How to Land a Sponsorship Deal

When you can work with another company to push your products or services, you've got another sales funnel that will help you grow your business.

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By Wendy Keller


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The following excerpt is from Wendy Keller's book Ultimate Guide to Platform Building. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes

You've seen racing cars with manufacturer's labels plastered all over them. You've seen cyclists, surfers and runners with labels on their bodies or on the equipment that they use while being televised. All of these are called "sponsorships," and you should have a piece of this flow! There are sponsorships you may not have even thought about. The local construction company buying uniforms and equipment for a Little League team is a sponsorship and when the dry cleaners and the clothing boutique co-promote one another, that's a type of sponsorship, too.

Related: How to Write a Great Pitch for the Media

Your small business could grow exponentially if you finagle a sponsorship. Think about this carefully before you toss this idea away. Sponsorship is when you get a company to help you make more money. It can take a variety of forms, such as when a company:

  • promotes your product or book to their customers for you;
  • uses your freemium or premium when they sell their own products;
  • pays you to be their spokesperson because you're seen as a person who has influence with their customers;
  • pays some or all of the costs associated with a promotion, product or service you have (for example, a book tour);
  • gives you gear or equipment;
  • gives you consumable goods (food, hair spray, etc.);
  • gives you something with their name on it to give to your employees or customers or to stick in a gift bag at an event you sponsor;
  • pays for all or part of an event or promotion you produce; or
  • advertises you or your business to their people.

If you think a sponsorship might work for you, see if any of these examples spark ideas for you:

  • A client of mine wrote a book on barbecuing. He got paid a lot of money to do a multi-city tour for a major alcohol manufacturer to promote their new liquor line as a main ingredient in barbecue sauce recipes. Another company gave his book as a premium every time someone bought one of their grills. A chain store featuring outdoor goods sold his book in their stores.
  • A woman I consulted with had written a book on children's birthday party plan­ning using candy sold by a famous candy company based in most American malls. She pitched them on selling the book next to the cash register in their stores.
  • A man I consulted with wrote a book on how lawn care is a great fitness activity for men, and how to burn extra calories while doing it. He approached the major seed and garden supply centers to distribute and promote his book.
  • One of my friends works for a company that manufactures clothing for people who work in healthcare. Turns out, the manufacturer pays any success­ful blogger (nurse, doctor or other) in the healthcare world to mention them or allow them to post ads on their sites.
  • One of my clients runs business conferences. Those can be very expensive to mar­ket, rent the room and get the catering, pay for signs and good speakers. A percentage of his costs are regularly paid by companies that also want to get in front of his specific attendees -- all business owners. He makes money every time he puts on an event, before he even sells any tickets.
  • A friend had previously owned a beauty salon, which she turned into a string of successful spas. She was hired by a multi-level marketing company to be the spokesmodel for a line of skin care products targeted toward middle-aged women. She earned hundreds of thousands of dollars. All she had to do was consult them on the colors used in the packaging and appear at the company's big events talking about "her" line and how wonderfully it worked.

How to get sponsorship deals

Because my experience and expertise with sponsorships pales in comparison to that of Ryan Blane, creator of the Get Sponsored Fast program, I interviewed him to get you some solid answers to how sponsorships really work.

Related: 3 Steps to Writing and Promoting an eBook

Blane says there's a big opportunity in the world of sponsorships and it comes through the power of social media. "A lot of times people think of using social media just to reach their own audience," Blane says. "Not only does social media let you reach your audience, it also lets you understand them a lot better, both in terms of seeing how people are responding to what you're saying/posting but also through demographics -- understanding who your audience is, where they are, what they're really thinking about. Who's actually visiting your sites and interacting with them?"

If you've had conversations with the people who visit your social media sites, you're getting to know them. When you know them, you can identify them. When you know their interests and needs, you have the opportunity of finding others who can fulfill their needs and interests in whole or part with you.

Why would a company even consider partnering with you, just because you have a growing social media presence? Because you as a blogger, author, vlogger or video provider may be the person the company's audience likes and trusts, so you may be more valuable to the company than they can be to themselves.

But it's not just social media that matters. "Any time you can aggregate and influence an audience," Blane says "you're primed to attract a sponsorship opportunity." This means, as you build your platform and attract your audience, other people want you. It's a reciprocal agreement. As Blane says, "The more visits you have, the more eyeballs you get and the more times they come, whether it's to your social media pages or your website, the more power you have to attract sponsors."

How to find likely sponsors

Let's assume you have a following -- online or otherwise -- that you can prove. "The first thing to do is look at your business or what you're offering to a sponsor and ask yourself, "What does the sponsor want?,'" Blane says. "Look at what their needs are. For sponsorships, the first thing they'll want to know is, "What's in it for me?'"

First, you'll need to compile your stats on how many people interact with you on:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Instagram
  • Periscope
  • Your website
  • YouTube channel

For anyone regularly doing media interviews, speeches or workshops, add in those audience numbers, too. Blane explains, "Your job is to compile a clear picture that says to the sponsor, "Here's the number of people you can reach by becoming involved with me.'"

This kind of data is the stuff corporations and large companies feed on, so after you figure out precisely how many people you can deliver, you can approach companies that you believe should sponsor you at a regional, national, online or whatever type of level.

Related: How To Create a Podcast That Brings in More Business

Next, ask yourself, "Which companies also want to reach my audience?" Obviously, someone who can only bring a few thousand people is unlikely to attract a multinational company as their sponsor. So being realistic is part of the process of increasing your chances of getting a sponsor. Blane suggests, "The best place to start is the people you're already doing business with . . . they might not give you cash, but they could give you other things that are valuable."

Structuring a deal

Most people approach sponsorships thinking, "I just want some corporation to write me a check for $25,000." Maybe you don't have a big enough audience for that yet. But there may be 25 deals worth $1,000 each if you open your eyes and look around. There are all kinds of creative ways to structure a new deal in ways that allow the partners to get to know one another, see if it really benefits them both, and move forward slowly.

Here are some ideas for deal structures:

  • Ads or signs (online or in a location)
  • Discount coupons (perhaps going both ways -- they give away coupons to you, you do the same for them)
  • Percentage of sales or, in the online world, "affiliate deals"
  • Product or service gift or exchange
  • Sponsorship for signage
  • Co-operative awards (you all contribute $X to an award, contest or event and then you all promote the event or award)

The sponsorship proposal

Start by looking at companies that are already sponsoring others. When you've compiled the target list, it's time to build what Blane calls a "sponsorship proposal." A sponsorship proposal highlights what you have to offer them (your audience, primarily) and then asks for what you need, in a fairly specific way. You want to make sure you keep the focus on the benefits to them. Assemble your numbers and make your approach. For more examples, visit Get Sponsored Fast.

Wendy Keller

Entrepreneur Leadership Network VIP

CEO and Founder of Keller Media, Inc.

Wendy Keller is an award-winning former journalist, a respected literary agent, an author, speaker, acclaimed book marketing consultant, and branding expert. She is the author of Ultimate Guide to Platform Building (Entrepreneur Press®, 2016) and got her first job as a newspaper reporter as a 16-year-old college freshman. Since then, Wendy worked for PR Newswire; the Knight-Ridder newspaper chain; as managing editor of Dateline magazine; and as associate publisher of Los Angeles’ then-second-largest Spanish language weekly, La Gaceta. She works with authors, speakers and business experts to help them build and promote their brands. She founded Keller Media, Inc. in 1989.

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