5 Things Podcast Sponsors Wish You Knew
Podcasts continue to be big business as the 2020s get underway, and more podcast hosts than ever have broadened their search to find sponsors. However, they can be far-removed from what they think a sponsor wants versus what they truly want. What do podcast sponsors wish you knew before reaching out?
Here are 5 things podcast sponsors wish you knew:
- They’re there to do more than fill a spot during a break
- Name-dropping alone is not value
- There can’t be a mismatch between values
- Unique sponsorship opportunities benefit both parties
- They’re happy to work together again if you ask
If you’re still not totally following, that’s okay. Ahead, I’ll delve deeper into each of these points so that whether you’ve tried and failed to accrue podcast sponsorship or your past sponsors haven’t been the most amazing partnerships ever, you can begin working with quality podcast sponsors.
They’re There to Do More Than Fill in a Spot During a Commercial Break
What is a sponsor to you?
I always like to ask my clients this because their answers run the gamut.
Some people think that sponsors are walking, talking ATMs. In the case of sponsorship podcasts, you might think a sponsor serves one primary purpose: to fill in ad time.
That’s a huge disservice to what a sponsor can do. They can act as a promotional vehicle and yes, sometimes they can even provide funds, but if you only go to a sponsor to ask for a commercial fill-in, then that’s all you’ll get.
Before you approach a sponsor, you need to have goals. Why do you want sponsors on your show? What do you hope to achieve?
A sponsor can’t answer these questions for you. They expect you to know, as they’re going to have their own goals that they’ll want you to fulfill.
Oh, and yes, that’s another thing about sponsors. They’re not just there to hand out copious amounts of money or promotions for nothing in return.
They’ll want you to help them, creating a mutually beneficial relationship. I would recommend brainstorming what you can bring to the table.
Does your podcast cover a unique niche? Do you have a large audience? Whatever it is, that’s something else you should know before you approach a sponsor.
Name-Dropping Alone Is Not Valuable
I work with a lot of companies and nonprofits that host events, programs, and opportunities, from festivals to galas and everything in between.
You’d be surprised how many of them think that speaking opportunities from the podium or logos provide value to the sponsor.
Why do I mention that to you, humble podcast sponsorship seeker? Well, you’re probably making the same mistake without even realizing it.
I always tell my clients to veer far, far away from logos because they offer so little value to a sponsorship package. That’s also the case when all you offer a podcast sponsor is a name-drop during one of your commercial breaks.
And no, it’s not more valuable to name-drop them several times over an hour-long or two-hour-long podcast.
Podcasts have at least three to six ads if the show is 30 minutes. The longer your podcast, the more commercials you have.
You have to consider that your commercial is one of thousands and thousands of ads the average person sees or hears every single day. And yes, I mean it when I say thousands and thousands.
According to career resource Zippia, the average person is exposed to 4,000 to 10,000 ads a day. Those aren’t all podcast commercials, but social media ads, television commercials, Internet ads, perhaps the odd radio commercial or two.
I’m trying to say that if you’re hoping that name-dropping your sponsor alone will provide value to them, it won’t.
People will forget who you advertised by your next commercial break, and if not then, then certainly a few hours after your podcast.
You have to consider that many people who listen to your podcast multitask. They’re driving, they’re showering, they’re ironing clothes, washing dishes, or cooking dinner. They’re giving the ads even less attention, especially because so many of us mentally tune out when it’s ad time.
You might have the benefit of filling commercial time with a sponsor’s ad, but the sponsor gets nothing out of the deal.
As I said above, a sponsorship deal has to be mutually beneficial, or you won’t get any repeat sponsors.
There Can’t Be a Mismatch Between Values
It doesn’t seem to matter what kind of sponsorship my clients seek, a lot of them make the same beginner mistake (mostly because they are beginners!).
The error? They choose a sponsor based on name value or brand popularity alone.
If you were putting on a festival tomorrow, would you want Coca-Cola as a sponsor because they’re a big name? Probably! Or Red Bull for a sports event?
These brands gel with the type of event you’re hosting, but that doesn’t make them the right sponsors for you.
For example, let’s say a large subset of your festival attendees don’t like soft drinks. Maybe they’re on a diet, or they’re trying to reduce their sugar intake. Either way, they don’t drink Coca-Cola.
As much as the sponsor seemed like a smash hit because hey, everyone knows Coca-Cola, a Coke-sponsored booth at your event would fall flat because so much of your audience doesn’t like soda.
Those kinds of value mismatches between the sponsor and podcast host don’t look bad on the sponsor. They look bad on you!
Your audience will wonder why you let a sponsor be a part of your podcast if they so egregiously go against the listener’s values. You’ll have to answer for that gaffe.
Mistakes like those erode trust in your audience and can ultimately hurt listenership.
Okay, so what kind of criteria do you use when selecting podcast sponsors? You use audience criteria!
Your audience is everything to your podcast. They’re the ones who listen faithfully every week and continue to listen. They support your show in other ways by sharing it on social media or buying merch.
What kinds of brands do they like? You can answer that question by issuing them a survey and asking.
Based on the kinds of brands your audience consumes, what other brands do you think should advertise to your audience?
Oh, and who are the direct competitors of all those brands?
Once you can answer those questions, you should have a good list of sponsorship candidates to pursue.
Even better, you know that each potential sponsor should interest your audience, so you can’t really go wrong. Some leads are hotter than others, but all would slot in nicely with your podcast.
Unique Sponsorship Opportunities Benefit Both Parties
I hope by now that I’ve made it clear that as a sponsorship seeker, you should offer your podcast sponsors more than an ad during a commercial break on your show.
A high-value sponsorship opportunity is far more valuable. You’ll fulfill your sponsor’s goals, and your show (and audience) will also benefit because you’ll try something new.
How do you put together these high-value opportunities? You need to know what the sponsor wants.
I recommend a simple meeting where you two sit down (or talk on the phone or on Zoom, up to you!) and discuss the sponsor. You want to know more about their current audience, their challenges, what they’ve tried, whether it’s worked, and what they want to try.
That’s how you come up with high-value opportunities tailored to the sponsor’s needs.
I’ll give you some examples, but don’t necessarily use these without having that important sponsor meeting first and learning about their challenges.
One example is to sit down and host the sponsor as your guest for the show. You can have an in-depth conversation about what they do, ask them questions, and entertain your audience with a thought-provoking show.
For sponsors trying to build on brand recognition, an opportunity like that would be huge.
You could also host a contest with a sponsor. You can promote the contest each week on your podcast in the weeks leading up to the big contest end date. The sponsor can also promote it on their social media and website (as can you!).
The prize should involve a sponsor’s product or service. The contest can drum up interest in that product or service, increasing sales.
Inviting the winner to the show afterward to talk about their experience will also help elevate sales for the sponsor.
These opportunities mean so much more than a 30-second commercial and achieve more of a sponsor’s goals.
Other companies that listen to your podcast may begin reaching out to you to discuss sponsorship opportunities rather than vice-versa.
They’re Happy to Work Together Again (Usually) If You Only Ask
Another common mistake I see sponsorship seekers make all the time is letting sponsors go after one deal.
Some don’t realize that you can work with sponsors more than once. Others know that you can but have no idea how to go about doing it, so they just let good sponsors go.
Podcast sponsors wish you knew that if you provided value–and especially if you can prove that you provided value–they’re happy to work with you again. You just have to ask about it.
I recommend putting together a fulfillment report after the sponsorship engagement ends. A fulfillment report is a wrap-up of your sponsorship deal.
In the report, you should mention what you said you would achieve and then compare it to what you actually achieved.
Detail all the metrics that rose for your sponsor thanks to working with you, whether that’s more brand impressions, website visits, email list subscribers, converted customers, or increased sales.
Then send that report over and let the sponsor mull it over. When they see how much better working with you is for their bottom line, they’re often interested in pairing up again.
Now that you have a proven track record, you can get away with asking for more money for your services. You could even pen a longer-term deal!
As a sponsorship seeker, a podcast sponsor knows you’re not a mind reader (and vice-versa!). Nevertheless, if you go into your next sponsorship arrangement with these key points in mind, you might find yourself striking more fruitful, mutually beneficial deals with higher-quality sponsors!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chris Baylis is the President and CEO of The Sponsorship Collective and a self-confessed sponsorship geek.
After several years as a sponsor (that’s right, the one investing the money!) Chris decided to cross over to the sponsorship sales side where he has personally closed tens of millions of dollars in sponsorship deals. Chris has been on the front lines of multi-million dollar sponsorship agreements and has built and coached teams to do the same.
Chris now spends his time working with clients to value their assets and build strategies that drive sales. An accomplished speaker and international consultant, Chris has helped his clients raise millions in sponsorship dollars.