In Deep: Getting Sponsors – or – How I live with Myself Everyday.

To be perfectly frank, all anyone really needs to know about the “genie’s lamp” of getting sponsors is all contained in this video.

No really. I used to think there was some secret formula, to the point where I made it a major sticking point in any strategy or plan. But there really isn’t. Thinking there is merely causes more harm than good. I’m no expert. As we’re in the middle of pre-production and courting sponsors not only financially but for their goods and services, it has been a giant learning curve.

But we’ve had more signs of interest than rejections, and that makes me a very happy (relieved) bunny.

As an indie filmmaker, I want people to “pick me up, everyday”. As a recovering copywriter, I know I have to sell an emotion in order to make that happen. The dirty little secret, ladies and gremlins, is people buy themselves (or the image big ad campaigns convince you is “your ideal you”). Remember #5 from “What they don’t tell you about making an indie film”? It’s all about “them”. And in this case, the “them” is also you.

Confused? Don’t be. Here’s a quick lyrical lesson on what I’ve learned so far in how to get sponsors.

Pick me up, oh, from the bottom / Up to the top, love, everyday

It all starts with a letter. Just a plain ol’ everyday sort of letter. No attachments. No big sponsor be-dazzled plan. Just an easy to read 4 paragraph letter. Maybe 5 paragraphs. Ultimately this is your single chance to not only gain a potential sponsor’s attention, but get them so intrigued and enthusiastic they actually write back. So, y’know, no pressure or anything.

I kept my letter simple. You know they keep telling you about knowing your “elevatory pitch”? Well, this is what you’re doing but in writing. In my email to sponsors, I highlighted immediately what we were doing – both in the rally itself, and the film – and who we were (an all-female team). In the next three paragraphs, I briefly outlined the team’s collective experience (we’re making a film afterall); what THEY could bring to the table (and why I personally felt they were the perfect choice); and then ended with what we could offer them in return. In closing, I opened up the table for further dialogue, wished them the best, and that was that.

I kept it honest. If you’re flattering a company you’ve never heard of before Googling them, never used before, or basically are just picking out of hat, then believe you me, it’ll come through in your letter. Some sort of print-aura. Be enthusiastic, up-beat and optimistic as you’re writing out your letter to sponsors. It’s all good mojo and it comes through. If you’ve just researched, or stumbled upon a company that would be PERFECT – then roll with it. This is where you need to tell them.

It’s good to know a balance of enthusiasm and professionalism. Let’s face it, you are going to cut and paste most of your letter, especially the parts where you are talking about yourself. That’s fine. Just remember to mention companies directly. The secret to not sounding like a form letter, is addressing people directly and don’t be vague. Talk about companies, and how you think your relationship now and in the future could be. But don’t gush. Keep it short.

And it can not be stressed enough: Proofread! Proofread! PROOFREAD!

No really. Especially if you are writing introductory paragraphs where you mention company names, or individuals by name. You do need to change those, and there is no rule on how quickly you need to push the “Send” button. Read through. Spell-check. Check names. Make sure you aren’t writing to Canon and expressing how much their tents are really going to help you out.

Send your letter to yourself. Write it to you. Read in the middle of a work day, because your potential sponsors will be. Would you want to sponsor yourself after reading that email?

Jump in the mud, oh / Get your hands dirty with /Love it up on everyday

Take risks. Get in there and get dirty. Sponsors will not fall from the sky. You will be met with “no thanks”, “sorry, we’ve committed ourselves to another project”, and silence. You will also be met with “oh this is interesting, please tell me more”, “we’re interested, but we’re a small company, how can we be involved?”

Don’t narrow yourself to household names. Small companies need love too, and could be more receptive to an indie film than some of the more “pro” out there. Just don’t expect that newly successful Kickstarter company to be able to throw wads of cash at you (however they may be okay in offering you some equipment…)

What you’ve got / Lay it down on me

They like you. They really like you. Now the real work comes in.

Be flexible with people. Work with them. You may have pre-packaged sponsorship plans, written out contract copy and have a “game-plan” for sponsors, but you need these guys. No-one is saying give away your creative freedom, but if the topic of product placement comes up, then you need to get in there and evaluate the situation. Don’t be afraid to say “no” but only if you can offer an alternative. Understand compromise. Work. With. Them.

Next time: Keeping Sponsors – or – You Lost Me at Clause 2.3 Section A.