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Hitchhiker's guide to Mod Sponsorship

Introduction

If you're like me, a trip through the Project Logs section of our forum is a daily (or, at max, every other day) ritual. It's amazing to see some of the talent that goes into almost every mod out there. Each one is a vision of art, moulded by its creator into reality.

Of course, some are better than others...and a few even have this nifty little banner saying "sponsored by," the sure sign of free kit.

"Wait, did someone say 'free kit'? How do I get that? My mod is top notch! How did he get sponsored? More importantly, how do I get sponsored?!"

Well, I'm here to tell you how - and, more importantly, why - sponsorship works. Who to talk to, what to look for, how to approach, and what we on the "other side" of the sponsorship equation are looking for out of you.

"But, who are you," you may be asking. And the answer is, I'm one of the guys you need to impress. I manage the mod content that hits the front page here at bit-tech - from the community driven Mod of the Month project to the meticulous, insane work of our resident mod gurus. I've helped many talented modders find their paths to our front page, while promoting their mods to companies that we work closely with in the industry to get the kit they need or want.

I field questions daily about how to get a sponsor - enough so that it's time I put something on the front page about it. So, here it is - the essential Hitchhiker's Guide to Mod Sponsorship - or something like that.

What this guide is and is not

Dark Blade is arguably one of the most popular mods in recent times, but had very little sponsorship, relatively speaking.

Dark Blade is arguably one of the
most popular mods in recent times, but had
very little sponsorship, relatively speaking.

My purpose in writing this guide is to explain some of the common practices, ideas, concepts and misconceptions behind the idea of modding sponsorship. Hopefully, by the end of this guide, you'll have an understanding of what we as sponsors (or the people getting you sponsors, in my case) are looking for from you as a modder and from your mod.

However, this guide is not a guarantee of sponsorship. By doing everything in this guide to the letter, you will improve your chances dramatically - but it is not definitive. Worse, there are times that sponsorship just doesn't happen - perhaps the company that you wanted to work with had its advertising budget depleted for the time, for example. If that's the case, the greatest mod in the world isn't likely to walk away with kit.

The reality is, sometimes even a good mod will get turned down. And when that happens, you just have to accept that maybe it wasn't the right time. But don't give up - there's a chance that companies may take a second look down the line, or put you in line for your next project.

It's the economy, stupid

Those of you who were awake for the 1992 US Presidential election campaign will instantly recognize Bill Clinton's witty campaign slogan - "It's the economy, stupid!" Lo and behold, it really is. See, modding sponsorship isn't something that a company does out of the kindness of its sweet little corporate heart - sponsorship is a business decision about promoting products.

That may seem like an utter "duh!" moment, but the truth is that I think nine out of ten modders that I talk to about sponsorship seem to forget that. modding (for most of us) is a hobby. To the more devout, serial modder, it's an art form. Very few actually look at modding as an income opportunity, and there's a reason for that - there's not much of a market to sell our final products.

Just some of the sponsors for one mod that was featured on our front page.

Just some of the sponsors for one mod that was featured
on our front page.

It's this mix that makes a natural divide between modders and sponsors - both sides want something different out of it. A modder doesn't view his or her work as "profitable" - it's art, and it's going to be posted somewhere that people will (hopefully) see it. Therefore, it seems like just one graphics card and a couple fans should be easy to give away! It's much like the piracy debate, in fact - "It's not like I'm making money off of them, and they're getting free advertising!"

In the meantime, the companies that are doing the sponsoring have a very large market to sell in - hardware for enthusiasts, modding supplies for modders...each of these things is a business, and these companies need those sales. If a company gives its modding supplies to modders, there's nobody to buy the product it's selling.

Let's take a look at one of my favourite sponsors to work with - the awesome chaps at AC Ryan. The company's business is making replacement parts and modding supplies for cases - things like cables, fans, grilles, etc. Now, you might think that the company should be easily able to part with a couple of £10 fans for your awesome mod. After all, you're not made of money, and modding is an expensive hobby.

But then, think about who the company's target market is - modders! It makes its money by selling its products to modders for mods - so every set of free fans is a sale lost. If AC Ryan splashed out a couple fans for every great mod, the company would find its sales plummet - every person that those fans could be advertised to by looking at your rig already has a set of their own.

Take this further to the idea of a local retailer - he or she has purchased a graphics card that sells for £250. He paid £200 for it, pays about £20 for it to sit on the shelf, and hopes to sell it at a profit - about £30. Now, if he hands that part to you, he's out £220 - and he will need to sell eight of those cards because of your mod before he gets enough money to make it a smart decision.

Because of that, any and every company that sponsors mods looks at a very important factor - ROI, or Return on Investment. The company is "buying" advertising by giving you that part - and it expects to see some type of return. My friends, when you start looking for sponsorship, you are turning your hobby into a little bit of business - and you'd better be prepared to "sell" your mod.