Case Study: Podcast Sponsorship Best Practices
I’m no stranger to discussing podcast sponsorship, whether you’re looking for the ultimate guide or success steps. However, with this being such a growing sponsorship sphere and one that my clients ask me about a lot, I want to provide even more information to help you navigate podcast sponsorship.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Dave Stewart, a renowned podcaster. Our interview was full of nugget after nugget of best practices for podcast sponsorship seekers. This article is a compilation of these insights so you can strive to secure your first podcast sponsor or improve your sponsorship roster.
Dave Stewart’s Podcast Sponsorship Best Practices
First, let me tell you a little bit about Dave. He’s the creator of Wet Fly Swing, a website and podcast. Across more than 460 episodes, Dave has shared high-value content with his large listener base. He’s interviewed countless professionals and gleaned their knowledge.
So how did Dave start such a successful podcast? He was a podcast listener before he was a host. After listening to some business podcasts, he decided that he would start his own show in two years, and that’s exactly what he did.
Dave kickstarted the Wet Fly Swing podcast in 2017, and since its first episode and all six years into this venture, he’s always published a new show on time. Holidays, life events, none of it stops him.
How did Dave rise to such lofty heights? He failed a lot before he found his “thing,” as he told me. Here are more of his most valuable podcast sponsorship insights.
Dave’s niche is focused as it is, but it was originally ultra-focused as he podcasted about steelhead fly fishing. He was moderately knowledgeable on the topic, so it seemed like a natural thing to start a show about.
He knew he wanted to invite guests from the get-go, and he didn’t have to look hard to find willing participants. Dave had connections, and his friends were happy to sit down and talk to him.
They happened to be big names in fly fishing, but they were his pals first.
Connections are beneficial if your ultimate goal is to generate podcast sponsors. Your show will have more value if you’ve interviewed big names in your niche or industry.
If you don’t have any of these connections yourself, ask around those you know. Someone might be willing to hook you up with an interview.
It’s About Way More Than CPM
CPM in podcast sponsorship is like logos in event sponsorship. It’s pervasive and what beginners assume is the right thing to offer.
For those who don’t know, CPM stands for cost per mille and is the price per 1,000 listeners. For example, a 60-second ad will have a CPM of $25.
Yes, that’s it. Dave was only charging a few hundred dollars for sponsorship opportunities. It was something, but he knew he could have been doing more, and he later did.
The problem with low-value assets isn’t merely that you will make pennies from them. They’re such low-hanging fruit that every sponsorship seeker thinks to offer them. You fail to introduce anything unique or customized.
Logos don’t solve sponsorship problems, and ad spots don’t either. These things share a commonality, and that’s brand awareness. That’s the only objective they achieve. If your sponsor wants anything besides brand awareness, you can’t help them, and therein lies the problem.
For the record, Dave later moved on to lead gen and live events with experiential marketing, true activations that sponsors pay the big bucks for. He just earned a $15,000 sponsorship, which is a far cry from $150 an episode!
Don’t Go for the Biggest Sponsors
Dave told me in our interview something I always recommend to the sponsorship seekers I work with. Don’t go for the huge fish in the pond.
I know those sponsors have the deepest pockets, and thus they seem like they would make the biggest difference for your podcast, especially if yours is a newer program.
However, these sponsors receive so many requests from podcasts of all sizes that they can afford to be as picky and choosy as they wish. More so, so many of these inundating requests are unsolicited, so the sponsor doesn’t get the time to go through those requests they might be interested in.
Instead, Dave advocates for reaching out to smaller or mid-sized sponsors, as there’s usually a greater need for his podcast services.
The Fulfillment Report Is Integral for Long-Term Sponsorship
A podcast isn’t like an event or festival that happens once a year. In those situations, you only think about acquiring sponsors annually. You’ll work on it for months, but it’s not a continuous process.
It is if you have a podcast, especially if you haven’t taken a break in five years like Dave. He always needs sponsors. I would say the fulfillment report is even more valuable for him than perhaps for event and festival sponsors.
The fulfillment report details everything you delivered to the sponsor. I usually suggest adding images of an event space, but you won’t do that for a podcast. Instead, your report should be packed to the gills with listenership and advertising data.
Dave told me a story about how he almost lost a sponsor. He mentioned that he didn’t write fulfillment reports at the time, so after the arrangement ended, this sponsor was clear they weren’t interested in proceeding.
Then Dave sent them a report, and the sponsor changed their mind.
It wasn’t simply the act of putting together the fulfillment report that got the sponsor to sign on for a longer-term arrangement. Dave proved the value of working together, and when the sponsor saw he was getting two times the amount of money per episode, he didn’t want to back out of the deal anymore.
Quarterly Reports Remind Sponsors of Your Value
Since podcast sponsorship is an ongoing arrangement, it doesn’t make as much sense for you to send your sponsors a fulfillment report once a year the same way an event or festival owner would with their sponsors.
Dave mentioned in our interview that he began producing quarterly fulfillment reports and that his sponsors quite enjoyed this.
I advocate for this as well. You don’t have to follow Dave’s example to the letter. For example, you can send reports monthly or biquarterly.
However, more frequent glimpses into your metrics are key. A sponsor doesn’t want to sign on for a deal and feel like they’re left in the dark for however many months. They’re eager to know if they invested in the right podcast, and frequent fulfillment reports prove that.
Readability is another benefit of more frequent fulfillment reports in the podcast sponsorship space. Imagine if you only sent a fulfillment report once a year. You’d have a whole year’s worth of data to parse through!
You wouldn’t want to make your sponsor’s eyes glaze over with all those monthly breakdowns, so perhaps you’d limit or dilute the information you share, which is not advantageous for the sponsor.
When you send reports more frequently, you can include all the nitty-gritty details without it being information overload.
Work Your Way Up to Longer-Term Deals
These days, the shortest sponsorship deal Dave offers his clients is six months, but he also has yearlong sponsorship arrangements.
Long-term in some sponsorship circles is two or five years, but I think a yearlong contract with a podcast sponsor is the sweet spot. You’ll work together long enough to prove your value, and you’ll have a long-term enough sponsor that you can devote less time toward the search and focus more on producing your show.
You can start with a six-month or nine-month deal initially when signing a sponsor and then lengthen the deal when you two discuss renewal.
Discovery Sessions Are a Must
Discovery is something I push hard in my free content (like this blog), but I do the same in the Sponsorship Accelerator. It’s not that I like harping on it. Rather, I do it because discovery is a key ingredient in successful sponsorship.
You must sit down with your prospect and ask them questions. You don’t want to bother with information you can find out about them by reading their LinkedIn or website bio. The discovery session is for the details a company doesn’t divulge on its site.
You need to learn about the sponsor’s failings. Why have they struggled to close enough deals, generate enough leads, or make enough sales? What current solutions are they trying? What has worked for them so far, and what hasn’t?
I’ve found that many sponsorship seekers are afraid of sales, or they’re not sure what they’re doing. Sometimes, they don’t mind sales, but what they’re selling is so abysmal in the eyes of a sponsor (gold, silver, and bronze packages or logos) that they fail, so they stop selling.
You shouldn’t sell to a sponsor from the beginning, and that’s where the discovery session comes in. It’s an open, friendly conversation. Sales don’t factor into it.
Dave said his discovery process happens over three to four calls, and sometimes that’s required. Even if you get through your discovery questions in one call, what matters most is that you’re focusing on discovery.
Invest in Yourself
Dave grew his Wet Fly Swing podcast from something he started as really a hobby (since it wasn’t monetized for a year) into his full-time business. He told me during our interview that the way he thinks about it now is so much different than he did then.
You might have similar goals for your podcast, or perhaps you’re okay with keeping it as a hobby but still want to see it grow.
My favorite takeaway from my interview with Dave is to invest in yourself. To him, that meant enrolling in the Sponsorship Accelerator was a wise business decision, and maybe you decide to do the same.
Dave keeps setting his sights bigger. He’s doubled his revenue three years in a row, and if he continues on this trajectory, his business will be valued at a million dollars in a few years. That is no small feat, and he says it’s all thanks to his sponsorship training.
I so often hear sponsorship seekers tell me they only want to make a few thousand dollars. They’ll sign up for my program and ask if they’ll make back the money they’ll spend.
These people aren’t investing in themselves. Sponsorship is a multi-million-dollar industry. People hear that and assume that that kind of money is only reserved for the big sports sponsors like Pepsi or Geico, but it isn’t!
Let me remind you that Dave went from making a few hundred dollars per podcast episode through sponsorship to earning $15,000 from his latest partnership. If he had settled for a few hundred dollars, he would have been doing himself a huge disservice.
You can earn five-figure or six-figure deals in sponsorship. You don’t need the biggest property or a huge brand. You only need custom assets and activations that speak to your prospects and an audience in common.
Dave Stewart’s journey to sponsorship success is so interesting. He didn’t start his podcast as a business, but it quickly became one, and as it did, he knew he needed sponsors. However, with no sponsorship experience under his belt, he decided to come to me.
Now, after completing the Sponsorship Accelerator, Dave has earned five-figure sponsorship for his podcast Wet Fly Swing and continues to double his sponsorship revenue year after year. The money his podcast earns keeps his business afloat, so of course, he’s as invested as he can be.
Podcast sponsorship is a tricky niche, as not all event and festival sponsorship tips necessarily apply. I hope this collection of best practices has given you a better idea of where to take your sponsorship aspirations.
Are you eager to advance your sponsorship goals? Book a call with me today.
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.