How NOT to get your band sponsored with free t-shirts

by Andy on March 29, 2012

how to get a band sponsor

If you’re in a band and you’re playing to crowds, then your chest can be seen as an advertising space, especially with the way teenagers view people in bands as borderline-deities that they want to emulate. Thus, bands want to get sponsored, they want to wear free t-shirts, and they want to give brands ‘exposure’. I received this e-mail recently (names and places altered to save them embarrassment):

My name is Cornelius, I’m the frontman for the band The Arm Hiders based out of Unknownville. We are in search of a company to work with to sponsor us on our upcoming tour this Summer. We came across your company on line and have check out your site and feel like we would love to rep your company on tour this summer. If you all endorse bands, we would love to help you all out and get your name out there on the road. Feel free to email us back if you would like to work out something with us. Thanks for your time, and we look forward to hearing back from you. Cheers.

That was it, that was the whole thing. Let’s leave aside for a second the fact that I don’t even really have a line (the HYA store doesn’t really count, does it?), because I wanted to look at what was wrong with that e-mail and how it would be a poor way to approach a clothing brand (or any other company) if you were looking to get yourself, your brand, or possibly your sports team sponsored.

1. The sender doesn’t say hello, or address me by name, a clear sign that it’s a copy pasted e-mail and that they are contacting several people with the same message. Take a second to find out someone’s name and you’ll be a lot more likely to receive a response.

2. There’s no link to the band’s website or music. I’ve never heard of The Arms Hiders (what a silly name!), but maybe if I heard their music I’d really like it and think it was worth sending them some t-shirts. The lack of a website also suggests that this band may be quite small and not yet have any web presence. Bands need to make it as easy as possible for a t-shirt company to hear the music, if that takes more than one click then it’s going to really reduce the response rate.

3. Your band is going on a tour this Summer, so what? Tell me when and where you will be (maybe I can meet you at one of your shows), how big the venues will be, if you are the headline act, what merchandise you sell, if you will be performing at any festivals, how Twitter followers and Facebook likes you have, if your tour will be advertised and if so, do the sponsors get exposure from that. Clearly, the e-mail sender recognises that there is value in terms of exposure for the t-shirt brand, but there’s not enough info to back that up. What the sender needs to do is give a t-shirt brand reason to stop and think if there is enough value for their brand to give the band free t-shirts to wear on the tour.

4. “If you all endorse bands” ignoring the strange wording, this is again another sign that the sender has sent a copy/paste e-mail, and also proves that they haven’t taken the time to look at your site properly. T-shirt brands that do sponsor bands will often like to showcase the bands in some way on their website. Sponsoring a band can be a mark of pride for a t-shirt company, it’s a good way for them to associate themselves with a style of music and also a lifestyle, which quickly gives potential customers and fans something to identify with. So bands should take a good look at each brand and make sure your music fits with their style, and if they do sponsor bands then you already know that it’s something they might be interested in with your band.

5. Copy/paste e-mails are the devil. It is easier to send a copy/paste e-mail, but it’s also easier for someone to delete one, they’re impersonal and almost always sound like adverts. If you want to get a reply from someone you talk to them like a person, create a connection and give them some respect, especially if you’re hoping for them to give you hundreds of dollars of clothing in return. It’s okay to have a general template of an e-mail, some bits of blurb will always be the same, but edit and personalise each e-mail to maximise the chance of getting a response from each brand. Oh, and t-shirt brands talk, so if you e-mail lots of similar brands, they’ll probably know about it.

6. Make sure your spelling and grammar are perfect, or at least the best you can do. There are a few errors in the e-mail I have shown above, and there are parts which aren’t just typos too, which suggests that it was rushed and not re-read to check for errors. If this e-mail is a bands first point of contact with a t-shirt company, what kind of impression does that give? Not a good one in my opinion. If English isn’t your strong point then get someone to write your general template for you and then you can add in the personal stuff that you’re comfortable with on a case-by-case basis, no one is expecting you to be Shakespeare, but brands want to know they’re dealing with professionals. If you are trying to contact someone in a non-native language, make that clear too.

7. If the t-shirt company responds, so do you, quick. Replying to e-mails quickly shows that a band is serious about the sponsorship opportunity, this isn’t a flirty text message with that girl from last night, you don’t need to wait 3 hours to respond. Think about what the t-shirt company wants, a band that will wear you stuff on stage when photos are being taken and tell people about the t-shirt brand, replying quickly to a response is the first step in proving that you’re conscientious and trustworthy. I sent a response to the person that sent me the e-mail above, two days later I haven’t heard from them and I doubt I ever will, potentially I could have been a fan of their brand and suggested them to t-shirt brands for sponsorship, as it stand they’ve lost both those opportunities by not replying to an e-mail.

If you have any suggestions or feedback please leave me a message in the comments, or on Twitter @hideyourarms. In a few weeks I will take a look at whether there really is value for brands sponsoring bands and if the exposure bands provide can help with getting a t-shirt company more fans and customers.

  • Doug

    Good read man and a lesson for all, including me for future business dealings (except for the adding in websites and links, as that’s plain thick). Agreed though, not much effort on their part and to think that HYA is an actual store, means they can’t even grasp what the website is about.

  • Brand Echs

    Good article. It’s not just sponsorship hunting bands who could take notice from this, my brand has had emails from all kinds of people who write similar emails like ” Whatup, I work in fashion and need your shit for a photoshoot with [insert rapper's name here]“. No introduction, no links, nothing to make me feel like i’m sending products to someone trustworthy & professional, never mind written like a pleb.

    Saying that, i have just had an email off an Olympic hopeful looking for sponsorship. Although i’m sure he’s contacted other brands, his letter included a detailed description of who he is, what he does, his training schedule, experience in the sport, plans for the future & all backed up by website and links to videos & news stories. Based on his letter writing & professionalism alone, he’s got a chance.

  • http://hideyourarms.com/ Andy (Hide Your Arms)

    I made this article brand orientated purely because of the e-mail I received (and to make it a bit more attractive in terms of search, but it does apply across the board.

    I think that when it comes to someone from the Olympics, depending on the event (and how good they are) then it’s likely that you won’t really get a good monetary return (unless you’re in the athletic apparel industry, perhaps), but there’s more of a feel good factor in supporting an athlete representing your nation at the Olympics which would make me more likely to think “yeah, sure, have a tee.”

  • http://www.ethcsstore.com/ Shane

    Nice post Andy & great point about demonstrating value. Brand owners get these emails a lot & unless you can give me a reason to think I can benefit from this, I’m out.

    Something else I’d suggest to bands sending these emails is to take the time to figure out if their music, style & location are a good fit with the brands they’re contacting. We get 1or 2 of these emails a month & in most cases from bands in the U.S, yet we’re a New Zealand t-shirt brand with designs that mostly appeal to New Zealanders. There’s little value in us sponsoring a band in Austin, Texas.

    If you don’t take the time to suss these things out it’s just a little insulting & kinda obvious that you’re trawling through the store pages on Big Cartel or Storenvy etc.

  • Jqpublic

    Dear salutations and greetings.
    I am honorable minister of finance of the sovereign state of Nigeria. I come to offer you unique opportunity to share in unexpected windfalls of $10 billion dollars USD. If only you can send me requisite free tshirts, I will deposit for you with cashier check for $10 billion dollars USD.
    Many greetings and blessings.
    Manoko Kalomo Deschanel

  • http://hideyourarms.com/ Andy (Hide Your Arms)

    I know that you’re a real person making a jokey comment, but I’m stunned that one got past the spam filter!

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