Update: I wrote this post initially in 2012. Seven years later, I’ve decided to update it to include player sponsorships since I’m partially involved in that space with regards to esports.
If you’re reading this, you have a blog, a podcast, or an event that you’re looking to drum up some kind of resources for. Or maybe you’re an aspiring competitive player or an up and coming streamer.
Maybe you’re an esports organization looking for some help or a guild that’s looking to ease a few financial burdens. I know how costly and expensive it can be.
One of the questions that often get asked is how do I attract and get sponsors for <something>? I can’t offer you a definitive step-by-step guide or formula on how to get sponsorship. But having been on both sides of the sponsorship question (both reviewing sponsorship requests and negotiating with companies for sponsors for events/organizations), there are a few things you really need to keep in mind to make yourself more attractive to them.
Not all sponsorship arrangements have to involve money. Instead, consider things like:
- Gaming peripherals
- Voice servers
- Guild hosting websites
- Web hosting services (For your blog or podcast)
- Discount agreements
- Other product
Know your audience
If you write a blog, do you know what the demographics of your readers are?
- How many of them are male vs female?
- How many of them are between the ages of 16 – 25?
- How many listeners does your podcast get?
- What your RSS subscriber count is?
- How many page views you get per month?
- What your top 5 most popular articles are?
Having this data is extremely important. The question you need to keep in the back of your mind is how does sponsoring you help them with their brand message?
Provide evidence and data. Interested potential sponsors will ask for data about traffic and page views. If you’re a streamer, be prepared with views and subscribers. If you’re a competitive player, have a history of events you’ve attended, the number of players and viewers that event had, and your resulting finishes.
If you stream, do you know what kind of viewers you’re attracting to watch?
If you compete at live tournaments, do you know the general makeup of those in attendance?
Case Study: World of Matticus
Not many of you may remember this, but years ago I came really close to shutting down WoM. Hosting bills were gradually climbing up. It got to the point where I almost had to pay $300 a month to keep the site going. Luckily, I was able to negotiate a web hosting sponsorship. Having traffic information allowed the two of us to come to an agreement because they were able to allocate the necessary resources needed as the audience (in other words, you guys) continued to scale and grow.
Know your sponsors
What is the goal of the company you want to partner with? Are they trying to raise subscriptions? Are they gunning for increased awareness and exposure? Do you know what kind of players are interested in their products? If you have an idea of what their sales goals are, you can help factor that in with your proposal in how you can help them with their challenges.
Companies have a bottom line they need to adhere to. Hardware companies are looking for conversions from visibility to sales (that’s why you’ll see streamers offer discount codes). Subscription-based companies are looking for people to sign up for long term offers. While it would be great if businesses could sponsor every potential up-and-coming player to help with their growth and development, it simply isn’t going to be financially feasible.
The company I’m involved with sponsors a number of local players that attend major events like Dreamhack and EVO throughout the year. We’re not always in a position where we can fly out every local player who shows promise. At the end of the day, results do matter. One of our measurable goals is eyeballs and exposure. In order to raise the odds of our players appearing on stream, they need to be competitive and they have to consistently perform at a high level.
For Hearthstone, we cover the flights and accommodation of a few of our local players when they made the Americas playoffs or when they attended certain HCT Points earnings events because we believed they had what it took to play at the level expected. If those players hadn’t made high finishes, then we might scale back on the number of events that they get sent out to throughout the year. While we would love to send everyone locally to major events, we can’t afford to. Like it or not, we’re a business, and we don’t have a limitless supply of resources.
What can you offer?
Business is still business. You need to be able to exchange value for value. How can you ensure that your sponsor’s message reaches the desired audience? There are a few ways you can do that.
One of the easiest methods is to place a logo and a link to your sponsors anyone on your site. Graphical banners do the job. Logos can be placed in the site header. Another good spot is to place them on the background image of the site (and it’ll appear prominently to anyone on widescreen monitors).
If you have a podcast, mention here and there (“We’d like to thank our sponsors …”).
If you run a livestream, place their logo on the stream itself somewhere out of the way or change the background image of the page your stream is on to reflect them. You could even run video ads during a break while you step away.
Work with videos? Place their logo at the front or at the end of your productions.
Attending events in person? Have any custom gear? See if you can get their brand embedded on your shirts or jerseys. If you get selected to go on stream, this provides tremendous value.
Does your guild run a ton of pickup raids or organized PvP? If your group gets a ton of pickup or cross realm traffic, create a message of the day in Ventrilo (or Discord) that mentions them. Consider changing the name of the waiting room channel. Think of different methods to help your sponsors with their message.
Case study: Fnatic and Team 3D
A long time ago, Fnatic.RaidCall changed the name of their organization to help draw awareness to Raidcall. Almost a decade ago, when Counterstrike Source was at its height, I believe Team 3D changed their in-game tags from 3D.KSharp to 3D.nVidia :: Ksharp. This was during the finals of one of the CPL events where thousands of players were watching the game live. Can you imagine the exposure nVidia received?
The ability to change gamer tags to incorporate your sponsor is huge.
Sponsors will associate with organizations that project a certain image that they are trying to appeal to. Be mindful of the targeted demographic that they are trying to reach. Be mindful of any negative or abusive language. Adjust your tone so that it falls in line with what your ideal sponsors are looking for.
Case study: Capcom and Tekken
There was an incident several years ago when rampant trash talking between two competitors during a match resulted in one of them dropping out. Miranda forfeited due to mental distress from the verbal abuse that Aris was delivering. Penny Arcade had an excellent editorial piece (post since removed) about some of that verbal abuse. I pulled off a double take when that same individual then said that “The sexual harassment is part of the culture [and] if you remove that from the fighting game community, it’s not the fighting game community”. While I don’t know if there was any fallout after those comments were made, I’m pretty sure potential sponsors would be wary of associating with any organizations with that type of mentality.
Make sure you have a way to help your sponsors measure any positive benefits. Can’t attract any sponsors unless they can determine how well the exposure is doing them for them. One such example would be a customized link which tracks how many referrals came from your site and how many of those referrals signed up for a product or service.
If you were on stream, take a snapshot of the number of people that happened to watch you live or make a note of the number of views a video that featured you had. You need quantifiable information in order to justify having a productive relationship with your sponsors. When we send a player to attend a tournament, we need to evaluate the event in question and see if it makes sense for us. Sending a player to a tournament with 50 competitors doesn’t make sense, but sending a player to one with 500 players matters because we have the potential to attract more eyeballs for roughly the same amount of investment (the travel costs).
When you work on a contractual agreement with yourself and a sponsor, make sure you list everything measurable that you can do for them. Examples could include:
- 5 tweets per week
- 2 shoutouts per stream
- 3 mentions on Instagram within 4 weeks
- A video talking about your experience with their product or event
Look out for them
Your job is to ensure that your sponsors are taken care of. Help them out with whatever they need. Make sure you deliver on the terms that you have agreed upon. Cultivate those long term relationships. Get and provide feedback on what worked and what didn’t. If you’re running an event such as a tournament, invite them out again next year while the whole ordeal remains in the front of their minds.
Most importantly, remember to thank them!
Good luck in your efforts!