Attracting Gaming Sponsorships

Attracting Gaming Sponsorships

Update: I wrote this post initially in 2012. Seven years later, I’ve decided to update it to include player sponsorships since I’m partially involved in that space with regards to esports.

If you’re reading this, you have a blog, a podcast, or an event that you’re looking to drum up some kind of resources for. Or maybe you’re an aspiring competitive player or an up and coming streamer.

Maybe you’re an esports organization looking for some help or a guild that’s looking to ease a few financial burdens. I know how costly and expensive it can be.

One of the questions that often get asked is how do I attract and get sponsors for <something>? I can’t offer you a definitive step-by-step guide or formula on how to get sponsorship. But having been on both sides of the sponsorship question (both reviewing sponsorship requests and negotiating with companies for sponsors for events/organizations), there are a few things you really need to keep in mind to make yourself more attractive to them.

Not all sponsorship arrangements have to involve money. Instead, consider things like:

  • Gaming peripherals
  • Hardware
  • Voice servers
  • Guild hosting websites
  • Web hosting services (For your blog or podcast)
  • Discount agreements
  • Other product

Know your audience

If you write a blog, do you know what the demographics of your readers are?

  • How many of them are male vs female?
  • How many of them are between the ages of 16 – 25?
  • How many listeners does your podcast get?
  • What your RSS subscriber count is?
  • How many page views you get per month?
  • What your top 5 most popular articles are?

Having this data is extremely important. The question you need to keep in the back of your mind is how does sponsoring you help them with their brand message?

Provide evidence and data. Interested potential sponsors will ask for data about traffic and page views. If you’re a streamer, be prepared with views and subscribers. If you’re a competitive player, have a history of events you’ve attended, the number of players and viewers that event had, and your resulting finishes.

If you stream, do you know what kind of viewers you’re attracting to watch?

If you compete at live tournaments, do you know the general makeup of those in attendance?

Case Study: World of Matticus

Not many of you may remember this, but years ago I came really close to shutting down WoM. Hosting bills were gradually climbing up. It got to the point where I almost had to pay $300 a month to keep the site going. Luckily, I was able to negotiate a web hosting sponsorship. Having traffic information allowed the two of us to come to an agreement because they were able to allocate the necessary resources needed as the audience (in other words, you guys) continued to scale and grow.

Know your sponsors

What is the goal of the company you want to partner with? Are they trying to raise subscriptions? Are they gunning for increased awareness and exposure? Do you know what kind of players are interested in their products? If you have an idea of what their sales goals are, you can help factor that in with your proposal in how you can help them with their challenges.

Companies have a bottom line they need to adhere to. Hardware companies are looking for conversions from visibility to sales (that’s why you’ll see streamers offer discount codes). Subscription-based companies are looking for people to sign up for long term offers. While it would be great if businesses could sponsor every potential up-and-coming player to help with their growth and development, it simply isn’t going to be financially feasible.

The company I’m involved with sponsors a number of local players that attend major events like Dreamhack and EVO throughout the year. We’re not always in a position where we can fly out every local player who shows promise. At the end of the day, results do matter. One of our measurable goals is eyeballs and exposure. In order to raise the odds of our players appearing on stream, they need to be competitive and they have to consistently perform at a high level.

For Hearthstone, we cover the flights and accommodation of a few of our local players when they made the Americas playoffs or when they attended certain HCT Points earnings events because we believed they had what it took to play at the level expected. If those players hadn’t made high finishes, then we might scale back on the number of events that they get sent out to throughout the year. While we would love to send everyone locally to major events, we can’t afford to. Like it or not, we’re a business, and we don’t have a limitless supply of resources.

What can you offer?

Business is still business. You need to be able to exchange value for value. How can you ensure that your sponsor’s message reaches the desired audience? There are a few ways you can do that.

One of the easiest methods is to place a logo and a link to your sponsors anyone on your site. Graphical banners do the job. Logos can be placed in the site header. Another good spot is to place them on the background image of the site (and it’ll appear prominently to anyone on widescreen monitors).

If you have a podcast, mention here and there (“We’d like to thank our sponsors …”).

If you run a livestream, place their logo on the stream itself somewhere out of the way or change the background image of the page your stream is on to reflect them. You could even run video ads during a break while you step away.

Work with videos? Place their logo at the front or at the end of your productions.

Attending events in person? Have any custom gear? See if you can get their brand embedded on your shirts or jerseys. If you get selected to go on stream, this provides tremendous value.

Does your guild run a ton of pickup raids or organized PvP? If your group gets a ton of pickup or cross realm traffic, create a message of the day in Ventrilo (or Discord) that mentions them. Consider changing the name of the waiting room channel. Think of different methods to help your sponsors with their message.

Case study: Fnatic and Team 3D

A long time ago, Fnatic.RaidCall changed the name of their organization to help draw awareness to Raidcall. Almost a decade ago, when Counterstrike Source was at its height, I believe Team 3D changed their in-game tags from 3D.KSharp to 3D.nVidia :: Ksharp. This was during the finals of one of the CPL events where thousands of players were watching the game live. Can you imagine the exposure nVidia received?

The ability to change gamer tags to incorporate your sponsor is huge.

Image matters

Sponsors will associate with organizations that project a certain image that they are trying to appeal to. Be mindful of the targeted demographic that they are trying to reach. Be mindful of any negative or abusive language. Adjust your tone so that it falls in line with what your ideal sponsors are looking for.

Case study: Capcom and Tekken

There was an incident several years ago when rampant trash talking between two competitors during a match resulted in one of them dropping out. Miranda forfeited due to mental distress from the verbal abuse that Aris was delivering. Penny Arcade had an excellent editorial piece (post since removed) about some of that verbal abuse. I pulled off a double take when that same individual then said that “The sexual harassment is part of the culture [and] if you remove that from the fighting game community, it’s not the fighting game community”. While I don’t know if there was any fallout after those comments were made, I’m pretty sure potential sponsors would be wary of associating with any organizations with that type of mentality.

Measure it

Make sure you have a way to help your sponsors measure any positive benefits. Can’t attract any sponsors unless they can determine how well the exposure is doing them for them. One such example would be a customized link which tracks how many referrals came from your site and how many of those referrals signed up for a product or service.

If you were on stream, take a snapshot of the number of people that happened to watch you live or make a note of the number of views a video that featured you had. You need quantifiable information in order to justify having a productive relationship with your sponsors. When we send a player to attend a tournament, we need to evaluate the event in question and see if it makes sense for us. Sending a player to a tournament with 50 competitors doesn’t make sense, but sending a player to one with 500 players matters because we have the potential to attract more eyeballs for roughly the same amount of investment (the travel costs).

When you work on a contractual agreement with yourself and a sponsor, make sure you list everything measurable that you can do for them. Examples could include:

  • 5 tweets per week
  • 2 shoutouts per stream
  • 3 mentions on Instagram within 4 weeks
  • A video talking about your experience with their product or event

Look out for them

Your job is to ensure that your sponsors are taken care of. Help them out with whatever they need. Make sure you deliver on the terms that you have agreed upon. Cultivate those long term relationships. Get and provide feedback on what worked and what didn’t. If you’re running an event such as a tournament, invite them out again next year while the whole ordeal remains in the front of their minds.

Most importantly, remember to thank them!

Good luck in your efforts!

Open Discussion: How Do You Improve Players Without Coming out as an Arrogant Jerk?

Open Discussion: How Do You Improve Players Without Coming out as an Arrogant Jerk?

 
Image courtesy of kalilo

The above picture is quite fitting. The shot is of one bear standing atop of a log looking down at another bear. It’s almost as if the tall bear is trying to tell the other bear that his technique of catching fish is incorrect. I suspect that both bears engage in a bear-like scrap which involves tussling the opponent around until they both run out of breath and call it a draw.

This leads me to today’s open discussion post. I’m going to describe to you a completely and entirely hypothetical situation.

Seriously.

Let’s assume for the moment that I’ve lost several healers over the course of two weeks. The fact that it really did happen has no bearing at all whatsoever on his hypothetical scenario.

We take on 3 extra healers, all considerably green in terms of experience and gear. They’ve done Black Temple and Hyjal a combined 5 times. Their health is not up to par. Their spec is even more puzzling. The primary reason we take them is because if we don’t, we are effectively paralyzed.

Again, hypothetically speaking.

You understand my beliefs in the matter. A raiding guild that is not raiding is not a raiding guild.

I want to help

I want to do whatever I can to get these players developed and up there in no time. But attacking a healer’s technique, gear, spec, and situational awareness can be a bit disorienting all at the same time. Unfortunately, my guild doesn’t exactly have a lot of time to spend waiting around for them to see the light. So I have to shine a really large bulb in their eyes right now so that changes can be made as quick as possible in order to balance the ship.

Did anyone who read that last paragraph understand what I was trying to say there?

In other words, if I get all nice and touchy-feely I might not get taken seriously enough. If I don’t get taken seriously enough, then they will still continue their mistakes and inefficiencies. If that continues, I will have to eventually turn to look for other solutions and I start right at the beginning going through the processes again.

On the other hand, if I come on too strong, they become defensive and tone deaf to the suggest improvements that I offer. This results in them nodding and of course, not doing as I ask.

Where are all the healers?

I don’t exactly have a whole lot of healers barging down my door begging to apply. I have to work with what I have. Skipping straight from T4 instances to T6 would just about overload anyone.

As my distant cousin Carlos Juan Atticus would say, "you loco, ese".

How can I possibly pack six months worth of raiding skill, information, and knowledge into a two week trial period? Because that’s all the time I have before these guys either sink or swim. We let them go in favour of looking for new ones. There is no readme file on how to be an awesome healer. Compressing information such as positioning, healer smarts, situational awareness, and all these big mumbo jumbo terms is tough.

Which leads me to…

I have to trim down all this fat. I have to tell them what they need to know, what they need to do, how to do it, when to do it, and why they should do it. Don’t ask me why, but people find it reassuring to know why they are doing the things they do. Do you know how amazingly cooperative people get if you give them a perfectly logical reason as to why they should do something?

Example, every time you see a Doomfire, abandon healing your tank and run. Why? Because they’ll die if they don’t. A dead healer is a useless healer.

Never forget my principles.

I want these players to get better so that I don’t have to bring in a new batch of healers to shepherd. 3 hours of my time is spent in the raid. When I handle assignments and briefings on what healers are doing, I do it several trash pulls before. This way, I don’t waste time when we get in front of a new boss and spend 10 minutes explaining exactly what we’re doing, where, when, how, and why.

It’s quite satisfying to hear my raid leaders call out for various things to find them already done.

"We need Shadow Resist buff."
"Done."
"Did anyone tell the new priest what they’r-"
"Done."
"By the way, Lang needs a fear war-"
"Already up and 10 seconds in."
"So the paladin knows who to hea-"
"Yeah, main tank, can we pull now?"

I wonder how many man hours I’ve saved.

About me

I am an extremely direct person. If I want something, I’m going to say it. If I see something wrong, I’m going to mention it. My trouble is that I want to convey my thoughts in a manner where I won’t come out as an ass yet can instill a sense of urgency.

Let’s talk about specs.

Let’s hypothetically assume there is a Priest with a 21/40 build (that’s Divine Spirit without the improved, and the Circle of Healing without the Circle of Healing).

Can you tell me what is wrong with that?

A normal person might say nothing. It’s a perfectly decent spec and players should be allowed to spec however they want. Empowered Healing does increase base flash heal and greater heal by a sizeable margin, to be sure.

The healing lead would have alarm bells go off in their heads. Can you tell me why? In a raid, there are 25 players allowed. A certain percentage consist of tanks, DPS, and healers.

This is the argument that I would make and that I would say but I would just feel so guilty of saying (I do have a guilt complex).

"Bob, you know, you’re an excellent healer. You do what you’re told and heal who you’re asked to heal. You’ve been a tremendous service to the Guild. But I’m in a tough bind here. I can only let in 7 healers at a time and you don’t exactly supply a lot of options for yourself. You’re specced Spirit without the Improved Spirit. You also don’t have Circle of Healing. Why should I take you? You’re useless to me. Give me a reason to take you. I want to take you in, I really do. But when I weigh you against the other potential classes, it looks quite grim."

Of course, Bob, the ever so brilliant opportunist would counter with the fact that I don’t have a lot of options to choose from. This brings me back to my opening question. How do you improve players without giving the impression of an arrogant jerk? Because frankly, I am one. But that’s because I care.

I did mention this was all hypothetical, right? This is the kind of material that gets pumped out when a blogger sits idle in a chair with his eyes closed.

It’s quite refreshing.