The Complete Guide to Podcast Sponsorship

So you’ve managed to carve out a nice little niche, or even major audience for your podcasts. Congratulations! But are you aware of the value of your podcast audience? Many podcast producers fail to recognize the income they can generate through their podcast success. You can seek out sponsors who will be happy to pay for the chance to get exposure to that audience you have so successfully and patiently built. Sometimes you might get lucky and sponsors will find you.

However, if that hasn’t happened yet, then now could be the time to start seeking out sponsors on your own. Sponsors can provide more than just financial support. They can also open new doors to an audience of their own, while also providing more entertainment or knowledge to your podcasts. Here we explore the opportunities podcast sponsorship offers and how you can get sponsorships working for you.

What are Podcast Sponsorships?

A podcast sponsorship is basically a partnership formed between you as the content creator and a company, organization or even another individual who provides you with compensation to leverage your audience. Although in most cases it includes some form of financial contribution, it could also be contra such as free samples of a product or service or simply attracting major industry or niche “guests” to appear on your podcast.

What is the Difference Between Sponsorship & Advertising?

There really is quite a bit of difference! Podcast advertising is an out and out paid marketing tactic that can include:

  • Pre-Roll “spots” that appear as a sort of intro ad before the podcast begins.
  • Mid-Roll ads that tend to annoy listeners as they are inserted mid podcast.
  • Post-Roll which as you can guess appears at the end of the podcast.

Ads can be produced as something the host presents, or as an actual commercial like you would hear on the radio.

Sponsorships, on the other hand, take advertising and marketing opportunities to the next level. Podcast sponsors have far more opportunities to reach their audience in more meaningful ways such as a representative that appears on the show, access to the podcast social media channels, audience email lists, website promos and more. It offers integration directly related to the podcast as opposed to just mention of a brand via ad spots.

That’s not to say sponsorships don’t include ads as part of the sponsorship deal. However, it is not limited to the ad itself. In fact, it can get very experiential with public events and other digital opportunities such as livestreaming a podcast on social media.

How Do Podcast Sponsorships Work?

Not to sound flip, but how a podcast sponsorship works is between you and your sponsors. It provides you with an opportunity to explore your options and see how far you are willing to go with what you are willing to sell. For some, sharing the spotlight is not an appealing idea as it might steal their thunder. In this case, sponsorship might be more limited to things such as explaining to listeners why they should be pumped about a certain product or service. In other cases, you might look for opportunities to allow a sponsor to reach your audience in other ways such as via your email list or on social media.

If you like the idea of introducing guests to your podcasts, an easy way to offer sponsorship is to have a representative from your sponsors participate in your show. They might be there to field questions from listeners, or you might use an interview format. You can take things further by working in partnership with a sponsor to create a pop-up event of some kind, or contribute financing for you to do a live podcast from a relevant site like a trade show, popular mall, or even a bar or café if your podcast is a little edgier. In other words, the sky’s the limit.

How Podcast Sponsorship Can Help Businesses

As with any form of sponsorship opportunity, sponsors take advantage of audiences to help meet their goals. Commonly sponsors are looking to either sell more products, find more customers, or increase brand awareness for a specific purpose or just in general. What you offer them is a unique chance to reach their audience whether it is a niche or a more general large audience based on demographics.

Podcasts are effective at selling and bringing brands to an audience, as it is an intimate medium where people are voluntarily participating to learn something or be entertained. As a result, the audience becomes sitting ducks to learn more about a product or brand via the podcast they have come to enjoy and trust. As long as a business and podcast make a good match, businesses will become a trusted brand if the podcast host, they love is saying they should.

Sponsorship and Experiential Marketing

As mentioned, podcast sponsorship can provide an intriguing and innovative opportunity for experiential marketing. It should never be about you just reading a message but instead focus on ways to create experiences designed to engage your audience in a way they either expect, understand, or desire. Of course, there’s also an opportunity in engaging an audience in unexpected ways as well.

The trick is to find the right way to make an impression for your sponsors and the right impression that helps your sponsor meet their goals. Ideally, experiential marketing is designed to allow both your audience and your sponsor to meet their goals together for a mutually fulfilling experience. Some examples would include:

  • If you are a cooking or foodie podcast have a sponsored cooking class and do your podcast live onsite, while also live streaming on social media
  • If you are a sportscaster of some kind, have a sponsor such as an athletic wear brand have a fashion show at a local mall and podcast live from there
  • If you’re a wine connoisseur, arrange with a local vineyard to have a drunk driving awareness promotion at their winery where they have people wear drunk driving goggles while performing basic acts like walking

As you can see, it takes some creativity, as well as innovation to come up with ideas. While you can do things that are out and out fun, you can also choose to do something that shows corporate responsibility such as the vineyard idea.

Podcast Sponsorship Pricing Models

There are two basic pricing models used for podcast sponsorship:

  1. CPM (cost per thousand): This is based on the number of downloads for your podcast but can also be applied to other sponsorship opportunities such as views of a video or livestream, social media impressions, etc. This is an easy way to put a dollar value on your audience so to speak. It also provides a measurement for ROI. Higher audience shows that don’t depend so much on engagement will usually make more money with this method.
  2. CPA (cost per acquisition): This is based on the goals of the sponsor such as the number of sales or signups they see because of their sponsorship. A dollar amount or in some cases even a “commission” can be paid out based on these numbers. This can also provide a measurement for ROI purposes. This works well when you have an engaged audience that is growing as you will continue to see better numbers and be paid closer to your worth.

We have one more method and we think it’s the most effective. Market valuation allows you to get paid for what you are worth. Using this method, you’re providing a pricing model based on the value of each asset. This is a more personal way of pricing allowing you to create a list of sponsorship assets, show segments of your audience to let sponsors see they can get face to face with the right people, and research to see how your prospects will value those assets. You can then research the common costs for similar opportunities to avoid overvaluing your sponsorship as overvaluing will cause more lost opportunities than partnerships.

You can then look at ways you have influenced your audience to see if you can justify paying more (or need to charge less) to hit the perfect price tag. It is best to prepare assets in a way that makes it easier to sell multiple podcasts as opposed to a single episode. This will provide the exposure needed for sponsors, as one-offs will not make much of an impression on listeners.

If this seems like too much work, consider our case study. We had two identical sports properties looking for sponsors. Property A offered sponsors the chance to do audience giveaways that bring value to attendees of the event for free. Their belief was if they charged, they’d lose the sponsor. Property B, on the other hand, requested an asset valuation by our team, at which time we identified free giveaways as a high-value asset. We advised Property B of our findings and they were able to raise $50,000K a year by selling the opportunity. The lesson here is never undervalue the assets you have to offer.

Podcast Sponsorship Proposal Template

Media kits are a good guide for your proposal template as they tend to include the key elements prospects will want to see including:

  • Audience data
  • Listener metrics
  • Case studies, experiential marketing, contests, and samples

You can then plug in the ideas you wish to propose to each specific prospect to offer a more customized approach to your assets.

Podcast Sponsorship Ideas That Are High Value

Podcasts offer an incredibly unique opportunity for sponsors. Why? They provide an open audience of like-minded people, often very well defined to specific niches. Because of this, sponsors have one of the most concentrated audiences they will ever find. Engagement with this highly segmented audience can become very intimate because it adds an element of “fandom” into the mix.

This grouping of fans that are avid about the podcast or the podcast host is more easily influenced by the things they have to say, their likes and dislikes and general opinions across a broad range of subjects. While they might be drawn to a podcast based on a certain topic or industry, they stay for the personality and the information they present. Not unlike celebrity pull, these hosts and podcast series allow sponsors to participate in varying levels. Some examples of activations that lend themselves well to podcasts might include:

  • Host-based product/service promotion: The host(s) carrying on a random conversation about a sponsor’s product. The sponsor provides the product for the host to actually try out and they wax fantastic about why they love it so much.
  • Host and sponsor product/service promotion: A candid conversation between the host and someone from the sponsor to discuss a certain product or service.
  • Episode specific product/service mention: A discussion about a certain product and how it applies to a specific topic for the podcast episode. For example, an investment expert might be talking about using online investment brokers and mention the benefits of the sponsor’s services.
  • Experiential sponsorships: This can be along the lines of those we mentioned in the experiential marketing section above. The key is to tie in the podcast with some form of site event or parallel social channel event to engage audiences with brands.
  • Thought leadership: Sponsors send industry thought leaders to the podcast as high-profile guests. This works both for you as the host and the sponsor as both of you can gain larger audiences through this method.
  • Build an app: Some podcasters work with a sponsor to build their own podcast app. This allows you to track more effectively, while also potentially generating revenue if you decide to sell it.
  • Create a sponsored series: Have a sponsor assist in creating a mini-series of episodes relevant to their product and services (or not) to attract more viewers. It works well for podcasts focused on learning.

These are some of the more successful activation ideas that can work for just about any podcast whether it is strictly for entertainment purposes, or for more specific purposes such as teaching opportunities.

Make Sure You Build an Audience

In theory, the only thing you have to sell is your audience. To have a “product” to sell you’ll need proof you have a worthwhile “inventory.” Your assets are your inventory, but your audience is the only reason anyone would be interested in your brand. Therefore you have to start collecting proof your audience exists.

Start by collecting emails under the guise of sharing information such as upcoming guests and your latest podcast topics. Encourage your audience to follow you on social media using ideas such as maybe doing a “best of” for your podcast after each episode, or even bloopers. This adds to your list of assets because you can promote sponsor products directly as opposed to just through your podcast, which brings more value to sponsorship opportunities.

How to Prospect for Podcast Sponsors

We usually preach a logical process when looking for podcast sponsors. We’ve stuck to a formula that works which is looking for brands that resonate with your audience. Your research would include:

  • The most logical brands that will resonate with your audience
  • Brands your competitors partner with
  • Brands who share your audience without going too general

However, we would take it a few steps further for podcasts and include brands you use even if they don’t necessarily seem like obvious matches for your audience. The reason? Interestingly, when it comes to podcasts, you can often stretch your sponsorship prospects just by being you. By this we mean, your audience has a certain obsession with you and therefore even for low-level obsessions what you do and the products you use might suddenly be of interest to your listeners.

An excellent example of this is the meal delivery service Blue Apron. They made what many viewed to be an unlikely alliance with comedian Adam Carolla. Turns out he loves Blue Apron and was able to speak about the product in terms his audience understood. While no one was listening to his podcast for recipe tips, his ability to naturally create a conversation about Blue Apron as an actual customer, allowed him to become an authority on the product and why it was better to cook fresh instead of packaged foods.

Podcast Sponsorship Email Strategies

With a prospect list in hand, it all starts with a cold email. First, make sure you are increasing your odds of success by finding the right person to email. This usually just takes a quick search on LinkedIn. Next, keep the following five important things in mind:

  1. This is an email, not a sales letter: Be certain to use the email to introduce yourself and build a rapport that encourages a first phone call. If you have pull and they might recognize you, this could be your in. If not, and you use their product, this could be your in. The trick is to get to the point quickly and request a chat based on a problem you need their help solving.
  2. Too many words: Consider getting your message across in three simple sentences. Who you are, what you want and why they should be interested, or something along those lines!
  3. Focus on the next step, not the final step: As mentioned, this is not a sales letter, nor is it an attempt to force a meeting, or worse yet solicit permission to send a proposal. In fact, the worse scenario would be you attaching an unsolicited proposal.
  4. Be specific, without rambling: This kind of combines points one and two in that you need to make sure you are clear on what you want, without rambling on and on about yourself and your sponsorship opportunities.
  5. Lower your expectations to help raise theirs: Your email should not have you rubbing your hands together in anticipation of getting a five or six-figure sponsorship. If you go in too cocky or blurting out what you want too soon, you’ll soon find you’re prospect is not responding. Instead, lower your expectations to get to the next step of a possible conversation and you might stand a better chance of raising their expectations of what you offer.

Mark the dates you send each email and make a point to follow up with a second email. Check in to see if they’ve had a chance to check their calendars to set up a call.

How to Run a Discovery Session

Your first meeting/conversation is often referred to as a discovery session. At your session, you want to learn about their marketing strategy and look for pain points you can resolve. You can collect information to determine if you’ll make a good fit, as the wrong fit could cost you listeners. To keep things productive, do your homework to learn as much as you can about their marketing tactics, campaigns and brand including their website, social media, press releases, other sponsorships, etc. Look for audience parallels so you can prove you share a common audience.

Don’t pitch your sponsorship proposal but instead ask questions:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • How do you normally engage in sponsorship?
  • What does your target market value?
  • What can you tell me about your sales goals for the coming year?
  • What would you consider to be the most important elements of a sponsorship package?

This is not the place for your proposal. If they ask for one, let them know you’ll use the information gleaned at the meeting to send them a customized proposal in a few days along with pricing. If they don’t ask, and you feel it’s a good fit, ask if they’d mind having a look at a draft proposal and offering you some feedback. That’s how you’ll nail the sale. By avoiding the hard sell and instead showing them you understand their needs and respect their advice. You can show them you can provide solutions that help them meet their marketing goals.

The Podcast Sponsorship Agreement

Our first advice on drawing up sponsorship agreements is to speak to a lawyer. You can use a boilerplate agreement, but considering we’re advising customization, you’ll need to ensure you incorporate all the specifics of your arrangement. Agreements ensure everyone is on the same page and provide a comprehensive list of all the deliverables on each side. You can learn more about sponsorship agreements here.

The Fulfillment Report

A fulfillment report is used at the end of a sponsorship to provide proof you were successful in your deliverables. It should include:

  • A list of deliverables promised, the benefits and confirmation each deliverable was met
  • How you went above and beyond
  • Attendee or customer statistics related to the sponsorship
  • Engagement metrics
  • Press coverage or pickup/mention on other social media channels, etc.
  • Calculated ROI when available

It provides information to share not only with your current sponsors but also with your prospects. With any luck, you’ve obtained at least one long-lasting sponsor partner who will want to continue the sponsorship for the long-term.

Because you have discovered the secret to providing your audience with what they want, you have earned a position to share that success for a fee. This guide will help you monetize your podcast to achieve financial success as well.

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.

Connect with Chris via: The Sponsorship Collective | Twitter | LinkedIn