Regularly I get emailed by individuals, groups, teams, and events seeking sponsorship for their project. Typically Big Blue Saw's sponsorship comes in the form of free waterjet cutting or laser cutting services or as gift certificates.
Big Blue Saw has sponsored or is currently sponsoring a number of things:
- Bite Force from BattleBots
- Maker Faire Atlanta
- The Dallas Personal Robotics Group
- Robot Battles
- Atlanta Hobby Robot Club's Robot Rally
Plus we've done a number of stealthier sponsorships: Big Blue Saw has helped people with their projects with the knowledge that they would give us a shout out in social media or on their web sites.
Given the amount of sponsorship we've done, I thought I'd let people know what we're looking for when we sponsor. We're looking for the same things as many other businesses, so these tips will also help you when searching elsewhere for sponsorship.
The #1 most important thing we're looking for is an existing following or fan base. This could be via social media like Twitter or Facebook, through online forums, a YouTube channel, mailing lists, or through your own website. Nearly all of our business comes through our website, so getting an online audience is absolutely critical.
For you, as a potential sponsored party, the great thing about this is that none of this costs you money. Social media profiles are free to create and so are blogs. Use those to build a following with people in your community. Similarly, if you're the one in a community forum who's the go-to person for getting help, we'd love to hear from you.
The #2 thing we look for is exposure in traditional media like television, magazines and newspapers. This type of exposure can be valuable if the audience is right: getting the name Big Blue Saw in front of people who are likely to need our services.
Sponsoring the winning robot on ABC TV's BattleBots brought us a little bit of national exposure, but it was really the social media work of the Aptyx Designs team that brought people to the website. Keep in mind that traditional media can be hard to count on as you're at the mercy of TV producers, editors, and so on. With social media YOU are in control. Also it doesn't bring the immediacy that most web exposure or social media bring; people are typically watching TV or reading magazines in a passive mode, not ready to jump on the Big Blue Saw website.
#3 is exclusivity. We'd rather NOT have our logo drown among a sea of other sponsors logos. Offer us something that no other sponsor gets.
Factor #4 is having something interesting for us to sponsor. Overemphasizing this factor is the top mistake that most people make when looking for sponsors. If you're passionate about your project, it's only natural that you would want to talk about it.
But there's a whole world of cool stuff out there, so why would we want to sponsor you in particular? Let us know what you can do for Big Blue Saw.
If your project makes good use of waterjet and/or laser cutting, that's something we can show off to potential customers via our own social media and website. If your event is dedicated to a popular meme, great!
Finally, #5 is live event exposure. Like traditional media exposure (#2, above), people who see Big Blue Saw's logo at the event aren't necessarily in a mindset to come to our website and get an immediate quote. Also, if you only control a small portion of the overall event, e.g. your own robot, putting our stickers where people in the audience or passersby may be able to see them doesn't do much for us. Putting a giant banner across the top of the stage where everyone will be looking is much better. Talking to hundreds of people and getting them to sign up for our mailing list is also very nice. Having the right audience at the event is also critical here: people with a need for custom machined parts.
Now, working on some of the factors above might not overlap with your skills. If you're visiting the Big Blue Saw website, chances are that you like building things a lot, and there's a good chance you don't care so much about having Twitter followers or documenting your build process with slick YouTube videos. And that's perfectly understandable. So if you don't yet have a solid online or media presence, you should consider adding to your team someone to be your media director.
Finally, when reaching out to us for sponsorship, make sure you're clear about what exactly you need. If you need waterjet machining and have DXF files ready for us to cut, it makes our decision much easier than if you don't have a design ready. Similarly, if you want gift certificates for prizes, let us know the exact amounts and quantity you require.
We're always on the lookout for great events, teams and even individuals to sponsor. Now that you know what we're looking for, you can e-mail us and let us know how we can work together to help each other: firstname.lastname@example.org .