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Selling sponsorships

Posted on Dec 03 2014 in Thoughts

Not a week goes by without me receiving an email about the way I present sponsors in the magazine. Everyone seems to appreciate their subtlety and how well they integrate into the reading experience. In fact, quite a few other magazines used Offscreen as a source of inspiration to follow a similar sponsorship model (Intern, Wolftree, Future Perfect, and Makeshift come to mind).

Of course, having sponsors is nothing unique. There are lots of other magazines that had sponsors before me and I certainly don’t claim to be the inventor here. However, it’s nice to see other titles following a similarly subtle approach and turning away from the standard (often intrusive) ad slots of traditional magazines because of Offscreen.

Many of the emails I receive ask me how I find my sponsors or how I convince them to participate in Offscreen. The truth is that they don’t really need much convincing. Finding sponsors has so far been fairly easy. (knocks on wood)

I believe the web community is quite unique in that way. Many web companies are used to the idea of sponsorships, because we have so many events that are funded through this support model. Also, frankly speaking, successfully operating web/tech companies usually have quite generous marketing budgets and don’t necessarily request traditional media data before they invest in a particular campaign (I think I’ve been asked for a advertising kit once, and couldn’t provide one). Also, it seems to me that companies in this industry are a lot more open to trying out new things and supporting the underdog where it fits.

No matter what your title is about, finding approachable companies that align with your own values is crucial. Don’t start with the Google of your industry. Start with a company you already have close contacts with, maybe even a local one. Set your initial fee very low. Sponsoring the first issue of Offscreen cost $400 and barely made a dent in the cost of everything, but it helped establish a relationship with those companies. I got a chance to prove that Offscreen is a product worth investing in, and as a result many of those companies are still sponsoring the magazine today!

Here’s an email that I recently sent out to a potential new sponsor showing how I see our sponsors and (hopefully) how they see themselves too. I suggest you don’t simply copy and paste this for your own project, but find your own voice for communicating your goals/values instead.

Let me give you some stats first: I currently print 4500 copies and they all sell out after a while — nothing is wasted. Our readers are some of the smartest and most influential creatives in the web/tech industry, from founders and CEOs to designers and developers running their own shop. Most readers are based in the US, UK and other English-speaking countries, followed by the rest of Europe. That’s all the marketing speak you get from me. ;)

As you may know, a sponsorship is not an ad. It can’t be tracked as such and shouldn’t be compared. With a sponsorship you make your brand part of what I’m doing with Offscreen. You directly link your company to my values and those of my readers.

The folks at Campaign Monitor, for instance, list Offscreen under their ‘giving back’ section. They see sponsorships as a way of making their company known for supporting unique projects that are part of our community.

You will definitely get more clicks by spending the same amount on Google or Facebook ads. Spending it on an Offscreen sponsorship will get you respect and recognition within our industry that is much more difficult to attain. Let’s face it, people like you and me that are part of the web industry hardly ever respond to ads. By supporting products core people in our industry love, your sponsorship tells them “We love it too, and are proud to be supporting it.”

To be honest, I’m not a good sales person, never have been. And as much as it looks like it, I’m not really trying to convince you of anything. In fact, I usually have a few people waiting to become sponsors, though I’m very picky. I personally would love to have ——— on board (maybe even long-term), because from what I hear, people trust and like your service for understanding how web-savvy people tick. That’s exactly what I hear from my readers about Offscreen too.

Finally, if you have a few minutes, Seth Godin sums it up nicely (as always).