Landing brand partnerships is one way that influencers, bloggers and creators monetize their social influence, and how event pros are able to fund the events we all attend and love.
Though unfortunately for Black women, these deals come few and far between in comparison to our white counterparts. Opposition, oppression, and obstacles are just some of the things that seem to bury many Black women’s dreams away in the pursuit of their sponsorship journey. But there’s one woman on a mission to help Black women secure the bag.
A self-proclaimed “sponsorship strategist,” Jessica Chinyelu has found a more simplistic plan for Black women to take as they pursue sponsorships and she is committed to teaching women all over the globe the simplest path to their dream sponsors.
For ESSENCE, she shares some of the common missteps that people make when trying to land deals and what brands are actually looking for.
How did you come to realize that being a “sponsorship strategist” was your purpose?
I have been hosting the annual sold out, Woman of Purpose conferences since 2014 but paused in 2018. I was the visionary and the Chief Sponsorship Officer. When I first started hosting those conferences, I funded it with personal and student loan money, and my bank account hit the negative. But I was passionate, and I knew my calling was to put on an experience for women that pushed them to grow in faith and business.
Through guidance from an attendee of my events, as someone who hosted her own sponsored programs, she began to show me the “right way” to secure sponsors for my events. I was very thankful for her support because it’s hard to get people to share contacts and financial resources. Especially when companies weren’t partnering with black creators the way they are now.
What brands have you worked with to date?
I’ve worked with so many brands I love, personally and alongside my clients. The Container Store, Pottery Barn Kids, Stella Rosa Wines, Walmart, Whataburger, and still more to come.
What are the top 3 things that brands are looking for when it comes to partnerships?
First, brands are looking for a win-win partnership. If you want a win-win, there must be a business goal alignment between you and the brand. For example, does your audience include the target audience the brand is looking to reach. Can you help the brand get its products in the hands of more people? Can you provide them with the information needed as they experiment? Can you help the brand get a message across and help bring forth awareness? Each brand is hoping to achieve a specific goal, and part of your job through a partnership is to help the brand meet its desired goals.
Next, do you use their product or service and share this information with your community or have any case studies to back up your proposed partnership. I can’t tell you the number of people who come to me with partnership ideas, but they’ve never engaged with the brand or signed up for a brands free affiliate program. There’s nothing worse than hopping on a call with a brand and not being able to prove how you plan to bring value to the table. It looks good when you’ve already got some receipts, and you’re simply providing the results. If you love the brand, you should be following them on social media. You should engage with them and keep up with what’s happening with the brand. It’s a brand you should be proud to share on your platform.
And finally, your digital footprint should provide the best representation of who you are and how you serve. I don’t just mean how often you post on Instagram because, if I’m honest, most brands don’t want to scroll through a hundred posts to figure out your impact. You OWN your website. When a brand visits your website, they are looking for a clear picture of the impact you’ve made over time. If you have a non-profit, what are your programs, how many people have you served through your programs since inception, and share recaps of the events you’ve hosted. If you are a thought leader or expert, share insights about your community. If you’re a business coach, tell the world how much revenue your company has helped small businesses generate. Your website should share the best ways for brands to partner with you and be involved. When sponsorship seekers enroll in my 8-week program, Sponsored and Secured, I audit their websites to ensure they have all the information needed to attract corporate partners.
What is the most common misstep that people make when going out to secure sponsorship deals?
The biggest mistake I see people make is going after dollars instead of relationships. I always say this, “Partnerships and collaborations are personal… Add value and build relationships with people before you need them.” I live by this statement. Before sending an email with a pitch deck attached asking for money, try engaging with the person on Linkedin or attend an event the individual posted about where you can connect with them in person. You will find much more success by building solid relationships rather than making monetary asks to strangers. I’ve seen people make a BIG ask, and the brand says, “No or Not at this time”, and instead of transforming that no into a relationship, the conversation ends there.
Another way sponsorship seekers miss the mark is thinking a no right now means it can’t be a yes later. It’s okay to ask a brand, “Can we revisit this six months to a year from now.” It’s also OK to ask a brand when they start planning budgets. I’ve yet to witness a company decision-maker pushback when I asked this question. A real-life story, one of my most significant contracts to date I locked in for one of my clients initially was a no, not at this time. I asked when is a good time to reconnect on the opportunity I was presenting, and the brand responded three months ahead since that’s when their fiscal year was beginning. I got a date scheduled on the calendar and prepared a proposal for the call. The same day of our next meeting, I received a verbal yes and an official agreement to move forward within thirty days. People give up too quickly.
Another common misstep I see is people not creating custom solutions for brands. All brands have different goals, so sending out the same pitch email with the same deck to multiple companies isn’t going to cut it. Before submitting a proposal, ask for a discovery call to see if it’s even a good fit to partner together. This is a perfect opportunity to learn about the brand’s goals and upcoming offers and brainstorm how you two can collaborate now or in the future. This approach will help to develop a custom proposal that aligns with the brand’s needs. Each time I’ve done this, I’ve sealed the deal.
This interview has been edited and condensed.