Pro Photography Tip: Looking for Sponsorship

I’ve spent nearly fifteen years of my life working for companies that photographers approach for sponsorship. Many of my friends also work for similar companies, and my wife has spent nearly thirty years working for companies that photographers approach for sponsorship. So, I’ve got some advice if you are looking for support for your work or project. Here are 6 tips!

  1. Speak and write well about your work. You need a twenty- to thirty-second elevator pitch that is both on-point and upbeat. Clear, concise, and informational, but also a reflection of you and your personality.
  2. Avoid the “low-hanging” sponsorship fruit. If you are a Canon camera user and want to approach Canon to support your project, just know that Canon gets more requests than they can possibly support. The same applies to all the other photography-related companies. These companies are incredibly supportive, but they just can’t get to everyone. Find companies that are one or two layers removed from your project and approach them. In some cases, these companies might have never been approached to support photography, and they might not even know they are related to your work.
  3. Don’t use “exposure” as a selling point of our project. I worked for Kodak for several years, and photographers would routinely ask for film sponsorships by saying “It will be great exposure for Kodak.” At the time Kodak was one of the top-ten most recognizable brands in the world, so exposure wasn’t on their list of needs. Gaining exposure today is far easier, so bring something else to the table during your pitch.
  4. Do your research. Study the companies or people you are going after and make certain they have not sponsored something similar in the past. Study who they have supported, learn from them, and even work their sponsorships into your pitch which proves you have done your homework.

Tip number five is perhaps the most important…..

  1. Showcase ROI (return on investment). Many companies don’t want to seem this blunt, but return on their investment dollar is front-and-center on their list of demands, even if your project is about social issues, injustice, environmental concerns, etc. Proving potential financial return can quickly take your proposal from a “long shot” to a “sure thing”.

My final tip, number six, might sound a little crazy but it needs to be said.

  1. Don’t threaten the company that you are asking for sponsorship. (Yes, I just said what you think I said.) Don’t threaten the company you are asking for support. Let me explain. When I worked for Kodak, I would occasionally have someone ask for sponsorship then say “Well, if you don’t give me what I want, I’ll go to Fuji.” True story. This never works, and almost always guarantees neither company will ever sponsor anything you do. The reality is that getting sponsorship is incredibly difficult, not to mention fickle and competitive. If someone says no, don’t take the negative route and make idle threats. Just say “I totally understand, perhaps we can work together at a later date.” Send thank you notes, stay in touch and keep the dialogue going. Just because they had to say “no,” doesn’t mean they didn’t want support you.

Good luck and keep trying!

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