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How to find a sponsor and get sponsorship for your fashion show

By Ari Helgason, 09 Mar 2010

Sponsors love fashion designers. They want to be associated with glamour. Just look at London Fashion Week, sponsored by the likes of Blackberry, Coutts and British Airways. Or New York Fashion Week, sponsored by Mercedes Benz and others. Sponsorships are a great way to finance your brand's fashion show.

How do you get someone to pay you money to be associated with something as intangible as your brand?

The first time doing this is always the most difficult, but below are some tricks that you can use to drastically increase your chances of being successful in the endeavor.

Plan your fashion show

The first step is having a plan that's as concrete as possible. Know exactly how it will be, what your budgets will be, etc. It is unlikely that you'll have every detail planned, but do a realistic budget which gives you an idea of how much sponsorship you need to raise.

This is as much for your own sake as for the sponsor's sake. It will give you the confidence to go out and know exactly how much you need to ask for.

Research sponsors

Now that you have a plan for how to proceed it's time to find the sponsor. This is where many people give up. Where should you start? A great place to start is to look at who is sponsoring your competitors' shows. In some cases one company will sponsor a number of shows and you can approach them. This is easiest because they already know how it works and realise the benefits since they already done sponsorships.

This is not always possible. For a start, companies only have limited sponsorship budgets and they might well be tied up with your competitors already. A clever trick is to approach the competitors of whoever sponsors other fashion labels. For example, if Champagne house X sponsors shows, approach Champagne house Y with a proposal. Even if you have never worked with a sponsor before, you can point to the benefits enjoyed by X as proof that this really works.

Negotiating with sponsors

This is the point at which you really have to show that you know what you're doing. Approach them with a clear proposal and make it as easy as possible for them to write you a cheque. Writing sponsorship proposals is an art in itself

Figure out what they want and give it to them. What's important to them? What type of prominence can you give to their brand? Be careful of giving them too much, you don't want every single photo of your show to be plastered over with the sponsor's logo. On the other hand the sponsor has to feel like they're getting their money's worth for the sponsorship.

Corporate sponsors love getting free tickets to fashion shows so that their executives can take their partners along to a glamorous evening. They like when there's going to be a lot of press around. They like it when there are lots of 'influencers' who might have a positive impact on their brand. All these things matter. Do a quick breakdown of who will be there.

Getting the sponsor's money

After focusing on what you have to offer them, move on to what you need from them. If you have done a good job of selling the benefits in the above step, this will be much easier and the sponsor will actually want to give you the money.

To avoid a deadlock it's a good idea to have a few different scenarios planned. For example, if you pay us £10,000, you'll get your logo on invitations, logo on a backdrop to the catwalk, etc.

A great trick is to start with presenting a very expensive option. If this proves to be too much for the sponsor's budget, you can move on to alternative scenarios for less money and less exposure.

Following up with your sponsor

This is a step that fashion labels often neglect after taking sponorship. After the show, you should put together a brief presentation pack with pictures, press coverage of the show and the like. This will allow the person dealing with the sponsorship to justify the expense to his superiors. The better this look the better your chances of getting repeat sponsorship from that sponsor and the easier it becomes to approach new sponsors in the future!

Tell us about your experiences with sponsors and share your tips in the comments.