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Written - Jun 2020
Updated - Aug 2020
Copyright - Al Best
Finding the money to finance an event or festival, equip a band or bankroll a tour is not always easy. There are many upfront costs that must be met before revenue starts to come in. Even after your endeavour starts to generate returns there can still be worrying shortfalls.
This multi-part article looks at ways to raise funds for your festival, band, or event. I will smash a few myths and show you ways to tap into the various sources of money that are out there and available to you. We will be looking at donations, grants, corporate social responsibility (CSR), crowd funding and sponsorships. In the first part of this series of articles, we will be dealing with the oft-misunderstood subject of sponsorship and touching on CSR.
In the world of sponsorship, your festival, tour, act, band, or event is known as a 'property' and the people that attend your event or follow you form the 'audience'. This is the terminology I will use throughout this article.
The gov.uk website states; "Sponsorship is a payment to a charity, social project or a business for which the sponsor receives something in return. Payment may be in the form of money, goods and services (commonly referred to as 'barter'), or a combination of money with goods and services."
Contrary to what many believe, a sponsor is not an altruist dishing out free money to properties. Sponsors are not philanthropists and do not have pots of spare money lying around for doling out to every Tom, Dick or Harry asking for financial support. However, sponsors do have budgets to buy something from you and that 'something' must give them a commercial return on their investment.
'Investment' is a key word. The sponsor views sponsorship as an investment which must be safe and offer a return. What you are looking to do with a sponsor is to create a win-win situation, where you benefit from funding and/or goods and services, and the sponsor gets viable and tangible benefits from the sponsorship package that you sell to them. Remember, a sponsor will not be interested in your property unless they can get something of value from it.
The most valuable thing you can offer to a sponsor is the hearts, minds and buying power of your audience. Your audience is not just the people that attend your event or watch you play but also the followers you have built up on social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook. Your task is to convince a sponsor that your audience is of more value to them than any other audience. For this reason, you must 'know your audience'.
To entice sponsors, you need to be able to tell them things about your audience like the age group, gender split, likes, income bracket, motivations, distance travelled etc. You must research the demographics, psychographics, and geographical distribution of your audience. Sponsors will already have their own brand audience and if you can broadly match that audience with yours in both demographics and interests, you are on to a winner.
Knowing and growing your audience is a whole new subject which I hope to cover, in depth, in a future article.
Start at home. Ask your management team, volunteers, friends, and family if they have any contacts in any businesses or companies that might be interested in sponsoring your property. Approaching a potential sponsor through a mutual contact is a much easier way in and gives you a much better chance of striking a sponsorship deal.
If you have a LinkedIn account, sift through your contacts for potential sponsors and for people that can introduce you to possible sponsors. If you do not have a LinkedIn account, it's a good idea to open one and to start building a professional business network.
The best and most effective match between sponsor and property is achieved when there is a common interest. For instance, when a sports brand sponsors a sport event, or a food company sponsors a food and drink festival. Thus, this kind of synergy is the first thing to look for in a potential sponsor.
Another good idea is to keep a check on your local newspapers. Watch for companies spending a lot on advertising or taking out full page spreads. Any company doing this is spending heavily to reach your local community. The chances are they will be a good target for you and might jump at the chance of sponsoring a local property.
Are there any companies that are going to be causing major disruption in your locality? If so, they may be another possible sponsor for you to home in on. An example of this is the sponsorship deal I helped to broker between a festival and a company that were digging up a lot of roads in the area. The company in question were keen to develop goodwill in the community and did so by sponsoring our event.
Search the Internet for other properties that are like yours. Examine their websites to identify the companies that are sponsoring them. Use the garnered information to build a list of likely sponsors. Add to that list of companies by seeking out similar companies and brands.
While looking at other property's websites, take the opportunity to check out the type of sponsorship deals and packages they are offering. This will help when putting together your own offerings.
Most companies are keen to show that they trade ethically, are green or have low carbon footprints, support communities, are non-discriminatory, and so on. This is all part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) commitment.
Checking a company's CSR policy may help you to find a match with what you are doing. If, for instance, the company's policy talks about supporting children and your event is for children, they may be more ready to sponsor it. Likewise, if your event or tour is dedicated to achieving a low or zero carbon footprint the potential sponsor may be keen to associate themselves with that goal to further emphasise their own green credentials.
In addition to helping you to find a sponsor, CSR checking may also show you where there are grants available.
Do not forget the small local businesses. For instance, restaurants, hotels, convenience shops, take-aways, and any others that might benefit from tapping into your audience.
We have established that a sponsor is not an altruist and is not going to give you a big fat donation without wanting something in return for their money services or goods. So, what do they expect to get when sponsoring a property? Basically, it can be a way to create a greater awareness of the sponsor's company, a way to build a brand, a way to help create a demand for the sponsor's products or services and/or a way to develop goodwill in the community. The sponsor will know exactly what they want to achieve.
A remarkably simple example of this is a sponsorship deal reached with a cross channel ferry company. During my years as a professional musician we regularly toured the British military bases in Europe and played for British audiences there. In return for free passage on their ferries we agreed to publicise the company's service and publicly thank them at each gig. We received free crossings and in return we helped to create a greater awareness of the ferry company amongst a high potential audience, generated demand for the sponsor's service and engendered goodwill towards the company.
Researching the wants and needs of a potential sponsor is essential. Once you know what they want to achieve, you can tailor your offering to them. You also need to identify the person within the sponsoring company that deals with sponsorship and personalise your approach to them.
The Internet, Google and the world of social media makes it much easier to do your initial research. Dig into the prospective sponsor's websites and social media accounts such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc. Look at their press releases and news coverage. Try to determine what their goals are and whether they have new products or services coming to market.
Also check out which properties they are currently sponsoring or have sponsored in the past, how they justify their link to those properties and what shared values they have with the properties. How does the sponsor describe their 'fit' with the properties they are sponsoring? You can also check the finances of the company by looking at their company accounts on the Companies House website.
Your proposal is made up of your prospectus and your packages. Once you have done your primary research, you can start to formulate several sponsorship packages and write your sponsorship prospectus.
The prospectus contains all the pertinent facts and figures about your property and your audience. It outlines your values and shows how your property can benefit a sponsor.
The packages are starting points for negotiation and are lists of the benefits a sponsor can buy. These can be adapted to the sponsor's needs or even abandoned to a new fully customised package once you have a solid idea of what needs to be achieved by the sponsors.
There are a few common ideas that can be offered within packages such as the sponsor's logo and brand recognition on your publicity and printed material and on things like the stage back-drops, banners and steward's apparel, mentions on your website and social media channels with links out, a dedicated stall or booth for the sponsor at your event or a chance for the sponsor to say a few words on stage. A page in the program for the sponsor to utilise as they see fit. Publicly thanking the sponsor in press releases, at events and during radio and TV interviews is also a simple but effective offering that can be included within a package. An offering of VIP tickets or backstage access may act as a sweetener that will help to swing a deal.
Another common but top end offering is title sponsorship where the sponsor's brand name is prefixed to the event name. This tends to happen more in big sporting events.
Your event or band website along with your event app (if you have one), your email marketing campaigns, mailouts, your social media channels, and newsletters should all be utilised as methods of communication that the sponsor can tap into to reach your audience. Although you cannot just hand over your list of contacts you can include the sponsor's message in your communications with your audience. In each package you create you can bundle in various numbers of Tweets, posts, emails, mailouts, and newsletter mentions. You can feature the sponsor on your website, give them banner advertising or even a page to use.
If appropriate to the sponsor's needs, you can take it a step further by agreeing to publicise any special offers, samples, or discounts that the sponsor might like to give to your audience. This is a way in which the sponsor can start to track the effectiveness of the sponsorship with measurable uptake of the offer.
The press releases you send out form another channel of communication which can be leveraged.
Other ideas include the sponsoring of a stage whereby the stage is named after the sponsors brand. For instance, with the Strongbow cider brand, a stage might become the 'Strongbow Stage'. Brands could also sponsor particular acts at an event with announcements like "brought to you by …". Just use your imagination and it is surprising how many opportunities you will identify. If you can come up with ideas that others have not thought of, so much the better. At a festival, how about getting a telecoms company to sponsor a charging area for mobile phones or to supply site Wi-Fi as part of a deal?
Various mixes of the above can be built into your range of sponsorship packages. Don't just throw all your ideas into the pot though - leave some wiggle-room for offering added value and incentives.
With the sample packages created and the prospectus written you should now set up a preliminary meeting with the sponsor. At this meeting you can present your property and use your prospectus to highlight the property's value and pedigree to the sponsor.
You should treat the meeting as an introductory process where you introduce your property and values to them, and they introduce their values and needs to you. It is a fact-finding process for both of you. You must be ready to answer questions and to give facts and figures about your property, audience, and values. As mentioned earlier you are creating a win-win partnership and you must stress the partnership aspect to the potential sponsor; do not give them the impression that you are only interested in their money.
Do not treat the meeting as an opportunity for a do or die sales pitch but as a get-together to explore possibilities, wants and needs.
At this meeting, do not expect the prospective sponsor to latch on to or accept any of your packages. If they do it makes your life easier, but you should expect to be using the information garnered from the meeting to formulate an approach and bespoke sponsorship package that will deliver the sponsors requirements.
Every deal is different so be flexible and show them that you are serious about the win-win aspect of a deal. Assure them that you will work for their brand.
As you can see, procuring a solid, long lasting and successful alliance with a sponsor requires a great deal of energy, time and effort but the end result is a successful partnership that provides you with funding and stability.
Although all of the above demonstrates the tried and tested method of achieving a sponsorship deal there are times when the process can be short circuited a little. An instance of this might be where a small local business sponsors a community event. It can be the case that the small business will readily support the event purely because their customers will be involved or be benefited by it. Another case might be where a small business has an affinity with a band or event and is happy to have their brand or company associated with them.
This article is copyright of Al Best @ folkrootslist.co.uk
You are more than welcome to use extracts from it as long you include a link back and credit Al Best and Folk Roots List https://www.folkrootslist.co.uk
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