From the start of the 20th Century, musicians have managed multiple income streams to build a picture of a full income. Initially, it was just a case of balancing record sales and live income but very quickly musicians began to realise another source of income – brand sponsorships. Initially, this came in the form of simple advert appearances (such as Cliff Richard and his commercial for Mars bars), but the stream has grown and in the modern music era, brand sponsorship and endorsements have become a huge part of an artists’ business model.
In this article, we’re going to explore the different kinds of brand sponsorships, establish the best brand sponsorships for musicians and also look at how to ask for brand sponsorship.
So what is a brand sponsorship and is brand sponsorship marketing technique? There are a few different ways that brands can work with artists and each has its own pros and cons depending on how the arrangement is structured. The main three are:
Brand Sponsorship in its purest form is probably the most lucrative for musicians. This is where a brand pays an artist money in exchange for fulfilling certain activities around the marketing of the brand. These activities could be anything from social media posts, appearing in ads and commercials and even positive mentions in interviews, etc. British rapper, Professor Green, has been very successful in this kind of brand partnership with the likes of Puma and Relentless.
Endorsements are very common in music but vary wildly in how specific deals are structured. In a nutshell, an endorsement is when a brand provides its product(s) to an artist as a form of marketing. This is mostly the domain of music instrument manufacturers who provide instruments and equipment to artists which allows them to market their products more effectively. There are a few ways this can shake down:
1 – The full endorsement. For artists at the height of their career, they can often secure a financial contribution in exchange for using a specific manufacturer’s instrument on stage and in music videos.
2 – The free product. Instrument manufacturers will often provide artists with free products in the hope this will result in media coverage of them using the instruments. An early example of this is when Fender provided The Beatles with a huge range of equipment as they went into the studio to record the Get Back sessions – which successfully resulted in major coverage of John Lennon using the 6-string bass and blonde Starcaster, George Harrison using his famous red wine Telecaster and the extensive coverage of Billy Preston using the Fender Rhodes electric piano. Fender are also very good at gifting guitars for significant occasions and provided a gold sparkle telecaster to each of their endorsed artists nominated in the Grammys in 2018.
3 – The discounted product. For artists further down the food chain, instrument manufacturers may offer a discounted price for products in return for use of images of the artist in their advertising or brochures, or for certain social media activities.
One significant way in which artists can benefit from brand sponsorship is via brand music festival sponsorships or tour/gig sponsorship. Again, there are a couple of different ways that brands can get involved in festivals and live events but primarily it will either be that a brand sponsors the event or perhaps a stage at the event, covering off the performance fees for the artists on that stage and also taking the opportunity to include their product in riders and their signage on and around the performance area.
Another route is that a brand will provide their product or service at the event – sometimes for free or sometimes even at a cost. This could be in form of WiFi, drinks for VIP lounges and exclusive performances, food in riders, etc.
Philanthropy is a slightly different kettle of fish in that the endorsement and flow of cash is in reverse. In this example, artists are used as brand ambassadors to help raise awareness of charitable causes that they are either directly involved with in terms of funding or that they have chosen to support. An example of this would be Bono’s co-founding of the RED organisation fighting the spread of HIV/AIDS in third world countries.
Here is where it is important to offer a note of caution. When it comes to brand sponsorship of musicians, it’s very easy to become caught in the whirlwind of benefits to you as the artist – but it’s important to keep in mind that sponsorship marketing has to benefit the brand. A sponsor brand offering endorsements or financial incentives to artists are looking to maximise coverage and attention to their product, ultimately to drive new sales. So if you’re an artist looking to build a relationship it’s helpful to understand how brands work and think and what conventions they adhere to.
Brands have very clear rules that govern their identity. This isn’t just a case of colours and logos, it’s also around the kind of content they put out, the things they get involved in and the other brands and individuals they work with. Red Bull is a great example – the brand is built upon an ethos of energy, fun and living life on the edge. So they work with a lot of extreme sports athletes and sponsor incredible events and achievements, such as the Stratos project with Felix Baumgartner sky diving from 39 kilometres above New Mexico. It would be very off-brand for Red Bull to sponsor a food festival, for example.
When you are considering what brands to work with, it’s also important to think about how you as an artist fit into their overall brand identity. If you are a singer-songwriter for example, it might be difficult to gain traction with an energy drink.
It is also important to consider how you can help a brand achieve their own goals. For Ellie Goulding and her partnership with Nike, there is a clear benefit to both parties – Ellie was able to find a new audience through integration with Nike’s running apps, whilst Nike were able to market to a new audience getting interested in fitness and running that they previously didn’t have access to. They were even able to set up some great interactive fan events where fans could join Ellie for a run before her show that evening.
Similarly, when the Outlaw Orchestra were endorsed by Gold Tone, it marketed Gold Tone’s electric banjos to a new audience of rock-lovers in the UK whilst the Outlaw Orchestra were able to benefit from social media coverage and a new audience of Americana lovers based in the US.
When discussing how to engage with brands, Professor Green highlights that the successful brand partnerships he has been involved in have been the result of his being approached by the brands rather than him approaching them. However, if you are reaching out to brands looking for partnerships it’s very important to be clear about what you are looking for and what you are offering in return.
Having a high engagement across a range of social media platforms is a useful asset, it’s also useful if you are in a position of influence for a target demographic that is attractive to the brand. The best marketing campaigns work in all parties’ favour – so it’s prudent to have a plan of what you would like to achieve in partnership with a brand a be able to explicitly articulate why it will be successful for that brand and why you are the best partner for them.
Once you have your plan and proposal fully in place, then you are ready to make contact with the brand(s). As a note, if you are approaching multiple brands, be careful – you want to make sure that you are targeting brands that will actually work well with you and not wasting their time. Remember, you will probably only get one shot at this kind of engagement so make sure you’re ready and that you have formulated a coherent plan, rather than just emailing and asking for a brand to sponsor you – marketing budgets are tight and marketeers need to get the biggest bang for their buck.
Don’t email a full proposal to a random person within a company. First, do some research to see if the brand is involved in partnerships and who within the company is responsible for artist liaison – this is also a good opportunity to check that you are on-brand as a potential endorsee of the company in question. Once you have a contact, it is best to try to secure a meeting or a call so that you can explain what you are proposing in more detail – with slides to back it up. If you have a manager or lawyer, this might also add some weight to your proposals, rather than reaching out directly yourself.
Brand sponsorship can be hugely useful to artists both in terms of direct income but also in terms of growing your fanbase and your career – what started with brand sponsorship with Professor Green has led to a totally new revenue stream in the form of TV and radio presenting – so the opportunities can be very lucrative.
It’s also worth highlighting that a lot of companies are looking to take advantage of artists. For example, a lot of endorsement offers to emerging artists are offers of endorsement in exchange for discounts on purchases. If this works for you as an artist that is great, but remember that for the company offering the endorsement, they are still selling their product to a new customer at a wholesale price and receiving some additional free PR as the ’endorsee’ shares their endorsement on social media. Remember that your brand is the most important thing, and who you align yourself to will affect how your brand is perceived – so make sure that if you are working with an instrument manufacturer or any other brand, that their products and services sit with your own brand identity and that any agreement works for you. As always, if in doubt, it’s a great idea to consult with a music lawyer.
Get Free Music Distribution and find opportunities to get your music in film, TV, and more through sync licensing. Plus get Music Supervision, Music Publishing, Music Marketing, Artist Development and utilize our Free Artist Websites and Rap Name Generator. Finally, you can amplify your music to those that need to hear it with music promotion, TikTok promotion and professional sharing tool. Why not give the gift of music today with our Gifts for musicians package?
Try all of this out for yourself by joining Мusic Gateway. Get your free trial, no strings attached.