and show support.