Seeking out and gaining sponsorships for your productions is a great way to set your show up for success. But finding these businesses and sealing the deal? A little tougher than it seems.
If one of your goals for this season is to secure financial backing from companies or brands around town, On The Stage can help. We’ll explain the benefits of sponsored productions, then give you a few ideas on how to find and target the businesses with which you want to partner.
What are the benefits of a sponsored production?
Getting a business to sponsor your showcase as a variety of benefits, including:
- Extending the reach of your production: Companies have their own established fan bases and clientele that you can then piggyback off to gain more audience members. This, in turn, can beef up your digital contacts, email subscribers, and social media followers.
- Streamlining outreach to an existing demographic: Instead of throwing marketing and outreach strategies against the wall to see which stick, partnering with an existing business grants you immediate access to their client base with little effort on your part … after the initial pitch and partnership dealings, that is!
- Lending credence and status to your theatre: The bigger or more popular your sponsor, the more reliable you, as a theatre, will look. Both people in and outside your patron circle will inadvertently trust you more if other reliable businesses trust you, too.
- Taking you from breaking even to turning a profit: A bit of an obvious one, but sponsors supply you with something critical: capital, which can take your show to the next level. With an influx of money from outside sources, you can provide a more professional experience to your patrons.
So – now you know why sponsored productions are great, but how do you get there? We’ve got some ideas.
Ways to Get Businesses to Sponsor Your Production
Think About Your Audience
Your first step in gaining potential sponsors should be to look at your existing audience. Which business partnerships will they be excited about, and respond well to? Which businesses speak to their interests and lifestyles? Yes – we’ve harped on the fact that theatre leaders need better data analysis, and finding sponsors is a great opportunity to utilize that data.
Use Your Network
Hitting a brick wall as you’re trying to make connections? As frustrating as it is, it’s so true that “it’s all about who you know,” no matter the sector. As you’re hunting for sponsors, don’t be afraid to tap people within your network – whether those are people in your cast, your marketing team, or even your personal friend group. (Psst: When you’re drafting first contact with these people, make sure to reference your shared contact. A connection will make things smoother down the road, guaranteed.)
So you’ve used your data to study demographics and have narrowed down your potential sponsor choices. Before wasting bandwidth on companies that may turn you down, weed out further options by asking the following questions to yourself before initial contact:
- Does this potential sponsor understand the value of this type of marketing?
- Have they had successful partnerships with others in the past?
- If not, will I be able to convince them this type of partnership will pay off?
Any pitch to a potential sponsor requires some form of risk, but you can mitigate that risk by doing some research.
Start Small and Work Your Way Up
If you’re new to the sponsorship game, work with smaller businesses and community partners with which you already have budding or strong relationships. Once those are secured and you’re confident in what you and your theatre bring to the table, aim higher. When you’re hunting for bigger fish, your credibility will already be elevated by past or current partnerships.
Appeal to Your Potential Sponsor
After you’ve narrowed down your list and have found promising businesses to tap, it’s time to make your show, your theatre, and this partnership as appealing as possible to them. Ask yourself: What do they want and need as a brand, and how can I help them?
Any great partnership is mutually beneficial, so come to the table with ways to foster and escalate their enthusiasm for you and your show. What do you have that they don’t? Use that as leverage to make your appeal feel less like a favor and more like a business deal with incentives on both sides.
Perfect Your Opening Contact
Just like an elevator pitch, you often only have a few seconds to grab peoples’ attention via email or on the phone. After all, the average person reads over a hundred emails a day – so make yours count! A few suggestions:
- Keep your message concise, and give context as to why you’re reaching out in your opening line.
- If you have a mutual connection, mention them as soon as is natural.
- Don’t be too pushy, but be direct.
- If you feel comfortable, smatter in some light flattering, like complimenting the business’s standing in the community or its popularity among your audience members.
- Make a direct request to chat on the phone or connect in person. Naming a few specific days and times that work for you will make this easier to nail down and eliminate back-and-forth.
Make It Feel Exclusive
Once you’ve gotten your potential sponsor on the line, it’s time to sweeten the pot. Make sure the business feels valued – and like this opportunity is exclusive to them.
Offer further exposure and networking opportunities to the business through your partnership. Present branding/promotional opportunities, like adding their logo onto your merchandising, physical signage, or show programs. For businesses looking to maximize their social media presence, include them in your digital marketing efforts or offer a “take-over” of your channels to help them gain traction. (Measurable results for them is the goal here!)
You can also work to find ways to get your clients and theirs to meld, like offering show-related freebies (tickets or merch) or discounts to clients that purchase your sponsor’s product.
Get the Timing Right
Much like asking mom to have a sleepover, timing is crucial for sponsorship requests. In the effort to form and maintain sponsorships, your timeline should be long term. In short – plan ahead. The last thing you want to do is bombard a decision maker with multiple phone calls and emails within a week. Instead, work (relatively) slowly to develop a deeper connection.
Ensure you’re showing respect for a potential sponsor’s time by keeping phone calls and emails brief and to the point, and consider doing research into the business’s busy and slow seasons to ensure the highest opportunity for a response.
Come Ready with the Numbers
In your initial meeting with a sponsor, come prepared with hard numbers to make your case, including information on your demographics and ticket sales. Present basic profiles on your audience archetypes, as well as their predictable behaviors, likes, interests, etc. Assure your potential sponsor that your client bases are similar, then show them how.
Additionally, finding and organizing social media and financial insights is easier than ever, and can give you the aura of a polished and prepared potential partner. All in all, giving quantifiable insight into your brand and audience will give your sponsor a clear answer to the question: is there a path forward here?
A large business will clearly have more capital and bandwidth than a smaller art company or local shop. If you’re looking to nab more than one sponsor at a time, consider tiered opportunities.
This way, you can attract more businesses and meet people where they are, instead of attempting to put sponsors into a ‘one-size-fits-all’ box. Remain flexible and you’ll reap the benefits.
Bottom Line: Make Yourself Stand Out
Depending on the size of your community, it’s safe to say that businesses and brands near you often get tapped for potential partnerships. Make sure your pitch for a strategic alliance is a step above the rest by:
- Forming organic connections and taking your time forming these relationships
- Developing an organized deck for your pitch
- Making it clear how your clients can align
- Appealing to reason with data, but emotion with client testimonials or past partnerships that can speak to your dedication
- Encouraging a lower-risk option for a partnership if a business is on the fence, or a trial period to work out the issues/anxieties
Enter On The Stage
If you’re looking for a bit more assistance in nabbing sponsors, we have you covered. On The Stage can help you present a more professional image for your theatre. A full suite of offerings includes best-in-class marketing, ticketing, audience engagement, reporting and fundraising tools and practices, that are both intuitive and expansive.
The time is now to take your theatre to the next level. Book a personalized demo today to get started.