Welcome back. Last month you learned how to finance your big show productions by approaching local businesses for sponsorship money. This month, I am going to discuss how to get major dollars from nationwide corporate sponsors.
As I was discussing this month’s column with a friend of mine, he was a little perplexed by the nationwide concept. He said, “I understand you wanting to get local sponsors for your show since it’s playing locally, but how are you going to get nationwide sponsors unless you do a tour all across the country?”
That’s a good question. The answer to that all comes down to definitions. By nationwide sponsors, I mean major corporate sponsors with known and established businesses or products available all across the country, rather than local small businesses. Take for example McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, General Motors, Wal-Mart, and so on. Some of these may actually be local sponsors as well (e.g., the local McDonald’s), but when talking about nationwide sponsors, I mean the nationwide headquarters and not a local store.
Now as far as touring is concerned, you don’t necessarily have to do a nationwide tour to get these sponsors interested. But let’s just say the more ground you cover, the more interested they may be.
The important thing to consider is what nationwide sponsors actually want. Let’s get into that now.
What to Offer Big Corporate Sponsors
Major corporations are not interested in an ad in your show. A local branch might be but corporate headquarters are not. Major sponsors are interested in one of two things: branding or direct sales.
Branding is about creating awareness in a brand name. Large companies or major products are always competing with each other to be top dog in their field. Just think of the cola wars. Pretty much everybody is either a Coca-Cola person or a Pepsi person. These two companies are so well-branded that when you think of cola, most people automatically think of one of these two brands. They spend millions (and sometimes even billions) of dollars on creating brand awareness because if you think of them first, you’ll be reaching for their product the next time you are thirsty.
Most product or company branding is done through commercials, but that’s not enough for them. They really need to be in the public’s face 24/7. That’s why you see branding at large sporting or entertainment events. Just look at the Indy 500 and notice all of the corporate logos on the cars, on the panels that line the track, or even on the track. Some companies such as tobacco companies make use of event sponsorship a lot since they have restrictions on the form of advertising they can do.
All of these efforts are about one thing: branding.
Direct sales is about… direct sales. This is where companies can sell their product directly to the public during an event. Just look at any sporting event. You are guaranteed to see beer signs all over the stadium. Guess which brand of beer is being sold at the concession stands? Is it a competitor? Of course not. The Molson Centre in Montreal, Canada doesn’t sell Budweiser for a reason. These beer companies know that by sponsoring the team or the venue, they have concession rights for all the home games. That translates to a lot of direct sales—money!
As a feature magic act in a large stage production, you have to ask yourself, “What can I offer in terms of branding or direct sales?”
Truth be told, it would probably be very difficult to entice major sponsors with the direct sales approach. When a show tours, it uses established theatres that already have their refreshment concession deals worked out. Also, it would be a little weird to go see a magic show and then see a booth set up in the lobby selling long-distance plans from AT&T (although it could happen… you never know).
It would probably be an easier sale if you approached major sponsors with a branding plan. Of course, if by some very creative way you figure out how to do direct sales, then go for it.
How to Approach Major Sponsors
Once you have something to offer to your prospective sponsors, how do you actually get in touch with them? What do you say? What do you do?
This is a tricky situation as every company has its own way of doing things. One’s best approach can be the worst for another. I’m going to offer you guidelines, but you’re really going to have to feel out the people you are dealing with and figure out what’s the best way to deal with them.
The first thing you have to do is make contact. This is where networking is important. Talk to friends, talk to strangers, talk to anyone until you get a name or contact number for a key person in the organization you wish to approach. You may get a lot of runaround at first, but don’t give up.
Once you talk with that person, you must usually establish your credibility. Obviously, people like David Copperfield have an advantage here—he is a known commodity. For the rest of us, we have to let them know that we are professionals working on a major production which will be going places.
This is where the path may vary from company to company. Some will be all business and want your portfolio and promo materials. Some will want to see a show first. Some will want to meet and talk right away. Here’s a tip: GIVE THEM WHAT THEY WANT. If they want to see the show and it’s not ready yet, invite them to a dress rehearsal or production meeting. The point is to make them aware that you are a professional entertainer working in a major theatrical production.
After that initial contact comes the cat-and-mouse game. Some sponsors will ask you straight out how much money you want and what you are offering in return, but most will want to discuss promotional ideas with you first before talking money. Either way, you have to walk a fine line between having a firm idea of what your plan is, yet being flexible enough to accommodate whatever their plan is. It’s tricky. It’s often done over the course of several meetings and it’s easier when it’s done on friendly terms.
Bear in mind that what you want to offer in branding may not be compatible with the company’s marketing strategy. I had approached a major soft drinks company with a brilliant idea for product placement as an integral part of the plot development for a show. They thought it was great but their branding was well-established, so they didn’t see it as worthwhile at that particular time.
The best way to satisfy major sponsors is to first find out what their marketing goals are and then come back to them with a plan that can fulfill those goals. This way you can truly satisfy them from the start. Of course this requires a lot of creativity, as well as a bit of marketing knowledge.
Once you’ve got a plan in place, then you can talk money. You will probably have a number in mind and they may have one too. Odds are those numbers won’t match, but if they offer you more, take it. If they offer you less, you should have a budget set out highlighting why you need the amount you do. They may accept your budget and give you what you want or they may bargain. It’s up to you to decide if it’s a good deal or not. Either way at this point, you must be all business and have the documents to back it up.
Well, that’s it for now. My run with Kids Entertainer Hub has come to an end. I hope that you have not only enjoyed reading these articles but have started putting some of this new knowledge into practice. Knowledge is power and you have the power to learn, make changes, put into practice what you have learned and be successful.
I have already been directly contacted by a number of people who have read these monthly articles, implemented particular pieces of information, and not only gained some great media attention but also augmented their income substantially. Never limit your own capabilities and reach for the stars.
See you on the marquis and … break a leg.
And remember, don’t ever let anyone steal your dream.
Want more useful tips on how to grow your kids entertaining business? Check out my other posts in this series.