Cosplay sponsorships! Convention reps! Page models! Paid promoting!
What do all these things have in common? You have to hustle for them. Cosplay sponsorships don’t rain down from the sky, but we’ve been doing our research… and the thing is: they’re not out of reach!
We’re chatting with creative and industrious cosplayers to learn how they’re making cosplay sponsorships happen. Check back weekly for the personal stories of how people like you got the attention of the brands they love for cosplay sponsorship.
This is where you can really learn something and find what works for you!
Now for our first interview!
How Emilee got our attention: she was an early adopter of Headwink who consistently supported us. Emilee markets her talents clearly in her Bio – so when we were ready for help with marketing we asked her of course!
How did you first get your content out there? When did you first get noticed?
When I first started producing content with the intention of marketing myself, I was really obsessed with a brand called Black Milk Clothing. This is a nerdy, niche brand based out of Australia that creates tons of shiny, nylon clothing that often had a nerdy twist. The brand did an amazing job of engaging their customers on social media and I wanted in.
I hadn’t started cosplaying yet but I was getting really excited about creating my little nerdy outfits and sharing them online and soon I was a part of the online Black Milk “sharkie” community. People I didn’t know started following me and I wanted to do more with my creative side. Slowly, I started seeing how much more fun wearing a full cosplay could be compared to just wearing some C-3PO leggings. I made my first dive into cosplay in a Wonder Woman bathing suit by Black Milk Clothing. One year later, I had my first big cosplay project: I created an Avatar Slave Leia mashup and that’s when I really started getting noticed in the community.
Did you get paid to promote or do some work for free initially?
Initially, everything I did was for free. I was promoting Black Milk constantly with no compensation. At the same time, I was starting a digital marketing company and I needed to build a portfolio of work. I wanted to make a name for myself as both a marketer and a cosplayer and I thought, “What better way to show people you know how to market than to market yourself?” So that’s what I did!
I would Instagram message brands, designers, photographers and other models all the time asking to collaborate and shoot. That’s really how I’ve made a lot of the connections I’m still close with today. I wouldn’t have my current online presence, if I hadn’t tracked those people down and ASKED them to work with me.
What kind of brand representation do you think is easiest to get started with?
Any brand that you look at and think, “wow, that product would be perfect for me”, those are the types of brands I would approach. If you love a product and your audience loves you, chances are they will love the product you love. Also, start out by doing smaller deals. Don’t ask a brand for their most expensive spandex suit. See if they will collab on something small, let them see the value of working with you. Then work up to larger cosplay sponsorships. It also usually helps if you have equal to or more followers than the brand you are pursuing, but it’s not necessary.
How do you make yourself continue to stand out?
This is a hard one. I guess for me, I differentiate myself by being a marketing professional. Cosplay is not my career, it is a tool I use to grow my existing business. I’m always giving people advice on not only cosplay, but just marketing yourself as a whole. My best advice is to be genuine. You are the only YOU out there so being YOU will stand out, cause you’re one of a kind.
What do you do when you feel like you’re not making progress or you hit a roadblock?
I get stuck a lot. Especially because I not only have to create content for myself but I make a lot of content for my clients. This can lead to creative burnout! Here’s how I fight it both on and offline:
1. Surround yourself with people who will continuously support you BOTH online and in real life. Even if you feel like all you ever do is post pictures in a Spiderman costume (yes, I’m talking to myself).
2. Follow other cosplayers who you aspire to be like and inspire you to create differently (maybe check out some of the Headwink Senpais 😉 )
3. Work with a variety of cosplayers and photographers. Each person you work with will teach you different things whether it be posing, costuming, editing or something else.
4. Have fun with it! Creativity should be enjoyed. If you don’t like the content you’re making, try something else. Be YOUnique to YOU.
What is the top tip you would give your best friend if they were trying to get sponsorships for their cosplay?
Don’t be afraid of rejection, or in this case, it’s usually silence. When you first start reaching out to brands, most of them won’t really come out and say “no” to you. A lot of brands know that people’s influence on Instagram can change quickly, so a brand may not deny you outright, but could either ghost you (aka leave your message “seen” and never reply) or never approve your message request at all. Guess what? That’s okay! Eventually, someone will say yes. Without those 50 no’s, you never would have made it to that one brand that said YES. #NeverTellMeTheOdds!
Here’s the TL;DR on what we’ve learned so far:
- Getting a paid cosplay sponsorship from a new relationship is rare
- There are a lot of other initial ways you can receive benefits from promotion (like getting free items in exchange for product reviews or getting a free ticket to an event)
- So think creatively about how you can demonstrate value for a brand and get them to notice you to start things off
- Always focus on networking and cultivating relationships as your main goal – you never know when it will pay off!
- Again, demonstrate value by “acting as if” you’re already a promoter for the brands you like and that will lead to paid cosplay sponsorships
- Show consistency: produce content and engage with your existing followers
I encourage you to check out @emjaeadamson’s posts and note the progression from the first post to the most recent. While each cosplayer we’ll profile is at different stages of building their following – they all successfully developed brand relationships.
Now figure out who you want to work with and start talking to them!
Check out the next interview in this series, Cosplay Sponsorships: brand awareness with @veganspidey