Episode 165 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / Corporate and Business Sponsors

Corporate and Business Sponsors

Asking corporations for sponsorship is one avenue to consider when raising money for a project or a series of paintings, sculptures, or any other art-related work. To begin with, if you are asking a corporate sponsor for a donation of product or money, there has to be something in it for them. That means there has to be some publicity of some kind. If you are asking a company to donate art materials like paint and canvas, then you have to think about how they will get attention for it. You see, the incentive for a company to sponsor or support your activities in some way is to get back what they give you in the form of publicity and good will. Examples of that might be a class you are teaching where you will tell all the students to use the materials of the company that sponsored you or an exhibit where you expect people to come and see the materials in action. It could also be in a lecture you are giving about your work or something where the company that is sponsoring you is getting attention for their products.

How I Did It

Here are two examples of sponsorship I recently received. The first one is one of the most dramatic, so I will start there first. My wife and I were having an exhibit, and I wanted to use iPods on the walls to show off videos that were being exhibited among sculptures. I called Apple and tried to find out how to get a donation from them. In general, the place you start is to pick up the phone and call someone. There is no hard-and-fast rule on contacting corporations because most of them do not have policies on sponsorship; it is dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

I called the general number for Apple. I told the person answering the phone that I was an artist having a show and that I was looking for sponsorship and product donation from Apple. They gave me a number to call, which had a recording that said something like, “If you would like Apple to donate to your project, press 1, or if you have a marketing idea for Apple, press 2.” I pressed 1 and there was a recording that thanked me for being interested in a donation from Apple. Then the voice went on to say that Apple does not donate to projects or causes, and that their employees are already involved in community programs that give back to the people who live in their areas. The last thing the message said was that if I had a marketing idea to press 2. I pressed 2 just to see what would happen, and the recording there thanked me for my interest but said they have a marketing company that handles everything for them, and at the moment, they were happy with their marketing plans! It was all very polite, but a dead end nonetheless. I wanted to talk to a person at Apple so they could understand my show and at least say no to me with a real voice and not a recording. For me, when someone says no, it is not always a definite no, they are just sorting out people they think will waste their time because they do not want to spend time looking at proposals they are not interested in.

Not Accepting No for an Answer

The next way I tried to get to Apple was by calling the local Apple store. I knew at least I would get someone on the phone there. I explained my situation again and said I just wanted someone to talk to, not a recording. They gave me the number of someone in their business department. I called him and explained what I wanted, and he said he had never seen them give products, but it wouldn’t hurt to try. So I sent him a very short email that had as the subject line “40 iPods and an art show.” I quickly explained that I was having this cool show and wanted Apple to consider giving me iPods for it. The letter was brief, to the point, and was filled with enthusiasm. One day later, I got a response that said, “Thank you, we would like to do this, tell us when the show is close.” I was stunned. Yes, they were giving me the iPods! In general, what you can expect from corporations is that they will usually not answer quickly, or they will say no. Again, there are no rules in asking corporations, so just start calling and asking; it is amazing what can happen. I also wrote to Bose and asked for forty pairs of headphones to go along with the iPods. I had to make many calls to follow up and get an answer, but finally they said yes. Always keep in mind that in your letter, you must explain to them why you need them and, most importantly, why it will get seen by a lot of people. They are looking for exposure and more visibility of their product.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.