Sponsorship and Endorsement Deals

Consider what sponsors are looking for: exposure and a desire to use their product or service. They also want to make sure their product and your music and level of professionalism match.


Let's face it: unless you're a cover band or signed to a major label, it can be tough to make a living playing your original music at local clubs and venues. Between gas, hotels, flat tires, junk food, and beer, touring can be expensive…and you may not make enough with your cut of the door to cover the expenses you rack up on the road, let alone have enough to pay the rent when you get home.

Major acts with major tours have major sponsors, like Michael Jackson and Pepsi. Most signed acts get free or discounted instruments, strings, and equipment in exchange for their endorsement of these products. While you may not get Pepsi to bankroll your tour if you're not a multi-platinum selling act, and Martin guitars may not ask you to endorse their products unless you're John Mayer, that doesn't mean that sponsorship and endorsement opportunities are available only for the already famous.

Millions of dollars are spent by companies each year in sponsorship/endorsement fees, tour support, artist advertising, and merchandising. Touring is expensive and sponsorships help cut tour costs. Companies may underwrite tour expenses and include product tie-ins, special-product CD premiums, or in-store appearances by artists, backed by print/TV/radio campaigns. So, whether you're signed to a label or not, here are some tips for how to get sponsors and endorsement deals.

How to Find Sponsors

Think about products and services you use every day in your business and personal life (i.e., musical instruments, strings, gear and equipment, personal health products, travel companies [air, car rental, hotels, travel agencies], touring vehicle/gasoline, food/beverage, clothing, office equipment) and the brands, stores, companies, manufacturers, or dealers that make or sell those products. Perhaps you have a family member, friend, fan, or local businesses owner who would love to support your music career and/or has a more direct relationship with your unique audience (i.e., a local car dealer may hook you up with a tour van or serious discount if you play in one of his ads or agree to the van being wrapped with his logo). Check out conferences, trade shows, and organizations such as the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) that might make it easy to check out and approach a number of potential sponsors or endorsement partners.

Consider what sponsors are looking for: exposure and a desire to use their product or service. They also want to make sure their product and your music and level of professionalism match. Look for an interesting way or "hook" to connect yourself with some of these items and the company associated with them.

Prepare a Sponsorship Proposal

Once you have an idea of products and services, pick the ones you most uniquely identify with and, put on your marketing hat and consider how you might approach these companies with a sponsorship or endorsement proposal. The goal is to make yourself appear as professional as possible, convey how this will benefit the sponsor, and get a meeting to discuss your proposal. Your detailed, well-written proposal should include information such as:

  • who you are and what your unique relationship is with the company's product
  • what you have to offer the company (average size, age, general interests, and average income of your audience, where you play, etc.; think "consumers," "product demographic," and "target market")
  • what you want from the company (money, product, services, sponsorship for a specific multi-state tour, single event, etc.)
  • potentially approach different sponsors for different towns/events/themes (i.e., tour of local breweries in the Midwest; free or discounted hotel rooms or ads in exchange for displaying the logo of the hotel or media provider)
  • potentially create sponsorship levels with varying sponsor benefits such as promo/ad mentions or signed CD/private concert/shout out in liner notes
  • what are your expenses? (break down by week)
  • what you will do for the company (place their logo on all your promo/ads, record commercial for product, mention product at shows)

You will also want to include a personalized cover letter and a promo kit that includes your bio, CD, tour schedule, photos, references, and press.

Contacting Sponsors

Find contact information for advertising, marketing, or PR departments of large companies or ad agencies, and, preferably, the specific person handling sponsorships. Company and other Web sites, such as sponsorship.com, often have this information. You may want to send a CD or specific song to someone whose product you like or use, or a radio or TV show, especially if you have a song that would go well with their product. Contact the company, send them your proposal, and follow up in three to four weeks. Remember, there's a fine line between being persistent and annoying…and it may take months for a company to make decision, so give them time and be professional. If you are successful at obtaining sponsorships or endorsement deals, you should have a written agreement and get an attorney involved in the process at this point (if not sooner).

This article discusses some issues that you may want to consider if you are engaging in activities in the entertainment industry. There is no such thing as a "standard" contract, so please consult with an attorney who has industry experience for advice regarding your particular needs and issues.


| Danica L. Mathes is an entertainment and intellectual property attorney with Blackwell Sanders Peper Martin LLP and an adjunct professor of entertainment law at Washington University School of Law in St. Louis. For more information, contact Danica at dmathes@blackwellsanders.com. If you have topics you'd like to see addressed in future columns, let us know at contact@playbackstl.com.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply