It’s easy to assume a sponsor will be more interested in your brand when you pitch a deck to them.
Why wouldn’t it be? The sponsor deck is a media device used by businesses of all size to showcase a sense of leverage over your industry – In the case of Esports, it’s a bragging presentation about how your team(s) are successful and your social media game is on point. However in recent years the standard the sponsor deck has lost it’s value, as businesses become more savvy with the Esports industry (those endemic at least) are asking more questions about your deck than what’s actually in it. Statistical data alone isn’t going to cut it if you’re aiming to secure deals with big Esport teams.
So you’ve managed to convince someone to give you the sponsor contact for Steelseries and you’ve started to build the sponsor deck for them, so what’s going in it? Your social media stats, the audience your team covers, your team’s results, what you are wanting and where you’re planning to put the Steelseries logo on your jersey, right? – Then what? Steelseries are just going to accept it and give you a code? You can already guess that next word i’m going to use is – No. No matter how comprehensive your deck is, it’s missing the most valuable thing that Steelseries are looking for, you. Now you can add in a bunch of “very you” like quirky quotes or phrases but that’s still not enough.
Most applicants to Steelseries will be ignored or denied on the grounds that they don’t really know you. So how do you change that? How do you get Steelseries to pay a attention to your brand and your message? The short answer is Go meet them, most Endemic sponsors attend tech conventions, twitch and youtube meet ups as well as LAN events. That’s where you need to start engaging them and this is before you have even started to build a sponsor deck.
The first step to securing a sponsors isn’t to let them know you’re here, it’s to let them know you hear.
When you start talking with a potential sponsor, aim to make the conversation about them. If you’ve worked in any industry where on boarding clients is key to your success – like the creative sector. Asking why questions is crucial. Ask them why this exhibition, ask them why are you doing this? Why is it so important to you? Why are you trying to sell these products? Why not just sponsor more Esport teams? Why don’t you sponsor teams from this region? By asking Why questions you get honest answers about what the businesses goal is, from there you can start to understand if that company is right for your team. Just having the name behind you isn’t enough to suggest that they care about you or want you to succeed.
But let’s say the conversation starts off well and it’s heading in the right direction (presumably) and we will use Steelseries as our mock sponsor, Now Steelseries might say “well I’ll be honest I think we could support another team in this region but we’re not sure what genre of Esports to get into for it” – this isn’t your que to start bringing up your Esports team, you should still be asking questions like – Why do you think sponsoring a team in this region would help make sales in this region? What’s holding you back from doing it? What would sponsoring a team cost you? What products are you trying to push in this region? The answers to these questions will give you the most comprehensive view the scope. Let’s say Steelseries here in this example say “we want to sell more controllers in this region, I think the costs will vary on the type of team we sponsor – usually we want to sponsor a team that has a great story to it, a rich history in winning and that is deeply integrated with the community. The thing that is holding us back here isn’t the lack of support, it’s more we don’t know who can execute something like this the way we hope” – Answer like this, is not them turning you down, this is the brief – an outline of the companies problems that need solving and this is what you’ve been looking for as you’re going to use this as material in your pitch.
Step two: build on the relationship before building on the deck.
Carry on your conversation with the company, meet up with them go for a coffee and start interacting with them on social media, direct message them like – “hey, are you free? I wanted to talk to you about those issues we spoke about at the event” – Interact with them casually, don’t make it all about business. The more you push the more they will step back, you want Steelseries to confine in you about their brief, they need to ask you – what do you think we should do about this.
Let’s go back to our fictitious quote – “we want to sell more controllers in this region, I think the costs will vary on the type of team we sponsor – usually we want to sponsor a team that has a great story to it, a rich history in winning and that is deeply integrated with the community. The thing that is holding us back here isn’t the lack of support, it’s more we don’t know who can execute something like this the way we hope”
Here you want to be talking about options, do they want to support a team that wins or a team that sells? Most will believe it’s a team that wins. But in fact, it’s the team that sells they want. Having a large audience doesn’t mean that you make sales, it just means you reach more people. Getting quality over quantity is what is going to win your pitch with Steelseries here. Now they want to sell controllers in the region, so how do you sell those controllers other than giving free ones to the players competing in controller dominant Esports or doing competitions? You don’t need to offer them a distribution change (store space on your website) because without buying the controllers yourself through their distribution contact – you’re stuck with redirecting customers to their site and 90% of the time, Esports customers are going to be using Google and Amazon to find the best prices, so it’s best to avoid this until you are in a position to offer distribution and better rates.
The next thing to talk about is the genre of Esports, if they are trying to sell controllers it makes sense to engage with Esports like Fifa, Rocket League and Call Of Duty right? Don’t just assume that. All Esports genres welcome the extraordinary stories of players who use unorthodox methods to compete. You can use this to your advantage by supporting the obvious teams that would use the controllers but also by marketing them with the players who use keyboard and mice.
Now there’s engaging the customer base, this is where you need to really be on the ball with your content – Steelseries aren’t going to offer you anything if you haven’t already been making content for a while. So if you’re new to the scene, start with the smaller independent businesses that will value this. But if you’re gunning for the big head sponsor. You need to make sure that you’re using this a tool to sell their product. Start with a summary of an event take photo’s of the booth, give them a shout out, do a vlog about it all. If you’re going content around your team, pan on equipment, show that they use that gear and as much as you’re wallet isn’t going to like it – go out and buy the products and give them a review or give them away to people at the event. Show you are personally trying to engage with their target audience and that you love their product.
All of this is going to help with the pitch to Steelseries for support.
Step Three: Get the green light
The green light isn’t obvious, it’s a sign that suggests you could submit a pitch to them, this is valuable to know – as previously mentioned most of these applications get ignored, so you want to know if you’re submitting a solution that Steelseries are genuinely interested to hear from you about. You can start by bringing up the brief in conversation – “how goes progress on the controller sales issue? Are you still looking at investing more into the Esports community here?” regardless to what Steelseries say here – The timing in which you submit your deck is as crucial as what you submit.
You can submit a deck to 30 businesses every month and not yield anything for years, despite the numbers your pulling, all because you’re pitching this at a bad time for the company and this applies to all business sizes, so whether you’re pitching your deck to Coca-Cola or X-Gamers.
Be wary of businesses that publicly announce on social media that they’re looking for teams to sponsor, this can often be misconstrued with the right timing to get involved with them. This can actually be a number of things: The first being, they’re looking to test the waters with working with Esports teams and thus they are willing to offer discount codes in the hope they can get sales from teams constantly doing free advertisement – which will do nothing for your Esports team as it will increase the workload on your media team to produce content for no reward.
The second thing is to boost their companies interest on social media, imagine you are business that can raise Millions in investment and you build good products but you’re following and engagement is smaller than what is expected of you- what do you do to engage that audience? Throw them a bone. “We’re offering full sponsorship to 1 team for 3 years, following the instructions and apply here.” You’ll get 100’s of applicants, 100’s of follows and 1000’s of engaging fans flocking to potential site of the freebies. But you already know who you are going to sponsor, regardless to if 600 teams around the world apply. You know who you’re backing – you’re just flushing out the suckers.
Businesses that do either of these two things – don’t care about you or if you succeed, you’re looking for a long term business to partner up with here.
Step Four: build the deck right.
Now we move onto the actual sponsor deck. Now i’ve worked with a number of Esports teams who are successful at pitching decks and I’ve been directly involved in making those decks too. So I can say with confidence that the number of deck’s I have seen that offer their sponsors everything for nothing is ridiculous – by devaluation yourself you have already lost the pitch. Steelseries can see that you’ve built up a reputation with them, now they want to know if you’re right for the job.
First of all don’t overload the deck with pages of nonsense, Steelseries have 10 minutes to review your pitch, they don’t need endless paragraph’s of waffle to see your point, they need to see you’re assessing their brief and making headway. When you pitch to them about your social media influence, include everyone – fans, staff, streamers, players, managers (everyone literally) – engage with important social media outlets that hit that target audience, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Twitter are necessary to engage with the Esports audience and tie that in to your work with Steelseries so far.
Now remember, winning isn’t everything, Steelseries have sponsored a number of teams over the years that have yet to make international impact or even become dominant in their region – so placing all your Lan finishes in the deck is about as useful as a water paper towel, not unless you’re capitalising on this with your content. That mean’s if you’re not filming the team compete, doing interviews with the players at events and sneaking the products into the shots you’re not showing how your LAN placements are related to Steelseries selling their products.
Talking about that rich history and winning mentality is important, it shows character and confirms their believes in your work, remember the people behind the scenes are as important as the people in them. So don’t leave out players or staff who have had an impact in making this relationship work.
You are trying to illustrate a story from when you began working with Steelseries and what you have achieved with what you have currently, you’re not trying to tell them your life story. Keep your deck content relevant to the pitch – this means making different decks for different sponsors as each sponsor has different problems that need solving.
You can reuse content for each deck IF the content relates to what the problem is they are looking to solve. The means if you’re highlighting controllers for Steelseries in your Youtube Clips and you’re also showing GFUEL power sachets in the same video – you can use that video content for the GFUEL pitch.
Social Media stats are also reusable content IF you are demonstrating the increase in traffic with your brand once you showcased those products in your content. So if you have 10k Twitter follower across everyone’s social media accounts and you notice a 10% increase in overall traffic when you starting talking about Steelseries and then again with GFUEL products – you can use that in both decks.
Step Five: Demanding appropriately.
Often we make the assumption when making sponsor decks that we set a price for what we’re offering to our sponsors and that price is what we value it at. But actually you should be asking yourself this question, How much would SteelSeries pay for that 10% boost in social media presence? Steelseries is a big business in the Gaming industry so they cover a large proportion of the Esports industries consumer base right? – True so they won’t be used to seeing larger increases in sales and social presence than they already have, so if you can prove that you’re gaining 10% more activity for mentioning them. That’s an extra 10% of the market they’re gaining too.
The larger the business is, the harder it becomes to make a 10% jump in activity. So when you’re charging less than a £100 for a main sponsor slot, they’re looking at this as a joke. You need to be asking them, what is that 10% worth to Steelseries? How long did it take you to cultivate that 10%? Remember for your head sponsorship you are looking to secure a year long deal as a minimum with them, so if you made that 10% over a 2 month period (5% each month) then you can start estimated what 12 months would look like. The cost of production, events and so on add up. If you estimate the cost of that to be for example £2,200 a month then you want to be asking Steelseries for £26,400 as a minimum to cover your costs over a 12 month period.
You might be thinking that’s an outrageous amount of money, but this is an average salary for one person aged between 25-40 in the UK. Steelseries has an estimated 150+ employee’s earning between £20-50,000 per year. So yes, they can afford this. They are seriously considering your pitch, so you want to be making it evidently clear you are running a business and this means you have people to pay in order for you to achieve the results you have throughout your relationship building phase.
“As our main sponsor we expect to maintain a 5% increase in market activity throughout of agreement with you each month. To meet this demand we estimate the value of our agreement with you to cost £27,000 for a 12 month period with an option to renegotiate the agreement upon termination” – This is roughly what your “What we need from you” section should sound like.
You’ve spent the previous few pages of your deck demonstrating what you have achieved in the short time you’re worked with them and what the goal for you was – to get people interested in buying Steelseries controllers.
What happens after that.
What happens after this is out of your hands, Steelseries now have to think about this deal with you and your team and whether you get the deal or not is entire down to timing, the work you’ve done and your offer is. If you get turned down, asking for feedback from your Steelseries contact will be valuable insight into where you went wrong and what you can do better at next time.
Being a small team doesn’t mean you yield bad results it mean’s you need to focus on squeezing the most out of what you have. I always recommend that smaller teams start with looking at smaller businesses as this will give you better practice at managing your sponsorship deals as you go forward and brush up your pitching skills too.
Frequently Asked Questions:
My team’s win events but I still don’t get any response from sponsors, what can I do to secure sponsors?
Having a winning team doesn’t mean you’re able to prove that you understand your fans, you need to really look at what you’re putting out on social media. Are you doing clips of the weeks? Interviews with your players? Vlog’s about the events you are attending? If not, there is your biggest issue – no content. You need content in order to present a story, the story is what you are going to use to sell a companies products.
Secondly, if you are doing the above – you’re mistiming your applications. Either keep submitting or go back to building on that relationship with the company.
We’ve got lots of content, streamers and vloggers who play for us, but we’re not really an Esports team. Can we still get sponsorship?
Yes, you make gaming content don’t you? Companies aiming at the gaming market want to sell products in that space so you are exactly what they are looking for. Provided you are building a relationship with the company and following the steps above – You should be able to pitch with relative ease.
Just make sure you are starting to build a relationships with companies, go to events meet them and get them involved with activities.
Do we have to submit a pitch to all our sponsors?
Most businesses will expect it of you, some businesses are casual about how they offer sponsorship – sometimes you can be fortunate to make a vocal agreement with a company to do a partnership with them. It’s important that you still build on that relationship as they may offer you nothing to begin with and you have to earn their financial backing over time.
Do you think it’s worth doing affiliations and partnerships?
In theory they are designed to test both parties abilities to work together, but they don’t work. Often affiliations and partnerships are one-sided and you don’t benefit from them at all. You are better off building a relationship with the company and when the time is right submitting a sponsor deck that requires them to pay you X amount of money per year to promote their business and use their products as this allows you to learn what that company needs and how you can solve that problem for them through sponsorship.
Do I only ask for money or can I ask for products?
Ask for money only, You’re a business not a distributor. You’re there to promote the use of their products in a positive way, if the company offers you products as an alternative to money – turn them down. You can not sell products given to you by your sponsors – it’s illegal and the value of the products to make isn’t close to the value of the sale. Which means they are low-balling you.
If they offer you money and the products as a gift then use those gifted items to do content, promotion and giveaways (if you are permitted to do so)
We’re not technically registered as a business, can we still pitch?
You can, but you MUST register your team as a business and process any sponsor money through your countries VAT and tax office as soon as you can. You won’t be able to begin a sponsorship deal with any money involved if you are not a registered company. Regardless to how old you are, if you evade tax and operate an Esports team with any financial involvement that is not own your money without being registered as a business, you’re looking at a prison sentence.