6. SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS
Organizations routinely recruit celebrities to speak at conferences and awards ceremonies. While the ticket price to get a seat is usually steep, you have a great opportunity to graph the entrance/exit because the event schedule is usually available in a program or press release. In my experience, many of these engagements aren’t promoted widely so competition from other graphers is light as well. So how do you find out what’s going on in your area? Search for conferences in your area and check out the keynotes. You can also consult the events listing in your nearest metro newspaper for leads.
A few of my successes:
• Magic Johnson at the Greater New England Minority Supplier Development Council Awards Gala – April 24, 2010 (Fairmont Copley Hotel, Boston)
• Elizabeth Banks at the Commonwealth Awards, sponsored by the Massachusetts Cultural Council – January 13, 2009 (Massachusetts State House, Boston)
• Padma Lakshmi at the International Association of Business Communicators World Conference – June 23, 2008 (New York Hilton, NYC)
5. PROMOTIONAL EVENTS
Local businesses know a surefire way to get traffic to their location is by hiring a celebrity to take pictures and sign autographs for customers. It’s most common to see current and retired athletes from a local sports team at these appearances. Unlike a true autograph signing, there isn’t always a guarantee that you’ll get a signature. Events typically last an hour or two so it pays to get in line early. Also, there is often a designated item to be signed (such as a picture of the athlete featuring a logo of the host business), discouraging people from bringing their own memorabilia. You also may need to make a minimum purchase at the business in order to get an autograph ticket.
Call your local sporting goods stores to see if they have anything lined up for the season ahead. Banks, restaurants and malls (I’ve had a number of successes at Macy’s) are also common venues for these events.
4. YOUR MAILBOX
Do not underestimate the fan letter! This is where I got my start in autograph collecting as many kids do. While you’re not going to fill your collection with superstar graphs this way, it’s still a viable option for reaching up and coming celebs. Although I haven’t sent anything out for a few years, I’ve had a lot of success with college and recently drafted athletes. Getting autographs through the mail (TTM) is a numbers game—you won’t get everything back—so consider the value of the items you send out. I typically sent 5×7 or 8×10 photos along with a brief letter, a cardboard backer to keep the picture flat, and a self-addressed stamped envelope. I would estimate my success rate at less than 20% although I’ve scored some big names including Tyra Banks, Peyton Manning and Tim Duncan. Are they real? I hope so.
Sportsgraphing.com has a forum dedicated to TTM autographs and is a fantastic resource—check it out to see who’s signing. There are a slew of celebrity address list vendors on the Web, though I can’t recommend any because I don’t use them. Here are the mailing addresses for the NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL. Check out the websites of other teams for info on how to contact your favorite athlete.
Part 3 will be posted early next week.