8 Steps to Get Sponsored in Esports: Teams, Tournaments, Streamers & Players

I’ve spoken with and worked with a multitude of grassroots esports organizations, and one theme seems to be consistent: so many of these organizations fail to get sponsorships. Even if their metrics justify it, esports teams, esports tournaments, streams and esports players all seem to struggle so much with getting sponsored.

In the past, I’ve helped guide a number of individuals in leveraging their current assets and resources to help them get sponsorships. One endeavour where I helped further this is through our “Introduction to Sponsorship Workshop” on the Esport How Discord server (click here to join).

I won’t make you wait! Here is the 8 step process to getting sponsored in esports as an esports team, tournament, streamer or player:

  1. Understanding Your Brand and Inventory
  2. Understanding Good Business Matches
  3. Outreach to Prospective Sponsors
  4. Having the Discovery Call
  5. Following-Ups With Prospective Sponsors
  6. Having the Pitch with Sponsors
  7. Closing and Securing the Sponsor
  8. Executing on the Activation and Building a Long-Term Relationship

In this article, I laid out exactly the process of recruiting sponsors. This isn’t like the other guides that speak all theory without any good examples or practical applications. I hate those. No, this guide will show you what you actually need to do, step by step (8 steps to be exact), to find sponsors that may actually want to do business with you, understanding how to control the conversations, how persistency equals results, how to close sponsors and how to execute on activations.

I will provide practical tools you can use, and I have used them in the past with great success. I’ll show you mistakes that others have made and what you can proactively do to avoid them.

So what are you waiting for? Read on and take your brand and business to the next level!

NOTE: As my most requested article, I knew I had to post this soon. However, this article started to become excessively long, already exceeding my quota by the USP section. For that reason, beyond that point, I had to cut out a lot of good information to even have this posted.

I will be looking to turn this article into a full-fledged course as its content is very valuable and it’s extensively thorough (with a lot of good business practices). If you are interested in being notified once it’s released, click here to signup. I will ONLY notify you about the course to ensure you are informed when it comes out.

The course will provide the following:

  • Everything in Video Format with Condensed Bullet Points Summaries and More Specific Detailed Information on Each Step
  • Sponsorship Agreement Financial Value Evaluation Methods and Tactics
  • Case Study Examples With Step-by-Step Support
  • Sales Tactics Included to Best Help You Get Into Discussion and Secure a Sponsor
  • Different Tools and Tactics to Help You Be Efficient During Your Research Process
  • Provide Standardized Questions to Ask Prospective Sponsors to Best Help You Understand What They Want
  • Closing Tactics
  • How to Customize Your Deck Depending On The Sponsor
  • More Information on the Evaluation Process
  • Full and In-Depth Course-Videos on Building and Executing on Activations, Providing Good Metrics to a Sponsor
  • Insider Information on Contracts and Defending Yourself With Contract Terminations and Payment Issues
  • How to Provide Additional Value to Sponsors and Garner Long Term Relationships
  • Providing All Locked Information From This Article

If you aren’t interested, that’s fine! The information here is extremely valuable and it’s significantly longer than our typical article. I hope you enjoy! If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to uzair.hasan@esporthow.com.

Table of Contents show

Why Esports Organizations Need Sponsorships

Okay, I may slow you down a bit before we jump into the meat of the conversation. If you want to jump directly ahead to the actual process, scroll below. Otherwise, I want to really communicate the importance of sponsorships in esports and why you likely feel like you aren’t making major progress in creating a business without it. I will provide the exact reason why that is and what you want to do with and beyond sponsorships to start taking your dream idea into a functioning business.

So why do you need sponsorships? Simply put, the esports industry is only an industry because of sponsorships.

Let’s look at some data provided by Newzoo on the revenue sources in the esports industry.

As you can see, the sponsorships generate about 58% of total esports revenue, but you have to remember that the esports industry is made up of much more than just a team or a player (streamer revenue wouldn’t be included in what’s above, but this still applies to them to a smaller degree).

All the money in esports is for top-tier esports teams, players and tournaments. But you still can make good money in esports without being top tier, but some sources are cut off from you. Chances are, as a non-tier 1 tournament organizer, you aren’t selling media rights (teams and players don’t even have that option).

Not to mention everyone here, you aren’t making publisher fees (as you aren’t publishers). Sure, with those changes, the streaming revenue % and merchandising revenue % will increase, but sponsorships will make about 80% of all revenue in esports!

Now, consider your business/brand. Think about the current viewership impressions, community involvement and success you’d have. How much money did you make? Probably not much, if anything (most grassroots operate at a loss).

One part is you likely aren’t looking to make money generally (an overall mistake if you want to have a business), but you are missing out on sponsorships which will make 80% of your revenue. You could be making a few thousand per year from sponsors, which sure isn’t a lot, but it will start giving you some capital to reinvest in the business and provide exponential growth.

You’ll be able to afford influencer marketing or top-tier players, or maybe invest in a new marketing campaign or for an esports business strategist that can point you in the right direction. It takes money to make money! Sure, sweat equity can take you places, but it can only go so far.

Image result for exponential growth business

Think about all the esports teams and tournament organizers there are out there. Many fail to understand this concept and as a result, their growth plateaus and they struggle to understand why.

And once money starts coming in, it creates a sense of motivation for your team. People get excited; they realize this is a legit business. That further adds to your acceleration to add to your exponential growth.

 

The image above is a real business. It starts off slow and explodes once you start building the foundation and make the right moves.

Your next move is sponsorship revenue and reinvesting in your business. Thankfully, you came to the right place. Now, let’s get you ready to win sponsors and dominate your market share and beyond!

The Sponsorship Recruitment Process

The process of getting sponsorship is actually a very logical approach, but there are many business formalities that you need to be aware of. This transcends the esports industry, so you can apply this process to all industries that incorporate sponsorships.

To gather sponsors, there are a few methods to go about it (a few others are mentioned below), but this is the best method for securing large sponsors. The downside is that there is more time investment and work required from some of the alternatives, but to win the big dollars for sponsorships, the time investment is required. This method also has higher conversion/success rates across the board:

Let me break it down a bit.

Research: Understand first your own company. Understand what you have to offer as an organization to prospects and what your overall identity is (step 1). Once you have a firm understanding there, you’d next need to understand your prospective companies (step 2). What engagements and sponsorships have they been involved in? How does their mission and values align with us? What are their current focuses? This researching process is furthered in the conversation phase (step 4).

Outreach: Once you’ve done your research and understand how this sponsorship would be a good fit for all parties (steps 1 – 2), you’d want to reach out to the sponsor THE RIGHT WAY (step 3)! I’m so tired of seeing grassroots esports organizations trying to reach out to companies for sponsorship through the first random company email they find and fail to leverage all the resources available to them. Sponsors see that as unprofessionalism, but we will speak more about that in step 3.

Conversation: This is the longest phase in this process, and sometimes you’d feel like you are in limbo just having conversation after conversation with no closer to the pitch. You’d want to first enter what is known as a discovery phase to further understand the company and its current values in addition to the research you already did (step 4). From there, you’d be doing what is known as follow-ups to keep your company in mind as the prospect looks to allocate their budgets later in the year (step 5). The conversation phase and the pitching phases are WHAT CHANGE between the alternative methods for sponsorship acquisition (so steps 4 and 5 in the case of this guide). You can modify these as you feel on a case-by-case basis, as we will explain below.

Pitching: The prospective sponsor is interested and they want to hear what you have to offer and your pricing (step 6). You will prepare your pitch and any pitching material to communicate with your point of contact and their team on why they want to partner with you and your vision for the activation.

Closing: You said your pitch. By the time you have said your pitch, it should be almost completely refined after your conversation phase (something that also differs between sponsorship acquisition processes). Assuming it’s the best you can do, create a sense of urgency, set a date to finalize the partnership and set a few more follow-up emails to lock this sucker up (step 7)! Once they give the okay, get that contract signed and make sure you have clear communication on when the money is due and how it’ll be provided. GET THE MONEY BEFORE THE EXECUTION (further explained in step 7, just a headache I’m well aware of).

Execute: HURRAY! You got the partnership! But you can’t relax yet; you need to over-deliver on your partnership and provide activations so good that the sponsor wants to resign for future projects. This is known in sales as “farming”, and you want to ensure you keep the best possible relationship to ensure a steady form of income through a trusted partnership (step 8).

Now that you understand this process let’s talk about the alternatives to what I outlined above.

One thing I’d like to note before you start the process of gathering sponsors. Trust the process, you don’t have to be perfect, nor can you be. Sponsorships are hard to come by, it requires a lot of work on your part and you will fail a lot! You will have so many denials, many companies won’t reply and some will destroy your confidence.

That’s okay, you need to understand that this happens to everyone, even professional sponsorships recruiters that do this full time. Keep working at it and you will become better at it.

Alternative Sponsorship Processes

Just to provide a quick overview here, although the course would break these up in much more depth, there are a handful of alternative methods you can use to approach sponsorships that are more applicable depending upon the specific context and situation.

For example, one of these different approaches is negating the conversation process and incorporating that into your pitch. 

This process generally works between for much smaller deals, but I’m not a big fan of this as many sponsors don’t want to take you up on your offer at this particular moment but are willing to do so once they enter into the next quarter, get a new project that aligns with your services or gain a larger budget.

This process is helpful, however, in removing typical wasted time during the conversation process and gets you right down to business. This process works exceptionally well when you are limited on time, let’s say sponsorship for an esports event that is short on time, and long-term relationships aren’t your focus.

By using this method, however, don’t expect any large sponsorships and do still expect follow-up calls, although they will be significantly more fast pace and a lot more hard business-focused.

The next process of achieving sponsorships is actually one endorsed by Major League Hacking for hackathon leagues, where the student-run organizations don’t typically have the time or manpower to go through a very lengthy sponsorship outreach process.

Nor do they have any real value in farming or nurturing leads in the short term. From my experience, more matured hackathon leagues grow and expand on this methodology, but the fundamentals stay the same.

In this process, the sponsee creates a general-purpose sponsorship package with limited customization in the package itself. This package is then sent to the sponsor upon or before the initial phone call.

From there, negotiations will occur and unique activations will be discussed, but in the context of falling under one of the sponsee’s sponsorship tiers already provided.

The pitch is basically removed because your pitch takes place when you are providing that sponsorship package and having a conversation around that.

Upon closing, the actual tiers you provide will typically have slightly altered evaluations based on the prior discussion (in my experience, the sponsor always asks for lower than what you wrote in the package).

This process works well for hackathons and seems to be pretty good for student-run initiatives. I’ve also seen this type of sponsorship process sometimes being used by nonprofits and colleges looking for sponsors.

Whenever I look at this type of process, I typically see more success when people alter this slightly where the prospectus excludes a tier list and instead just provide general metrics and opportunities. But still after the conversation, under this process, a borderline tier list is provided (sometimes with altered costs, not mostly not).

The methodology I will be preaching here has the highest success rate out of all the processes and is great for long term sponsorship nurturing but comes at the cost of massive time investments, understanding of sales, requiring a lot of practice and should be used when looking at having long term relationships for a long term business venture.

If you are looking for sponsorships just for your one-time esports tournament, this process will still work, but I’d opt into one of the other 2 above.

That said, this guide will still help you achieve both of those processes, as for the most part, they all follow similar building blocks, just with variations of what is done when and slight variations in how.

But I know most of the readers are looking to run an esports tournament hosting business, an esports team or a committed streamer looking to get sponsorships for the long term.

Terminology

Below are some terms in the sponsorship realm you should be aware of:

Endemic Sponsor – A sponsor that creates products that are directly involved in the industry and is typically an avid sponsor in that industry (esports: PC hardware, energy drink).

Nonendemic Sponsor – A sponsor that isn’t directly linked or actively involved in that industry (esports: car manufacturer).

In-Kind – When a sponsor provides goods, services, expertise or cash equivalents instead of paying cash.

Return on Investment (ROI) – The ratio between the cost of an investment (time or money) vs the net profit.

Key Performance Indicator (KPI or KPIs for plural) – A quantifiable measure to determine the success of an objective.

Unique Selling Proposition (USP) – Benefits that distinguish itself from its competitors and alternative product/service solutions.

Sponsorship Activation – The services provided by a sponsee. These services are to be activated upon, so they are known as activations.

Now then, I think you are now ready to walk through the steps. It took some reading to get here, but man is there a massive body of content waiting for you below. You may not want to read through it in one visit, but be sure to follow the process and the results will come!

1. Understanding Your Brand and Inventory

I keep making you wait before starting your sponsorship but I need you to take 1 step backwards to move 3 steps forward. Let’s reflect on your company, your business, your brand, your metrics, your vision and your mission. Let’s focus on you.

Sponsors aren’t working with your viewers, they aren’t working with your social media, they are working with you.

Your Unique Selling Proposition

Furthermore, you need to realize that a sponsor can work with any company! There will always be businesses with better metrics than you. There will be companies with better activations, better pricing, highest costs, lowest costs, etc. So you need to think about why they’d want to partner with you.

That’s where your Unique Selling Proposition comes in (USP). Your USP is the same reason why your consumers consume your products over other teams/tournaments/streams/players.

Your USP will be how you stand out from your competitors. If you think back to what I mentioned about your consumers, perhaps they consume your product/service because of your location. Maybe you tailor your products to their demographics. Perhaps you marketed yourself in a way that they were aware of your products/services and not of your competitors.

Using different USPs (or the same in some instances) to determine how you may best sell yourself to sponsors and will help you to best understand which companies would be the best to reach out and build a partnership with. More on that in step 2, but below I’ll break down some areas of your brand that can constitute a USP (in no particular order).

USP From Your Mission and Vision

Just like any business, you need to have a specific mission and vision your brand is looking to accomplish. I don’t want to spend too much time on how to build a mission and vision if you don’t have one already, but I’ll throw some examples below:

We are a professional esports organization dedicated to industry growth, developing the global gaming market, and supporting professional gamers at the highest level for greater success

Lazarus Esports’ About Page

G2 Esports is one of the leading entertainment assets in esports, bringing together some of the best competitive players in the world and biggest personalities in gaming.

G2 Esports’ About Page

100 Thieves (“Hundred Thieves”) is a premium lifestyle brand and gaming organization. Built at the intersection of competitive gaming, entertainment, and apparel…

100 Thieves’ About Page

These quotes I pulled above aren’t amazing, I’d be the first to admit, but they actually speak volumes to the USP of each of these companies.

Lazarus Esports is pridefully Canada’s first esports team, something they boast about often. As a result, their USP is that they are industry leaders and the top esports team in Canada.

G2 Esports is known as samurais, warriors (relating to their brand), and as a result, they are a powerful European team looking to compete only at the highest levels of gaming in all that they are involved in.

100 Thieves started off not as an esports team but rather as a fashion clothing line. Their sponsorship activations are always flashy, strong and incorporate the best of a gamer’s lifestyle into it, which is extremely valuable to a sponsor.

Now, let me ask you, what makes your team/tournament/stream/self (for a player’s case) different than your competitors? What do you stand for and fight for? What do your consumers and audience know you as? Are you badasses that break the rules when you need to? Are you more of a community-family based org looking to help their community and nonprofits?

Having your mission as USP when it aligns with your sponsor (which we will talk about in step 2) is exceptionally powerful!

USP From Your Branding

I could speak about this section in-depth, but I actually already have an article that covers this (7 Steps to Making An Esports Logo For Teams, Streams & Orgs). Let me give a quick overview here and I’ll incorporate the other article as well.

For branding, how does your branding make you unique, and moreover build a relationship with your sponsor? To learn more about this, read step 2 from the article linked above (2. Consider strategic positioning and alignment with values) and for more info on the topic mentioned above, read step 1 (1. Understand your brand’s mission and values). Below I’ll add a quick snippet from it:

This alignment is not a necessity, but it creates a unique selling proposition (USP). Think about it. Why would a sponsor pay money to one team and not another?

It’s a multitude of factors, from the team, their positioning in gaming communities, the publicity and current projects of the team, but it’s largely on their strategy from that point forward and how both brands can align themselves to mutually benefit each other while achieving both parties’ mission.

The logo is just one small piece of that puzzle, but a fairly valuable one if you can get it right and position yourself somewhere that other esports teams haven’t.

Not to mention that you don’t want your two logos to clash and inevitably repeal each other. If your logos complement each other, that also helps to sell yourselves during “the ask”.

Click Here to Read More (it’s very well written and will be helpful with good examples)

USP From Your Metrics

Look at your metrics and determine how your metrics compare with your competitors. Perhaps they aren’t exceptionally high but your growth is massive. Sponsors want to build relationships with individuals that are growing because if you can get in with someone when they have lower metrics, you can usually get a really good price on sponsorships for when they do scale up.

Perhaps you have really high minutes watched or your viewers peak during a certain time (that would be perfect for activations). To learn more about your metrics, I’d recommend checking out Twitch Tracker and Social Blade. Each platform should also have its own internal metrics gathering interface that will provide you useful insights.

It’s also great to understand where your metrics are coming from. Certain high metrics in one game could be equivalent to lower metrics in another game. It depends on how refined the demographics are, the competition for that game and how that game title aligns with your prospective sponsor/s.

USP From Your Demographics and Psychographics

An obvious one is your demographics and psychographics. A sponsor may want in with you because 50% of your viewers are from a target location that the company is looking to ship a new product for. Or maybe the main age you garner, let’s say older males, maybe the demographic the sponsor is looking to attract but fails to do so.

USP From Your Administrative Team

When investors look for companies to invest in, they aren’t only looking at your business idea or methodology. Most businesses fail, but most business ideas aren’t terrible nor amazing. What really matters if the administrative team is passionate, competent and truly seems like they can pull it off.

The same can be said for sponsorships, where a sponsorship activation and the associated event/season/stream could be a hit-or-miss. They may pay $10,000 but get $1,000 in marketing due to poor execution or even worst, bad publicity. 

Meanwhile, if they saw you as a competent team that has had success with previous sponsorship activations or are extremely skilled in a particular skill that can bolster the activation, that $10,000 could easily blow up to a much larger financial gain for the sponsor.

Your team and experience will matter, but if you have a certain experience that far exceeds what people would normally see, be it a specific skill or successful previous sponsorship activation experience, that will really support in differentiating yourself from your competitors.

Even if your competitors have a better overall offering than you, if you can prove that you can do it better and yield a higher ROI for the sponsor, they’d choose you over the latter (or both, they aren’t limited by any means besides their budget).

Building Out Your Inventory and Activation Flexibility

Note: Activation Flexibility is not a real term in sponsorships, it’s simply something I’m using for this guide. Don’t sound like a fool by saying this term to others assuming its a common term :)))

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Short Notes:

  • Figure out what makes you unique or that can be a very valuable asset to a company (particularly one with close competitors fighting for marketshare)
  • Streamers and players execute on sponsorships better when they personally enjoy the products and actually use it
  • Here is a fake example:

2. Understanding Good Business Matches

At this point, you should be really clear on your branding and the sphere of activations you can possibly do. Now, we really want to look at good matches overall. There are a few key factors that play in good business matches, but I want to preface this section with the fact that you will need to be very open-minded with the possibilities and possible collaborations.

Just because a sponsor or type of company isn’t already sponsoring in esports doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t be open to the idea if a good opportunity presents itself. In fact, you may be their experimentation ground and that will be your in, from there you want to undersell and overdeliver for a long-term relationship. And on the flip side, a company that does a load of sponsorships in esports may refuse any partnerships with you simply because it’s out of their budget or they don’t see your brand as a good opportunity.

That said, let’s discuss what makes a good business match. We must first look at this problem from the eyes of a sponsor.

Why Do Companies Sponsor?

Sponsorships weren’t a major thing companies did for some time. Sponsorships could be seen as an equivalent as an advertisement, except sponsorships had a higher cost per thousand views (known as CPM, or Cost Per Mille). So you may wonder why a company may sponsor if they are paying more money for less reach versus advertising.

What companies realized is that depending on their objective, creating a sponsorship deal may lead to a higher ROI despite the uptick in cost. Let me explain. Think about a sports sponsorship with a company like Coca-Cola. Let’s say they sponsored a major dance performance during half-time at the Super Bowl. Now the consumer’s thoughts, when they think back to the Super Bowl or that dance performance, is Coca-Cola. Or perhaps Coca-Cola was the soft drink you had during the games, as they could have bought exclusivity to be the only drink sold at the event.

You actually see that in many college campuses, where a specific soda drink will buy exclusivity as the only soda option at that campus (I know Lambton College was sponsored by Pepsi).

Now thinking about it from our perspective. A brand may sponsor an esports team or tournament to usually convert the esports brand’s heavy consumers into their own consumers. It gives the sponsor more credibility and ingrains them into the minds of the consumers.

When looking at different companies, you will need to understand that the company has a specific purpose for wanting to sponsor a company or event. They have clear goals as per their sales objectives, desired metrics for different KPIs and a set budget to get that through. As a company looking for a sponsor, you want to understand what that company potentially wants.

Below is an image based on data from sponsorshub.com on what sponsors are looking to achieve from any given sponsorship agreement:

From this image, as you can see the biggest 3 factors coincides with credibility, visibility and brand image to the eyes of prospective consumers. The difference between an advertisement and a sponsorship is that sponsorship is a collaboration between the sponsor and sponsee, which can let them hit home with the consumers much better than a standalone ad.

That said, there are other factors to take into account. For example, a company may be shipping out a new line of products and they want to do product testing with your demographic. Or they want to promote this new line of products to your demographic instead.

Maybe they want more traffic to their social media or website. They could also just straight-up desire sales. For those last 2 points, traffic or sales, they usually will follow either a CPC (Cost-Per-Click) or CPA (Cost-Per-Action) model. CPC means the sponsee gets paid per click they receive typically through a unique URL that will track total clicks. CPA means getting paid per sale the sponsor makes due to the sponsee’s promotion, typically from a tracking link or discount code.

Both CPC and CPA agreements could be sheerly a paid per action deal with no upfront payment, or it could be an upfront payment in addition to revenue per click/action. This is purely based on how you negotiate and the projected ROI you can provide them. A sponsor will always want a CPC or CPA deal because it’s the least risk for the highest reward. A sponsee will almost always want a pure cash deal since upfront cash is always the safest bet with the least risk of failing (excluding failing to activate on activation items from your contract) and provides guaranteed revenue that could be invested to handle more overhead costs.

Now that you know why a sponsor may…. well sponsor, we need to understand how sponsorship can be categorized to best understand suitable matches.

Types of Sponsorships

When I talk about “types of sponsorships”, this can be seen in several different ways. This is because you can categorize sponsors in a few different ways depending on what exactly you mean. I will only focus on 2 important categorizations for this section: Property-Type Categories and Sponsorship-Exchange Categories.

Both are talking about completely different things. Property-Type Cateogires talks about how different industry competitors will view your opportunity (and how you can leverage that to get the most ROI out of a deal) and the Sponsorship-Exchange Categories talks directly about how you may exchange money or other goods to obtain sponsorship.

Property-Type Categories

When we are looking at sponsors, you want to understand the property type or industry you want to double down on. By doing so, you can identify prospective sponsors for your event or company. This also lets you understand what a prospect’s competitors are doing to further sell your opportunity and also charge more for possible exclusivity. It can also be leveraged during the pitch and closing as a selling tactic (one we won’t cover in this article but I will be covering in the full-fledged course).

You have traditional endemic industries that usually sponsor esports, you have new industries that may look to target a younger demographic and you have traditional non-endemic industries looking to shift their target audience to younger demographics.

More traditional endemic categories include computer hardware, computer peripherals, equipment (chairs, desks, etc), non-alcoholic drinks, food, etc. Newer categories include VPNs, medical CBDs, food delivery, etc. Non-endemic categories include financial services (could be separated by banking and insurance when selling exclusivity), automotive, alcoholic beverages (depending on the specific demographics being of age), travel, telecommunications, internet provider, etc.

Those listed above as endemic and nonendemic are quickly changing as esports grows. I’d be willing to bet internet providers will likely become more endemic considering the role they play in competitive gaming (if you’d argue that they aren’t endemic already, I know some of you reading may say they already are, and I’m not totally against that perspective but I don’t think they are investing enough money to be considered as such at the moment).

Regardless, I will break the full list of categories in the course and specifically include the new categories, the biggest players and what types of companies would best be suited to target them.

Sponsorship-Exchange Categories

This is very different from the category above. In this, we are looking at different ways to secure a sponsorship. There are 3 real types of sponsorships: Affiliate Code Sponsorships, Hybrid Code Sponsorships and Pure Sponsorships. Let’s quickly talk about each.

Affiliate Code Sponsorships

This is the easiest sponsorship to get, providing a low-risk low reward opportunity for both the sponsor and the sponsee. The sponsor would provide a code or a link to you, the sponsee, to promote their brand or service. You can make money from either every click you receive (CPM), every sale that is made (CPA) or both.

You usually want to be mindful of how you activate on these deals since they provide you low value overall and providing too much on an activation with this deal without getting paid the right due may let the sponsor take advantage of your reach. You can negotiate out of this if your metrics or portfolio of other activations lets you strike a better deal as I will mention below.

Hybrid Code Sponsorships

This sponsorship, similar to the one above, still has the same incentive structure, but the sponsor may also provide in-kind items. These are usually tied in to be activated upon during your endeavours (be it streams, videos or tournament participation), but in exchange you keep the items plus still get the CPA/CPM incentive structure.

A hybrid code sponsorship could also provide you and your company solid discounts for only you internally instead of in-kind items. This is also far off of what most brands sustainably want for sponsorships to run a sustainable business. That’s where pure sponsorships come in.

Pure Sponsorships

Pure sponsorships are when you get paid real money or get provided services from the sponsor in exchange for your sponsorship agreement. This is what you will aim to accomplish in your negotiations and is likely what most people want.

You likely can secure a 1 month, 3-month, 6-month or 12-month contract with these, obtaining an upfront and/or monthly payments (ideally get at least 20% upfront payment, not always possible for larger deals with smaller companies). You may also further discuss different activations and you may be able to leverage the sponsor’s resources (social media, brand positioning, etc) to even further growing your company/brand when the agreement seems fit.

These are partnerships, sponsors are risking their money in this high-risk high-reward agreement, so they want to be involved in the process of building out activations. The more value you can provide, the more likely you are to be resigned to another contract. The better KPIs you can provide, the more overall revenue you can get.

Activation Portfolio

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Short Notes:

  • Determine what you can provide that is unique. This is like 80% of the reason why a sponsor would buy into a deal with you (80% is a random spitballed number to communicate point, not based on statistical data)
  • Undercut yourself in your first activations from an ROI standpoint to build a long term relationship and start building a portfolio to help negotiate and get more money from future sponsorships

3. Outreach to Prospective Sponsors

This is probably one of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen to date for amateurs looking for sponsorships. You don’t want to just email a general@, partnership@ or sponsorship@ most of the time. Everyone is doing that, instead you want to get in 1-on-1 with an individual who can actually help you make something happen.

What not to do

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Short Notes

  • Definitely not this:

Determining Who to Contact in an Organization

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Short Notes

  • Find the people who can make decisions, respective of the company size. If the company is small, CEO or CMO is the way to go
  • Based on the objectives of the sponsor. Marketing for awareness or sales for sale generation
  • Leverage personal connections first. Don’t abuse!

Researching Your Point-of-Contact

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Short Notes

  • LinkedIn research
  • Research them thoroughly online

Gathering Your Point-of-Contact’s Contact Info

This is quite important, but allow me to blow your mind with some really quick and easy tools to get you the contact information of loads of people.

There are a few tools you can use, the first one is fairly expected: LinkedIn. LinkedIn will not only be your tool to find the person’s information, but also their contact information.

LinkedIn Contact Info

First, you want to check if they already added their contact information to the page. If they do, don’t worry about leveraging LinkedIn’s built-in contact systems since email will be your best bet. That said, this is a manual input that many people on LinkedIn don’t fill out. I don’t know why people don’t do it, since it’s a professional communication platform, but alas whatcha gonna do 😒

To do this, go to their page and click the contact info button. If the email is there, you are in luck. If not, that means they didn’t fill it in. Reference the images below:

 

Now if that doesn’t work, you aren’t out of luck just yet. Send them a connection request, maybe a message with the connection request and see if they reply. Some quick notes on a message to your connection message if you choose to include one, I don’t know if that helps with a connection acceptance or not (I haven’t read any studies on the topic), but I do know what could hurt you overall.

First, you want to not say anything about your desire to gain something. For example, don’t say “I want to connect because I want to talk to you about a sponsorship opportunity”, rather engage with them on something they themselves would be interested in OR an opportunity for them rather than for you. This is where your research on the person will come into play.

I will reserve my own case-study examples for the course, but ideally with a medium like LinkedIn direct messages, you want to start with some small talk and build a relationship before talking about the opportunity. Again, examples will be in the course on how I personally have done it well and poorly with different people.

Hunter.io Web Crawler Tool

Web crawlers are extremely powerful when used with the right functionalities. In short, a web crawler scans all sites accessible to search engines (or at least as many as it’s set up to search) and retrieves the information it was programmed to retrieve. I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this. What if you had a web crawler that picked up emails?

Well, Hunter.io does exactly that. Simply put in the domain of the company that you are looking for an email for. In my case, you’d search “esporthow.com”. From there, it will provide you every possible email it can find. Typically you’d need to pay for unlimited searched with hunter.io, but the free version lets you get 50 searches free per month.

The image below shows you the user interface and the results when I searched “bestbuy.com”.

As you can notice from the image above, you can even click the “Find Someone” button on the right. From there, you can search that specific individual. In each person, you can see a few items.

First, you can see the name and email (easy). Next, you want to see if the little icon is green and the checkmark is there. These are good indications if the email is legit. Next, you want to check the actual sources. If the source in this example is just random websites that seem like something weird, chances are they may not be legit. Lastly, you want to confirm if the person is still working at the company. A lot of these emails can be legit from legit sources, but that person may have worked at that company and has now left. Leaving you with a big waste of time if you pursued them.

If for whatever reason you cannot find your target on Hunter.io, that’s alright. As you can see from the image above, most employers keep the same format of people’s emails. It could be something along the lines of the following (using me, Uzair Hasan and esporthow.com as an example):

  • uzair.hasan@esporthow.com
  • uzair@esporthow.com
  • u.hasan@esporthow.com
  • uhasan@esporthow.com
  • hasan@esporthow.com
  • uzairh@esporthow.com
  • uzair-hasan@esporthow.com
  • uzairhasan@esporthow.com
  • hasanuzair@esporthow.com
  • etc.

Once you identify what the pattern is, chances are that the person you are looking to contact used the same email format with their own name (and you find out who your desired contact is from sites like LinkedIn where you can see what position and name each person in a company is. You can also find similar information on the “About Us” section on a small business’s website). For that reason, you may as well try and send the email out. If it doesn’t exist, the email will bounce back and tell you in a matter of minutes. The exact formatting of the bounce-back email depends on your mailing service and theirs. It will look long the lines of what you see below:

Do note that the biggest weakness with a web crawler like Hunter.io is the fact that you may be using the wrong domain altogether. This typically only applies to massive companies, but if you were looking for a person on a domain like Logitech.com, you may not realize but their email is on LogitechG.com, or it’s on Logitech.ca, or Logitech.org (this is just for the sake of an email, the latter aren’t real domains by Logitech besides LogitechG.com).

Be sure to look around and see if there are any domains you may have forgotten to check.

In my case, you may have checked my other domain, esportshow.com meanwhile my real email is on esporthow.com (watch the ‘s’). My email is actually uzair.hasan@esporthow.com, and since I wrote it here, Hunter.io should include this as a source.

Composing the Email

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Short Notes

  • Make sure the email is short. No longer than a full phone screen’s length
  • Setup a call-to-action. Provide them with dates and times, you are more likely to get a response by doing so
  • Use a strong and intriguing subject. This should always be mostly unique per email

Templated Versus Custom Emails

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Attachments

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Follow-Ups!

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Alternatives to Emails

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4. Having the Discovery Call

Now you have your foot in the door and are going to have your first call. This in the sales world is what you call a discovery call. A discovery call is the first call you have with a prospect to gage their general interest in the services you have to offer. 

 A discovery call also lets you further get to know your client and allow your client to learn about you and what you are doing.

This is key. Your objectives are as follows:

  • Sell the prospect on the idea of possibly working with you (if they are new to esports, sell them on promoting in esports)
  • Sell yourself to the prospect as someone they like, trust and believe in

Have you heard the saying “people do business with people they like” or “know, like, trust”, these old adages are exceptionally true. Humans are very superficial by nature, if you can sell yourself as a hard-working, competent, trustworthy individual, the prospect is significantly more willing to try on your sponsorship opportunity even if it isn’t as favorable.

This will be exceptionally important to keep in mind if you are younger in age, as that may come off (superficially) as inexperience. But if you had a portfolio of successful sponsorship activations in the past, that will quickly change their perspective of you.

If this is your first sponsorship, look at how your metrics and your innovative activations may pull them closer to you.

In the video course, we go into specific detail about what should be said and how you want to conduct yourself in this discovery call and how subsequent calls should be conducted.

Making sure you ask the right questions and take the right approach is key to success.

Information is Power: Understanding Your Prospective Sponsor

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Short Notes:

  • Extremely important step that will differentiate you from your competitors
  • Research the person you will be speaking to, his department and what his department is currently working on
  • Research the company as a whole and their major projects for that quarter

In the Video Course:

  • We will go over how exactly to research people, how to further learn about what they are working on
  • How we can use all that information to our advantage in conversations

Having the Conversation: Human to Human Interactions

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5. Following-Ups With Prospective Sponsors

At this point, even though you may have had a discovery call or two with prospective sponsors, you probably will need more before you can lock any down.

Most prospects you have a conversation with will likely not be interested the exact moment you reached out to them. Especially with esports as a whole, but also just generally with sponsorships, a sponsor isn’t quick to move as they are likely working on different initiatives and have their budget allocated to different means at that moment.

You need to be aware of this while still garnering and cultivating that relationship. Doing this with enough people, known in sales as farming, will line up many prospective future partners where you can deliberately plan out different events or activations knowing already what your prospects are working on to better secure a deal.

Not to mention, using tactics like sending gifts or checking in on their family are great ways to build a human-to-human connection that will aid you in coming off as a trustworthy person they like, and people do business with people they like.

Building Your Rolodex

I’m going to oversimplify this point here because I could go on and on in terms of how you may want to structure this and different tactics you can use.

In essence, you want to nurture your leads and the most basic way to do that is by following up with monthly catchup emails and occasional calls.

These all don’t have to be super business-oriented but be mindful of exactly who you are reaching out to, their personality and their position in the company.

You could become a lot more buddy-buddy with Mark from marketing in a small company but probably not Julia, CMO of a conglomerate. Personality is a big factor too, but don’t try to become an actual friend anyways.

Your objective is business, you can be friendly to nurture the lead, but don’t try to build a friendship unless it’s a very circumstantial incident where a friendship is cultivated.

Again, this step can be broken down pretty thoroughly, but it’s just like any follow-up with any company. 

Excuses to Follow-Up

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Short Notes:

  • Follow-up emails for the sake of following up can become annoying at times, acting as a turn-off to your prospective sponsor
  • Follow-up emails instead should include more valuable information that will both allow your sponsor something to learn/engage with and pushes them even closer to wanting to discuss in an opportunity
  • Questions on certain projects they are aware of or providing updates on your projects are a good way to approach this
  • Providing metrics, specifically for unique occasions where metrics boom or other information about another successful activation you performed is just as good

6. Having the Pitch with Sponsors

Pitch Presentation

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Presenting Tiers

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7. Closing and Securing the Sponsor

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Short Notes:

  • You want a strong contract with specifics of the agreement documented, detailed and deliberately established therefore disputes can arise from shortcoming, miscommunication or human errors (such as lawsuits or a refusal to pay due to circumstance)
  • Learn good negotiation tactics and sale tactics

8. Executing on the Activation and Building a Long-Term Relationship

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Short Note:

  • Very very important step, but if I included this here, this article would be almost double in length
  • Securing a sponsor isn’t enough to have success, you seriously need to provide updates leading up to your event and/or during the sponsorship agreement
  • Undersell and overdeliver; provide elements not included on the package to further the experience without undermining the value of those elements donated

(BONUS) Common Sponsorship Mistakes

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Sponsorship Risks

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Risk Management

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Thank you for reading through this article, I know it was exceptionally long but if I included everything, it’ll likely be 3 times the size. If you are interested in the course, please click here and sign up for the interest form. Only with enough interest expressed can I afford to spend the time and money to build out the course.

As a summary, these are some of the features that would go into the course:

  • Everything in Video Format with Condensed Bullet Points Summaries and More Specific Detailed Information on Each Step
  • Sponsorship Agreement Financial Value Evaluation Methods and Tactics
  • Case Study Examples With Step-by-Step Support
  • Sales Tactics Included to Best Help You Get Into Discussion and Secure a Sponsor
  • Different Tools and Tactics to Help You Be Efficient During Your Research Process
  • Provide Standardized Questions to Ask Prospective Sponsors to Best Help You Understand What They Want
  • Closing Tactics
  • How to Customize Your Deck Depending On The Sponsor
  • More Information on the Evaluation Process
  • Full and In-Depth Course-Videos on Building and Executing on Activations, Providing Good Metrics to a Sponsor
  • Insider Information on Contracts and Defending Yourself With Contract Terminations and Payment Issues
  • How to Provide Additional Value to Sponsors and Garner Long Term Relationships
  • Providing All Locked Information From This Article

Click here to fill out the interest form! If you have any questions, feel free to reach me at uzair.hasan@esporthow.com.