Before you dive in, if you are interested in podcast sponsorship, check out these titles in our “sponsorship for podcasters” series:
- Resource Page for Podcast and Influencer Sponsorship
- The Complete Guide to Podcast Sponsorship
- How to Market Your Podcast
- Cold Email Strategies for Podcast Sponsorship
- How to Get Sponsorships for Podcasts: 6 Steps to Success
It’s a question as old as time. Okay, maybe not quite as old as time, but as old as sponsorship.
Who is the right sponsor for my podcast? Once I’ve identified them, how do I find them?
Podcast sponsorship is awash in errors, as it’s a newer field where the sponsorship protocols aren’t quite ironed out. It’s my duty to help you understand where you may be making mistakes in targeting sponsors and how to rectify them for your next podcast sponsorship opportunity.
Let’s get into it!
Defining the “Right” Sponsors
Let’s answer your first question – who’s the right sponsor for your podcast?
Many podcasters assume it’s the sponsor with the deepest pockets or the most name recognition.
Maybe coincidentally, it is, but those are not the criteria to focus on when selecting a sponsor.
It’s really quite simple what it boils down to. The right sponsor is one your audience is excited to engage with. Yes, that’s all there is to it.
I’ll talk more about how to find those sponsors momentarily, but for now, I want to discuss the importance of alignment between your audience and your sponsor.
In the case of podcasts, your audience is your listeners. These people support the show, tuning in every week (if you air your show live), filling their earbuds and their car with the sound of your voice. They download episodes and take them on the go, and they’re always happy to support you on social media and recommend the latest episode to a friend or family member.
Their opinions matter. If they don’t like what you’re doing, they will stop listening and find another podcast to fill the void.
That’s why you must choose your sponsors carefully. As I always say on the blog, your audience isn’t privy to what a sponsor pays you. Therefore, that’s not a good enough reason to choose a sponsor.
Name recognition is better, especially if yours is a small show, but it can’t be all you use to select sponsors.
Ideally, you want a brand your listeners like that has a lot of money and household name status. That’s the dream sponsor right there.
However, if you can only have one of the three, make it audience alignment.
Strategies for Finding the Sponsors Your Podcast Needs
Okay, so now that you’re aware of which type of sponsor your podcast needs, it’s time to answer the next question. How do you find them?
Here are the tactics you must utilize.
Understand Your Listeners
Remember, the key to finding the right sponsors is knowing who your listeners are interested in.
Has your podcast ever sent out a survey before? If not, now is a great time to change that. You should have a contact list of listeners that you reach out to via email. Send them a brief survey asking about the brands they like.
I recommend focusing on areas like automotive, travel, finance, food/drink, and technology. However, you can add a few more to the list based on your podcast topic and other related industries you think would be a good fit, such as retail, fashion, pets, you name it.
As you get responses, write down all the brands your audience mentions. You can put the names in a spreadsheet, as that will help you stay organized. Then, create a running tally of how many mentions each brand gets.
Those brands that get the most mentions are your warmest prospects. They’re the companies most of your listeners feel an affinity and loyalty toward. If you could get that brand on your podcast, you will have a smash hit on your hands.
While you must know your listeners’ brand preferences, that’s not all I recommend asking about in the survey.
Prospective sponsors will want to know as much about your listener base as possible. Who are they down to their very core?
If you don’t know what they do for a living, whether they’re married or single, where they live, how much they earn, and whether they have children, you need answers.
Once you have those answers, you must split your audience into the smallest possible groups based on specific demographics, geographics, and psychographics.
It’s not too excessive to break your audience down by income level in $5,000 increments.
I know that may seem like splitting hairs, but think about it this way. A sponsor is a company or organization. They have a target market they want to reach, and they know the exact type of consumer who comprises that target market.
They want to know as much information as possible about your listeners to determine where–if anywhere–they fit into the sponsor’s target market.
Providing as much information as possible makes that job easier.
Perform a Valuation
The next part of your job when seeking podcast sponsorship is valuations.
A valuation is how you measure the value of your sponsorship property, with a property referring to the collection of assets and activations you offer to a sponsor.
Let’s rewind a little bit further. Activations are experiential marketing opportunities, and assets are intangibles or tangibles that drive forward goals for the sponsor.
Here’s a very simple example to illustrate the concept. If a sponsor needs social media followers, you’d offer 10 promotional social media posts.
I’ll talk shortly about what you should offer to a sponsor, so don’t miss that.
Once you’ve determined the assets and activations you can offer, you can begin the valuation. Research the market value for every activation and asset on your list.
Next, compare that market value to what you offer. Is your service more unique? Do you have more expertise than the average person? Do you have your own little spin to offer?
If you answered yes to those questions, you should increase your value over the average.
What if you feel like you offer sufficient services that aren’t above average? You might leave the price at about the researched market value or even lower.
The goal is to offer a mix of high-value and mid-value assets and activations that together comprise the value of your sponsorship property.
Have a Discovery Session
That was a lot, but you got through it. The next part of your podcast sponsorship quest involves the discovery session. Yes, it’s finally time to talk to your prospective sponsor.
I recommend a discovery session for all types of sponsorship, including event, motorsport, and nonprofit sponsorship. This informal first meeting is a chance to learn more about your prospects.
You should walk into the meeting knowing the basics about the sponsor, such as how long they’ve been in business, what they sell, their values, and what kinds of partners they attract.
The discovery session peels back the curtain, showing you the ugly side of a business that not everyone gets to see.
Your assets and activations are designed to solve a sponsor’s problems, but you can’t do that without knowing what those problems are. This is what the discovery session is for.
I’ve compiled a master list of discovery questions you can ask. There are almost 40 questions in that article, but I only recommend you ask 10 at most. The questions you ask should put you closer to understanding what your sponsor needs, what they’re lacking, and how they can help.
Put Something Valuable on the Table
After the discovery session comes the narrowing of your activations and assets.
I always tell my clients to initially think of as many assets as they can based on what they know about the sponsor. You can do this before the discovery session if you’d like. I think it’s a good exercise, so give it a try.
Don’t think too much about value or right fits right now, just brainstorm solutions and list them all down. The point isn’t to walk into the discovery session with this laundry list of potentially unviable assets. You’re just getting those mental gears turning.
After the discovery session, compare the assets you created with the information you have on the sponsor. You’ll begin crossing out assets left and right.
If you valued them already, that’s okay. Just because those assets don’t work doesn’t mean they’re entirely useless. Far from it! They’re just not right for this sponsor.
Podcast hosts often have several sponsors, so you can save those assets for another sponsor who’s a better fit.
As you’ve homed in on activations and assets that should work for your sponsor, consider tweaking them from their original status. Everything you offer the sponsor should be completely customized and unique to them.
If you make substantial improvements to your existing assets and activations, take the time to value them again. You could be sitting on even more money, and you don’t want to leave that on the table.
Let me take a moment to talk about the types of assets and activations for podcast sponsorship, as this can trip up some podcasters. You have so much more to offer than commercial breaks.
Here is a list of some assets and activations you can consider for your podcast sponsorship opportunity:
- Interview the sponsor as a guest on your show
- Promotional social media posts
- Product placement
- Podcast show naming rights
Know the Right Way to Prospect
I’ve spoken enough about the importance of selecting the right podcast sponsorship prospects, but how do you go about prospecting?
Well, you’ve already done it!
Remember when you surveyed your audience, you took the brands they mentioned using and put them on a big list? Voila. That’s the hardest part of prospecting right there, and you already took care of it.
Many sponsorship seekers, especially beginners, will send cold calls or emails to potential sponsors. Either that, or they’ll search for sponsorship forms on the company’s website and fill those out.
Those are the wrong ways to prospect. You’ll put forth a lot of effort and get zilch in return for it, which I don’t want for you. Use the above method instead, and you won’t be disappointed.
You could end up with a list of a dozen or so hot prospects. If you want warmer prospects to balance things out, I recommend discovering what kinds of brands advertise to the audiences of the original prospects on the list.
That should expand your list well past 50 potential companies.
And yes, before you ask, I recommend you have a long prospects list – the longer, the better! Companies will seem interested and flake, or you’ll hear one thing, and they’ll do the other. Most of the time, you won’t hear anything at all, and the silence can be deafening.
When you have a long list of prospects, you never stress about those who don’t respond to you. You’re ready to move on to the next one and make your sponsorship goals happen.
The Right Sponsor Varies
There is no one “right” sponsor for any sponsorship seeker. The sponsors you should gravitate toward depend on factors like the type of podcast you host, your audience, and what you have to offer.
However, no matter who you’ve identified as the right sponsor, you should always schedule a discovery session, compile assets and activations, value your sponsorship property, and offer customized, tailored assets.
- About the Author
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Chris Baylis is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Sponsorship Collective.
After spending several years in the field as a sponsorship professional and consultant, Chris now spends his time working with clients to help them understand their audiences, build activations that sponsors want, apply market values to their assets and build strategies that drive sales.
Read More about Chris Baylis