Hitchhiker's guide to Mod Sponsorship

Written by Brett Thomas

November 20, 2007 | 10:27

Tags: #advertising #competition #sponsor #sponsorship

Companies: #ac-ryan #corsair #mod

Starting off

So, you have a great idea. You're ready to embark on a modding adventure, and you want to do it (as much as possible) on someone else's dime. Good for you! Now, please get in line with everyone else who wants something for free - and while you're wishing, I want a pony. (what is it with bit-tech staff and ponies? - Ed.)

Nah, it's not really that bad, but you'd better take a look at how this is going to work. It's easy to get carried away, thinking that you should get this part from this company and that part from another company. No, if you've never done this type of thing before, it's time we slowed down and set out some ground rules.

There are some basic questions that you need to ask yourself before you start to ask other people:
  • Who are you looking at for sponsorship?
  • What are you (realistically) looking for?
  • How long will the project take?
  • What are you going to provide your sponsor?
  • What can they expect in the future?
All of these are questions that you need to know before you ever write that email, pick up that phone, or hit "Send PM" on our forums. Without that type of information, you're going to look like you're just begging for hand-outs - a problem that plagues the entire modding community.

In fact, before we go anything further, it's time to make one or two more "before you go asking" notes...

Track records

If you want to have your mod sponsored, you need to start by having something that shows you can finish a project. If I had a dollar for every mod that started off well in the bit-tech forums but ended up pretty much dead on the table after three months, I'd be a rich man - even with the currently very weak dollar.

Hitchhiker's guide to Mod Sponsorship A foot in the door Hitchhiker's guide to Mod Sponsorship A foot in the door
Left - Wolverine's Pentagram HTPC is just the latest in a number of successful, popular mods;
Right - Even with sponsorship, G-Gnome's WMD still cost around £5,000 out of pocket.

The first time you start looking for sponsorship should really not be the first time that you've done a mod. Usually, about the third time is a charm for getting the ball rolling on sponsorship - then there are two completed projects before this one, which should be published on a single (two at the max) modding forum that gets traffic from the right kinds of people. This way, you can illustrate that your name is a recognised one, that you follow things through, and that there's commercial "presence" to your mod.

Having a track record is one of the most important things in modding from a sponsor's point of view. If there are previous mods to look back on, it's easy to see how well and how quickly you complete your projects. If those mods made the front page of a big-name site, a sponsor can contact the modding person and ask what it was like to work with you. If there's proper project logs (and there are, aren't there?), then the sponsor can see how you responded to criticism, setbacks, etc.

For instance, if you botched a cut, did you wait three months to get a new panel, or did you go buy one? Alternatively, did you just work around the mistake and incorporate it into your mod? If a company has handed you a couple hundred quid worth of time-sensitive hardware (like graphics cards), it's not liable to wait for two months while you whinge about your errant cut - the product could be obsolete before your mod is even done, thus wasting the advertising opportunity.

Which brings us to...

Are we there yet?

In order to get a mod done, most people need to have a plan - and you'd better, too. A sponsor will want to see something showing that this mod can and will get off the ground, assuming it hasn't already. The company will also want to see how you intend to "showcase" its gift to you in the project. After all, it's not too useful to give you a top-of-the-line set of very visually-identifiable Corsair Dominator DDR3 memory if you aren't even going to have a window!

A plan will help a sponsor see where you are taking the mod, and what the company can expect in the end. It will also illustrate that you've thought carefully about how you will accomplish the final product, rather than expecting a great mod and tremendous skill to just drop into your lap. It pays to be able to tell the company how you're going to handle certain setbacks if they should arise, such as the errant cut mentioned above "I've got an entire spare case just in case something screws the pooch," is something I always like to hear.

Even better than just a plan is a partially finished mod - this is particularly true of hardware sponsorship. Almost no hardware is "vital" to the early stages of a mod's design, so what have you done already? Most people just slap the hardware in at the end, so sponsors are looking for something that's already at least part-way complete (and preferably already attracting interest) before sending out the goodies.
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