10/05/2011 06:28 pm ET Updated Dec 05, 2011

The Art of the (Marketing) Deal

Creating a marketing deal in Hollywood (or with any entertainment or sports entity) might seem arduous, but it can be as simple as you make it.

The first time I negotiated a deal, I was representing an automotive company in a partnership with a major movie studio. I was a creative strategist in marketing, and had never seen the constructs of a deal let alone negotiated one. But, alas, I was desperate to impress the new client and didn't believe it could be that hard. Using my Midwestern sensibilities, I forged on.

Twelve, 7-day-a-weeks later, we came to an agreement. In the middle, I invented a term, "Letter of Intent" to make sure the side negotiating on behalf of the studio didn't back out. I knew that contracts took time and lawyers, and I had to make sure I was protected. (At one point, they tried to cut 3MM in value out of the deal after I had sold it into my client, and I threatened to tell the marketing world how badly I was fouled. Suffice it to say, they believed my veiled threat and changed their minds.)

The key to executing any deal is understanding what the entertainment or sports group has in its pockets. Can they give you alternate avenues of exposure at retail, in advertising or in-venue? What value can be placed on such exposure? Can they deliver other perks, such as red carpet premier tickets for your employees, or a private screening? Can you get product (DVD, tickets) at a discount to pass on to your target audience? Does the property have other promotional partners that might want to partner with you as well?

The biggest mistake negotiators make is not asking for every bit of added value possible. It is rare that an entertainment group will walk from a potential deal because you ask for too much. They also don't understand your business and what you feel is valuable. Go into the negotiation with a clear understanding of what you want, what you need, and the type of things your potential partner can offer. Creativity is important, and nothing is off limits until you're told otherwise.

What you can offer can go well beyond money. If you, for example, are willing to put a movie's release date in your advertising, at retail, social media or via direct marketing, you'll have to pay less or no cash to execute the deal. Knowing what your partner values and figuring out how to deliver it is crucial to maximizing the relationship.

As obvious as it may seem, the deal must make common sense. Will it increase your awareness and sales? Will it be considered a positive within your target audiences' mindsets? If not, it isn't worth your time, money or effort. The biggest danger in entertainment and sports marketing is the "star struck" factor. It's easy to get caught up in the excitement and/or hype. Access to talent and tickets to exclusive events may seem enticing, but at the end of the day your exposure and sales are tantamount.

On more than one occasion, I have seen marketing managers and directors make decisions based on their personal interests, instead of what is in the best interests of their brands. Imagine a candy company doing a deal with Elvis' estate, (he died, obese, of a drug overdose), or a woman-centric product doing a deal with ESPN's "Sunday Night Baseball"? I've witnessed it. Although difficult, you must keep your personality out of the equation.

Not to be outdone, I've fielded some bizarre requests for partnerships from the entertainment community. While working on a major cruise line business, I was approached to do a deal with the re-makers of "The Poseidon Adventure". In another case, a studio that was producing a movie where the product I represented was literally blown off a shelf with a machine gun. My personal favorite was a proposed tie-in for my car company client and "Dude, Where's My Car"? (You might remember, they got drunk and lost their car).

Before you consider your next deal, ask yourself the following: Is it the right property, the right time and the right investment for you and your product/service? With any partnership, a mutually beneficial agreement will move the business needle forward for both entities.

Lastly, if you're not familiar with marketing negotiations, hire an expert. I was lucky my first time out of the blocks, but I also had a wealth of experience within entertainment. If you don't know what you're doing, there's a good chance you will not get all of the value you deserve.