Sponsorships and artist endorsement deals
Sponsorships and endorsement deals with local and national companies can amount to free merchandise, cash awards, and additional promotion. But sponsorships do not come easy. You have to form a plan, take action, put yourself out there, and be ready to take rejection until you get to the magic...“YES!” If you don’t ask, the answer is always no.
At its heart, an artist endorsement or sponsorship deal is a relationship between an artist and a company that either makes or distributes product. The artist benefits through the deal by receiving things like cash awards, assistance promoting local shows, free merchandise, recording time, promotional items, exposure from company advertisements, or song distribution via CD samplers. An endorsement deal can boost your credibility in the eyes of the public, not to mention club and event bookers who might be interested in having you perform.
Companies benefit crafting artist endorsement deals as they can expose their brand and products creatively to their target audience in the hopes of increasing public awareness and product sales. It's a win-win! Though sponsorships are usually reserved for artists already creating a buzz in their community, there are still ways you can increase your chances of scoring a deal.
Know the products and brands your fans like
Step one in getting sponsorships (both local and national) is to understand what brands and products your target audience affiliates with and is attracted to. Survey your fan base to get ideas, and do some research on groups in your genre or who you sound like. Pay attention to what your fans drink and their go-to brands for footwear, clothing, sunglasses, headgear, etc. They might be drawn to Sketchers shoes, clothing by Quicksilver, Oakley sunglasses, Harley Davidsons, and Red Bull energy drinks. Knowing which brands and products your fans like is essential information when it comes to homing in on which businesses and companies to approach.
Compile a local target sponsor list
Research local businesses that sell the products your fans use and identify with and compile a target sponsor list. List the business’ name, manager/owner, address, email, and phone number – you can even include store hours and other relevant info. And don't just go for national sponsors, consider the mom and pop stores in your area. Just because they're smaller, it doesn't mean they won’t have the money or interest in pursuing a sponsorship. One Los Angeles band I know approached a small clothing boutique on Melrose Avenue and got free merchandise to wear onstage and toss out to fans. In addition to that, the band’s CD was made available for sale in the boutique while their songs played over the store's sound system. With a little salesmanship and effort, it’s not that difficult to find interested businesses willing to form alliances with you and get behind a local artist. Other bands in your home city may already have relationships with local stores and could be willing to share contact information with you.
Compile a national sponsor wish list
Compile a list of the companies that manufacture products your fans use and affiliate with. Include each company’s name and research the marketing director, email, address, and phone number, and see if it lists a submission policy to seek sponsorships. If alcohol is a product your fans (and band) uses, add companies like Jim Beam and Jägermeister to your list – they both have long-standing reputations for supporting up-and-coming bands with rewards of cash, recording time, musical gear, and festival slots.
Contact music equipment manufacturers
Seeking endorsements with music equipment manufacturers to get free or discounted gear is a no-brainer (though that doesn't mean it's as easy as just asking). Compile a list of the brands of musical instruments your band currently plays – or would really like to play. Sabian, Rhythm Tech, Gibson, and plenty of new and developing companies usually have programs to provide endorsements to musicians who can show they’re garnering attention in their community – specifically the attention of the 18-30 aspiring musician demographic. Research your target companies and write down the submission requirements along with the artist relations directors’ name, address, phone number, and email.
A great opportunity to network and form relationships with music instrument companies is the bi-annual NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) show, a convention that attracts nearly every music equipment manufacturer and artist relations director from established companies, as well as newer folks (who may be more receptive to speaking with you). The show is usually held in Anaheim, CA in January and Nashville, TN in the summer.
Show you’re creating a buzz
Show potential sponsors you’re creating a buzz by collecting articles and reviews written about you in local papers and blogs, testimonials from club owners raving about your shows and enthusiastic crowds, and past and current tour schedules that show you’re playing out regularly and getting plenty of exposure. Prepare a bio specifically for this endeavor that highlights why you would be a superb candidate for sponsorships, include a cover letter that expresses your enthusiasm for the brand/product you're pitching, and take photos of you using the products.