My Story a.k.a Don’t Repeat My Mistakes
When I first planned the crowdfunding campaign for The Secret Lives of Public Servants, I assumed this would be an automatic win-win for the web series and local businesses. The series cast is all based in Ottawa (Canada’s National Capital), where an enormous portion of public servants reside. Considering that I was planning each episode around a different public servant with an unusual/extraordinary hobby, I thought that local businesses with clients related to the hobby (ex. a comic book store for the cosplayer episode) would be keen on having their name presented in the opening credits of each episode, as in “sponsored by”.
Here’s where I went wrong:
I assumed the idea alone was guaranteed to attract eyeballs and interest from media and potential contributors.
I didn’t have a pilot episode, trailer or a proof of concept to show what the end product would look like.
Without the above, it doesn’t seem in hindsight very realistic that a business would donate funds to have their name shown in the opening credits. What did surprise me, however, was when I learned that many local businesses would be happy to provide resources in lieu of funds. For example, a local acting studio offered the use of their space for filming and a local comic con offered free tickets to their next event.
How to Approach a Sponsor (Case Study)
Using our first sponsor Escape Manor as an example, here are some thoughts to consider if you do approach a local business (and I emphasize local, because local businesses are usually supportive of community initiatives) for sponsorship:
- Is there a potential link between your web series’ audience and the local business’ clientele?
Escape Manor is a facility where you are locked in a theme room with your friends and have to solve a series of puzzles and clues in order to find the key and escape within 45 minutes. Public servants are usually trapped in their offices from 9-5 and I thought, a gift certificate to Escape Manor could be a fun way to symbolically “escape” from the 9-5.
- Do you have an acquaintance or connection to the local business owner to foster a connection? This allows immediate trust to be established, so use those secondary connections, if available.
In this case I did not have any initial connection. However, I did leverage the fact that I had been to Escape Manor as a client and enjoyed the experience.
- If the above does not apply, who is the owner of the local business and what is the most direct email address available to reach them?
This was very straightforward, as the contact information is available on Escape Manor’s website. In the future, however, I would have done a Google search to directly connect with the founder and perhaps look up their contact information on LinkedIn, or any other available resources.
Contacting the Sponsor
Once you’ve reviewed the above, it is time to draft a personalized email! My go-to is an email, because I am more confident in writing and because I know I won’t miss including any pertinent details. If you prefer to connect in-person or by phone, the below points still apply. Remember to default to a formal and professional tone and aim to get to the point as quickly and directly as possible.
Here is what to include in your outreach:
Mention if you were referred by a mutual acquaintance
Who you are, what the web series you are working on is about (provide images, a link to a website or episode, etc.) and why you are reaching out to them (this is a good time to identify the link to their client base)
What you are requesting, is it sponsorship in the form of funds or specific resources? List some ideas for potential resources
If you have already established successful sponsorships with other companies, mention their names (again, establish credibility and trust)
What can you offer in exchange for the sponsorship (ie featuring their logo on offline and online promotional materials)
Offer the option to discuss further how to create a win-win relationship
Remember, you can’t receive if you don’t ask, so don’t be afraid to put yourself or the web series out there! If you have had any luck with sponsorships yourself, feel free to provide more input and ideas in the comments below.