Sunday, November 02, 2008

Guerrilla Video: Walk On, Make Money

Before going into this article I want to point out that by scrolling to the bottom of the blog page you can elect to "follow this blog" and become an EC Reader - Thanks Jay, for the suggestion.

You can make a few hundred dollars on an off day simply by walking on at any field where you see youth (or adult) sports activity taking place. You may not always be welcomed, but most of the time you will be if you use the right tact in doing so. With a proper attitude and approach, almost any outdoor activity or public event is eligible to add to your bottom line. Unless, that is, it is being sponsored by Toyota, whomever now owns Busch, or some other huge commercial corporate entity.

Penetrating commercial/corporate sponsored events is not impossible, but let’s keep it simple for now. Stick with public parks, public school fields, and such first, before taking on the bigger venues. There are thousands of events going on virtually every day in the summer, and many evenings and weekends during the school year - all across the country. Recession or no recession.

Bring plenty of business cards, your camcorder, and monopod or tripod, perhaps a shooting ladder for elevation, a pleasant smile and professional decorum. Wear your neat and clean looking cap and/or shirt with your branding. Be prepared with basic order forms, or large postcard size handouts of some kind with general information.

While I have had plenty of success using only my business cards, having a plentiful supply of forms or information sheets often will help you videotape the event you are there to cover without having to spend all your time explaining or selling. Time outs and breaks can sometimes be used for mixing and mingling.

If you do not have a basic order form, or cannot make up one, let me know. While my upcoming marketing package will contain all the ideas I’ve put into action over the years and how to market and do them, it will also have examples, clips, direct mail pieces, and forms you can use as well. Meanwhile, if you’re feeling anxious and ready to romp I can send you a pdf document of something you can use for now.

You can plan ahead for this style of shooting/marketing, or you can simply have the time, see something going on and go for it. I have worked it both ways and both ways have worked for me. Just starting out, I have to say that getting there early and planning to stay throughout the event is usually a best first approach. It gives you time to assess the situation, and gives participants time to grow accustomed to your presence.

I first look for a coach or ask about a team parent, team mother, coach’s wife, etc. I introduce myself, ask if they know of anyone already hired to produce a game tape. If not I tell them I do this often, am insured and will remain out of the way while shooting the game. I let them know of my experience and bonafides, and sometimes have even brought DVD samples of related youth sports events I have produced.

I also tell the coach or head mom or dad, whomever, that for a bit of help, or simply permission or clearance from them, I will “comp” them a copy of what I produce. I usually get help passing out business cards and/or information sheets/postcards, am given a premo spot to place my shooting ladder, and told their kid’s jersey number. At this point I suggest that I always “follow the ball” and that usually results in nearly every child getting in the production at some point.

I have a digital camera I use for the inevitable request to get a team shot for the cover.

I have also done my research and sometimes contacted leagues, league mothers, league sponsors, coaches, youth sports support groups, and other event organizers, setting up a presentation to their respective panels, representatives, boards or activity committees or directors. Getting on the venue for a formal, or even informal, meeting to offer your information, handouts and proposal can sometimes bring on bigger returns, better production runs and strong advance sales.

But, like asking for a cookie before dipping your hand into the jar instead of after you’ve eaten it, this approach can sometimes backfire with too much red tape, control issues or other parental/alpha male/female politics that get in the way of simple, straightforward shooting, editing and sales.

Walk-ons have, by far, been my most fun, adventurous and largest guerrilla gamble payouts. Why? It is an "impulse aisle" thing, where you get people interested in the heat of the moment. Here is where a parent’s camcorder battery ran out of juice, or the tapes were forgotten on the desk at home, or were eaten by the dog, or something broke, or they simply become so engrossed in the game that they keep forgetting to hit the record button. I’ve even known moms, or dads, to wave their hands so wildly, urging their child on to the goal, that the camcorder gets knocked to the ground. Oops.

This kind of shooting, production and sales is wide open in spite of the fact that some might have already made arrangements for coverage and production by a independent professional video services provider. These people sometimes become lax or lazy, screw up big time at a major event, or simply do not show up as expected. I am there and often it is a “right place, right time” happening.

And, it is not limited to youth/adult sports - baseball, basketball, soccer, football, softball, swim teams, rowing teams, martial arts events, water polo, equestrian events and more. I have had great success covering antique and custom car shows (pre-planned and walk-on); outdoor art and crafts shows; drag racing events - a friend of mine in Arkansas is making quite a specialty in covering outlaw drag racing events in his area, becoming the official videographer for the local group.

I’ve made a killing as walk-on video producer for area skateboard competitions, amateur volleyball tournaments, rock climbing events, and a wide selection of festivals held throughout the year. Area publications often provide advance information of community, sports and other special events being held in the area. Read, make some notes, grab your camera and fill in that unbooked date. You have caught up with your editing backlog, right?

It would be to your advantage also to have liability coverage. Proof of having this has actually helped ease me through doors (well, gates) at many a ball field or other sports venue. I have to stress, however, that walking on without reflecting an “I have every right to be here and you can’t tell me to leave, or I paid taxes to support this public facility - attitude” will do more than anything else to get you in and keep you there.

All that being said, guerrilla marketing/shooting will only work for those who have the gumption to try it. Some are not comfortable with this aggressive style of doing business. It isn’t for everybody, but then what is?


FAQ Video said...

Years ago I have started my video/TV career with the walk-on covering the ballroom dance tournaments in my home town. I moved far away form that, but still missing it. Probably it's time to start all over again.

Thanks for the great post.

Jeff said...

As an additional suggestion, provided you are creative, you can shoot a short clip (or photo) and place it inside a custom back ground. IE: Say Baseball, create a baseball card / stat card then insert photo. If the parent has a digital photo frame then your short clip of "slugger" swinging with custom background can be added. The frames can be expensive and or optional due to the fees. But this is an excellent added incentive for the parent.