Corporate Sponsorship Part 1: How to Get Local Businesses as Sponsors

Last time we talked about how best to handle tentative bookings so you don’t wait forever for a client to confirm and lose out on other shows. This time we’ll delve into something that kids entertainers could tap into especially when they are trying to put up a big show: corporate sponsorship.

Download Training Tip 100 - How to Get Local Businesses as Sponsors

Why Get Corporate Sponsors

A number of years ago, I had been working like crazy putting together my first big stage show at a local casino. If any of you out there have ever attempted to put on a big show, you know what I am talking about. Rehearsal spaces, sets, building new props, costumes, music, tech, deadlines… It’s a lot to handle, but it’s worthwhile.

Large stage shows are very different from the usual private shows most magicians perform. In a private show, you’re hired, you show up, you perform—done. In a stage show, you are expected to do a lot more. You need to handle all of the enumerated items above, plus sales and marketing. People have big expectations and demand big results.

Big shows therefore require big bucks to produce. It’s not enough to just show up and do your thing like you normally do. If you’re planning on doing any kind of stage work, whether it be a large casino production, a fundraising event, or even a local theatre presentation, you need money for your production.

Some people try to keep things simple and use their own money to finance their shows. Although certainly simpler, there is a lot of risk in doing such a thing. By financing the production yourself, you are bearing all of the financial risks involved. Imagine investing $50,000 in your production, and it only manages to generate $30,000 in ticket sales. You’re out $20,000. That’s a lot of money to lose out of your own pocket.

This is why corporate sponsorship was invented. The idea is quite simple: Use other people’s money to finance your production. Isn’t that great? Other people’s money means less risk to you.

Corporate sponsorship is done all the time. Look at any major entertainment, sports or cultural event and you’ll see sponsors lined up to give these productions money. YOU can enjoy that, too. How? Read on.

The Two Kinds of Corporate Sponsors

Before we go into the details on how to do this, let’s break things down a bit.

Some people try to keep things simple and use their own money to finance their shows. Although certainly simpler, there is a lot of risk in doing such a thing. By financing the production yourself, you are bearing all of the financial risks involved.
When scouting for sponsors, it’s important to know that there are actually two categories of sponsors: local business and nationwide. Each category has its own way of approaching and dealing with people. For that reason, I have broken down this column into two parts. This month’s column will deal with local business. Next month, I will tackle nationwide sponsorship.

Local business sponsors are the backbone of local productions. By local productions, we mean any event that is not touring across the country. Local productions can still tour but they are generally limited to a specific geographic location (i.e., one city or metropolitan area). Because you are performing in a limited geographic area, businesses from that area are receptive to sponsoring your event.

How to Get Corporate Sponsors

So how does sponsorship work exactly? It’s this simple: companies pay you money so they can advertise their products or services through you during your event. And here’s how it benefits you: instead of financing your production yourself, companies finance it for you by buying ads for your show. Imagine the earlier scenario where $50,000 was needed for the production. If you can raise all of that money in sponsorship, your production is fully paid for and all of the profits are yours. If the production makes $30,000 in ticket sales, that’s a $30,000 profit instead of a $20,000 loss! Neat concept, isn’t it?

So how do you get sponsors interested? This is where the work begins. You need people skills and a great presentation offering assorted sponsorship packages to suit different financial means. Let’s discuss these in more detail.

Download Training Tip 100 - How to Get Local Businesses as Sponsors

Whom to Approach and What to Say

Hopefully, as an entertainer, your people skills should be more than adequate to deal with this kind of work. Of course, talking business and entertaining is not the same thing. Many people don’t get stage fright but do suffer from networking fright. You may have to overcome your fear or discomfort if you want to do business with potential sponsors.

To make things easier, start talking with people you already know. We all have business contacts such as our doctor, lawyer, accountant, dry-cleaner, grocery store, the pizza place you always order from, or the convenience store you drop into every day.

Talk to these people and let them know who you are and what you are doing. A simple statement like “I am putting together a big production playing at (theatre name) and I would like to offer you an opportunity to market and promote your business in the event by being a sponsor.” Some will say no, some will say yes, and most will simply say, “Tell me more.” This is where you give them your presentation.

What to Prepare

When prospective sponsors ask for more information, you should be able to whip out a portfolio that tells them everything they need to know about your event and the options available to them. Your portfolio should include the following items:

  • the show poster or artwork
  • bio/credentials of the main stars of the show
  • past newspaper and magazine clippings
  • the synopsis of the show itself
  • the number of shows you will be doing
  • the size of the theatre
  • promotional opportunities available to sponsors

Let’s discuss that last item in more detail.

What Options to Offer Prospective Sponsors

a. Print ads

Most promotional opportunities for local businesses are available in the form of print ads in the show brochure or program. Although you may offer any format you like, you’ll discover that most businesses respond best to buying either a full page, half page, or a quarter page ad in the program.

A nice sales technique here is to adjust pricing to make larger ads more of a bargain. For example: You could sell a quarter page ad for $350, a half page for $600 and a full page for $1,000. Of course, four quarter page ads bring more profit than a single full page, but it’s also more work.

By the way, the fees mentioned here are just suggestions. I once charged a large auto dealership $2500 for an ad on the outside back cover where the ad would be most prominent. It was what they wanted and they paid. You may want to charge much more or much less than that depending on the size and frequency of your event, and of course, what the market in your area is willing to pay (big city vs. a smaller business community).

b. Online Marketing

Don’t forget about online marketing which you can do through your website and your e-mails to your list. Hopefully you have been compiling a list of past clients and potential prospects who have opted in to receive information and updates from you. In addition, you can also advertise your sponsors’ names and business information through all your social media outlets—Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest, Google +, YouTube, and lots more.

c. Product Placement

Instead of a local ad at $350, you can wind up with $10,000 from a local business because of product placement in your show. So get creative!
With that said, I would like to add that I like to go beyond simple program ads and offer additional promotional opportunities to my prospective sponsors. One of the things I do is sell live advertising. That means I do product placement directly in the show.

Imagine that instead of producing a fruit from a bowl for the bill in lemon trick, you produce it from the local grocer’s grocery bag. Or picture your set being a mock-up of a local storefront, complete with signage. These additional marketing opportunities can be very attractive to local businesses and can really increase the amount of money they are willing to give you. Instead of a local ad at $350, you can wind up with $10,000 from a local business because of product placement in your show. So get creative!

d. Additional Incentives

Other incentives are free tickets. The bigger the investment, the more tickets you can offer your sponsor.

Meet-and-greet cocktails with the stars of the show are another incentive that may be attractive to your prospective sponsors. The idea here is to think outside the box a bit. Anything you can do to make the investment package more attractive to your prospect is worth doing. Of course it’s a commitment in time and energy for you. Sales don’t just happen, but this effort is worthwhile as it provides you with much-needed money.

Right now, a few of you may be doing some math and thinking “I have to sell a lot of ads to raise $50,000. Even with extra incentives and product placement, that’s a lot of work.”

You’re right of course, which is why next time, I will be tackling how to get MAJOR SPONSORS.

Remember, don’t ever let anyone steal your dream.




Check back next month and you will learn how to approach and talk to national-brand companies for major dollars.


Want more useful tips on how to grow your kids entertaining business? Check out my other posts in this series.

Developing Your Hook: Tips on How to Get Media Exposure

Handling Delays: 3 Tips on How to Stay on Schedule

The Repeat Client

Negotiating Higher Fees

Waiting for the Call

Download Training Tip 100 - How to Get Local Businesses as Sponsors