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Working with Sponsors

Why do you want to be sponsored?

Straight cash, homie.

But seriously, why do you want to be sponsored?

One of the challenges streamers face is the lack of a predictable income.  A sponsor can help by sending a monthly paycheck in exchange for helping to market their brand. Examples of this include:

  • Product Showcasing. A sponsor may ask you to use their product on-air or make mention of their product in a variety of ways. Sponsors are also known to send free product to streamers for these activities as well!
  • Product Endorsement. You may be asked to submit written or recorded reviews of the sponsor's product and include links to and from your social media accounts.
  • Special Events. Although rare, there may be times where you'll be asked to participate in a sponsor's event or help create awareness of their brand while you are attending an industry convention.

Beyond the money, there is also the opportunity with the right brand partners for enhanced exposure and growth. There are many ways in which sponsors could help expand your audience and get involved with other sponsors' activities, so do your best to maintain good relationships with everyone you meet in the industry. Success can just be a handshake away!

Common types of sponsorship

There are many types of sponsorships, and every contract is unique. Here are three of the most common examples:

  • Full Sponsorship. This includes a contract, often lasting one year or more, where the company pays you a monthly paycheck in exchange for certain endorsements and deliverables.
  • Partnerships. This can mean anything from a one-time product gift from the company, to an appearance for a company at an event. As soon as you successfully deliver at one event, you can use it as a springboard case study to pitch yourself to more brands.
  • Affiliateships. These typically do not include an upfront stipend, but can include free products and commission from sales you drive for the company.

All three can be valuable for streamers at different points in their journeys. The expectations and type of compensation you receive vary depending on the company's needs and your ability to deliver in terms of views, impressions, sales, or overall hype. Once you have your foot in the door and can prove yourself valuable to sponsors, it will be easier to score more lucrative sponsorship as you expand your influence.

Identifying potential sponsors

When choosing a brand to partner with, there are important factors to consider:

  • Does this sponsor's brand jive with my personal online brand or identity?
    Authenticity is key! If you don't love the product or company, it won't be long until your audience will pick up on this.
  • Don't shoot for the biggest company first.
    Look for small or mid-size companies in the beginning, and don't be afraid to think outside the box. Some streamers are sponsored by local coffee roasters, fitness gear and supplement companies, pet accessories, etc. If there's a product you love and use, there might be a future partnership there! Need LASIK eye surgery? It's not unheard of for a streamer to get services for free in exchange for social media postings.
  • Consider leveraging existing relationships.
    Are there any companies where you already have a connection? Yes, we're talking about your college roommate who now owns a screen-printing shop or microbrewery.

Start small and build a successful track record of delivering on your commitments to small companies, then you can turn those into case studies to demonstrate value to bigger companies.

How to reach out to sponsors

If your goal is to earn sponsorships, you'll need to meet representatives from companies who may be interested in you. For this, there are typically two venues which include in-person and online interactions.

Industry events

These are often the best way to make an initial connection with potential sponsors. Representatives from major brands are always in attendance at PAX or Gamescom and ready to meet community members. Afterall, it's what they're there for! While preparing for events, we recommend the following tips:

  • Business cards. Creating business cards and get ready to give them to company representatives. Be sure to only give them to people you really connect with. Representatives might not take you seriously if you're passing them out to everyone on the convention floor.
  • Social media. Before and after the event, be sure to tag the event on your social media posts and help make your presence known. Twitter is also a great place to connect once you've met representatives in-person.
  • Dress for success. Do you have an iconic look? Are you as recognizable in-person as you are online? Consider these factors when meeting industry folks. Also prepare for a long day. Conventions can get warm so stay hydrated and bring a kit to ensure you're keeping it fresh.

Online introductions

Sometimes you're not able to meet a target sponsor at an event. Whether you've met a sponsor in-person or not, here are best practices for email contact:

  • DO your research online. DON'T email a random person at the company.
    Use internet sleuthing to find the person directly in charge of partnerships or someone who supports them that can help guide the conversation. If you cannot locate a specific person, consider reaching out to their marketing department as a first step. Avoid emailing random members of the company, especially VPs and CEOs. First impressions are important, and you don't want to be labeled a nuisance.
  • DO be polite and enthusiastic. DON'T be rude or presumptuous.
    This should go without saying, but always showcase your best self and be kind to representatives from potential sponsors. Remember that even if it's a no today, it could be a yes later down the line. If you have a disagreement or complaint with a contact, do your best to state the problem as objectively as possible and ask for their assistance in making it right. While negotiations may not always go the way you'd like, people are always more inclined to help you if it's a reasonable ask rather than an outright demand.
  • DO prepare a pitch. DON'T exaggerate your stats.
    A pitch is a deck (usually in the form of a PowerPoint presentation) that includes stream stats, social media impressions/interaction, and other important information that showcases your value as a potential sponsor asset. Be sure to keep it honest! It's great to say, "I average 100-150 viewers, and frequently peak at 200." Even if you peak at 200 every day, don't claim it as your average. If they pop by your stream unannounced, you don't want them to see below the amount expected. (For more tips on developing a successful pitch, check out this article).
  • DO prepare individual emails for each sponsor. DON'T recycle the exact same email.
    Before hitting that "send" button for the first time, ask a friend to review your email for tone and clarity. Be sure it is clear what you're asking for, whether that's a sponsorship or a product for you to unbox on-stream. While it's fine to use a general template, be sure to customize the emails for each brand representative. Each company has different needs, so do your research and prepare your proposal or request accordingly. Finally, don't promise more than you can deliver. Keep it reasonable and then shoot for the stars. You'll find more success that way in the end.

What's in a contract? And how do I know if it's fair?

We can't give legal advice, so if you're needing assistance we recommend consulting an attorney.

Here are some general tips you may want to consider:

  • Read the contract. Be sure you have read and understand the entire contract before signing.
  • Ask questions. Don't be afraid to question anything that makes you feel uncomfortable or is unclear. Sponsors should be willing to answer your questions.
  • Perform online research. There are plenty of discussion boards and other forms of social media where streamers discuss matters related to sponsorship. While it will not be an adequate substitute for personalized legal advice, it might give you a place to start before consulting an attorney or asking questions of a prospective sponsor.

Best practices from industry insiders

Below we've included tips from some notable figures in the industry:

  • "The more companies work in the space, the more they'll learn that fit is more important than size. On a recent activation, the person with the highest audience engagement (number of clicks through to the product page) had 1/5 the audience of the biggest person on the campaign." - Jennifer Dariani
  • "Never compare yourself. Especially in the context of, 'I have x many more viewers than this person you currently work with, or x many followers.' You don't know how long that company has been working with said person or their relationship. Don't do it." -Melissa Mok
  • "Build relationships with people you like, not just with people you think can do things for you. Someone you bump into at PAX East could have a job in partnerships by PAX West. The best way in can be through a personal recommendation or existing relationships." - Nick Bourne
  • "When someone asks for [an affiliateship], I expect to hear some selling points and confidence. When their main pitch is simply because I should 'support the little guys,' I'm pretty much like, NEXT! I'm not saying you have to be a huge content creator to put yourself out there, but have a little pride in what you do. Tell me what you can offer, not what you think you're entitled to because you're looking for a break." - Clara Sia
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