How To Land An Endorsement Deal, According to Misty Copeland's Manager
In 2012, Misty Copeland was already a star on the American Ballet Theatre stage. But a national ad campaign for Diet Dr. Pepper effectively introduced the dancer to a whole new audience. Gilda Squire, Copeland's manager who negotiated the deal with the brand's advertising company, says partnering with the soda was a carefully planned move.
"It wasn't a huge payout, but I saw it as a strategic opportunity," says Squire. In the years since, Copeland has become a household name, landing partnership after partnership with brands like Oikos yogurt, watchmaker Seiko USA and Under Armour.
Endorsement deals are becoming more and more common for dancers—and not just with dancewear companies. While not all deals are as large as Copeland's, each has the potential to expand your career, whether this means an extra paycheck, free products, priceless publicity or a gateway to future projects.
1. Make A Connection
If you're interested in adding endorsements to your repertoire, strategizing with a manager or agent is a good place to start. But performers without representation can opt to make a connection on their own as well. Squire recommends drafting an introductory letter to a marketing director to express interest and describe the impact you have on others—maybe a large social media following or a connection to local schools.
Photo via Seiko
2. Negotiate a Deal
No two endorsement deals look exactly alike. The simplest may involve social media posts in exchange for free products, while higher-paying gigs may include print or TV ads, event appearances, or interviews for pay ranging from hundreds to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
An agent or manager should work to get you the best deal, but it's important to also look over the contract yourself. Note how long the brand will have the rights to any media they create, and what facets you are expected to be involved in. What is the campaign's reach? Will you get paid a lump sum or as you go? Will the deal be "category exclusive," meaning you cannot work with competitors? Red flags are anything that's vague, any signs that you may be asked to do extra work without additional pay, or anything that might directly conflict with other jobs or your integrity as a dancer. Whether you're working with representation or not, pay a lawyer to read over the contract and further clarify what you're getting into.
"Read the fine print, as painful as that may be," Squire advises. "No question is too small. Once you sign, you're tied to that brand."
3. Protect Your Brand
The most crucial facet of finalizing a deal is choosing a product and message you feel good about putting your name behind. Pushing something you don't believe in or spamming your social media followers about any company who offers free goods may jeopardize your reputation. "Don't be afraid to walk away from a deal if it's not the right fit," Squire says. "It's not just about the money, but how the partnership complements your growing brand."
It's a cycle familiar to many: First, a striking image of a lithe, impossibly fit dancer executing a gravity-defying développé catches your eye on Instagram. You pause your scrolling to marvel, over and over again, at her textbook physique.
Inevitably, you take a moment to consider your own body, in comparison. Doubt and negative self-talk first creep, and then flood, in. "I'll never look like that," the voice inside your head whispers. You continue scrolling, but the image has done its dirty work—a gnawing sensation has taken hold, continually reminding you that your own body is inferior, less-than, unworthy.
It's no stretch to say that social media has a huge effect on body image. For dancers—most of whom already have a laser-focus on their appearance—the images they see on Instagram can seem to exacerbate ever-present issues. "Social media is just another trigger," says Nadine Kaslow, a psychologist who works with the dancers of Atlanta Ballet. "And dancers don't need another trigger." In the age of Photoshop and filters, how can dancers keep body dysmorphia at bay?
If "Fosse/Verdon" whet your appetite for the impeccable Gwen Verdon, then Merely Marvelous: The Dancing Genius of Gwen Verdon is the three-course meal you've been craving. The new documentary—available now on Amazon for rental or purchase—dives into the life of the Tony-winning performer and silver-screen star lauded for her charismatic dancing.
Though she's perhaps most well-known today as Bob Fosse's wife and muse, that's not even half of her story. For starters, she'd already won four Tonys before they wed, making her far more famous in the public eye than he was at that point in his career. That's just one of many surprising details we learned during last night's U.S. premiere of Merely Marvelous. Believe us: You're gonna love her even more once you get to know her. Here are eight lesser-known tidbits to get you started.
Every dancer knows that how you fuel your body affects how you feel in the studio. Of course, while breakfast is no more magical than any other meal (despite the enduring myth that it's the most important one of the day), showing up to class hangry is a recipe for unproductive studio time.
So what do your favorite dancers eat in the morning to set themselves up for a busy rehearsal or performance day?
When it comes to dance in the U.S., companies in the South often find themselves overlooked—sometimes even by the presenters in their own backyard. That's where South Arts comes in. This year, the regional nonprofit launched Momentum, an initiative that will provide professional development, mentorship, touring grants and residencies to five Southern dance companies.