Sponsorship collective logo

Maximizing Sponsorship Opportunities for Your Podcast’s Growth: The Ultimate FAQ

by | November 21, 2023

Why you can trust Sponsorship Collective

  • The Sponsorship Collective has worked with over 1000 clients from every property type all over North America and Europe, working with properties at the $50,000 level to multi-million dollar campaigns, events and multi-year naming rights deals
  • We have published over 300 YouTube videos, written over 500,000 words on the topic and published dozens of research reports covering every topic in the world of sponsorship
  • All of our coaches and consultants have real world experience in sponsorship sales

Before you dive in, if you are interested in podcast sponsorship, check out these titles in our “sponsorship for podcasters” series:

Podcast sponsorship is a quickly growing arena, yet many podcast hosts don’t know the first thing about sponsorship.

Unlike a corporation or a volunteer organization with a large team of people to oversee sponsorship operations, a podcast might be a one-man operation or have a very small team.

This can perpetuate the myth that the best a podcast host can offer a sponsor is a commercial ad break. 

However, if you’re willing to dig a lot deeper, you’ll discover where the money lies.

This FAQ guide will touch on all the most common questions podcast-hosts-turned-sponsorship-seekers have when looking for sponsorship arrangements. I hope this information can help you begin to formulate your own podcast sponsorship plan.

When Is Your Podcast Ready for Sponsorship?

One question I get asked a lot by podcast hosts is whether their show is ready for a sponsor. I wish I could provide a concrete answer, but there is no one specific metric that indicates readiness.

Part of it has to do with why you’re seeking sponsorship in the first place. Does your podcast require funding so you can grow your audience, buy new recording equipment, or rent a professional studio? Do you need promotion so you can attract more high-profile guests?

Depending on how you answer those questions, you might be ready for a sponsor right now, or you might decide as the host of the show to hold off.

New call-to-action

Growth is always good, so your podcast should have steadily rising numbers in areas like listenership and downloads.

This doesn’t mean you need an explosion of numbers overnight. A slow but steady uptick is enough to prove to sponsors that your podcast is on the rise and worth investing in.

Sometimes, a sponsor has requirements for the podcast hosts they work with. Some might only want partners specializing in certain genres, and others might require X number of listeners or Y downloads.

What Kinds of Sponsors Should Your Podcast Pursue?

Sponsorship breaks down into three categories: Contra, promotions, or cash.

Contra or in-kind sponsorship involves receiving free gifts or items. While this could have an application in the podcast world, in-kind sponsorship is usually reserved for nonprofits and charitable organizations.

That leaves you with cash or promotional sponsors.

You can rely on promotional sponsors to broaden your reach, increase your audience, and expand the guest list for your show, as mentioned. This is ideal for podcasts just starting out.

You can still work with promotional sponsors even if your podcast has amassed an audience. At that point, you will chase bigger partners to broaden your reach beyond where it already is.

Most sponsorship seekers are interested in cash sponsors. Cash opens more doors, as you can use it more open-endedly than promotions. You can also use it in the same way as a promotional sponsor, such as by growing your advertising or marketing, paying your way into high-profile interviews, and the like.

I can’t tell you which type of sponsor to pursue, except I would advise you to rethink in-kind sponsors at this juncture. As I said, they don’t really suit your industry.

Cash sponsors are a safe bet, but don’t feel like you must eschew promotional sponsorship. They’re a great match for a podcast.

Which Industries Should You Focus on When Selecting Sponsors?

Another question I get from podcast hosts seeking sponsorship is which industry or niche to focus on.

This is another of those questions where there is no one specific answer, as every podcast is different.

I know that’s not the most helpful response and likely not what you were expecting, so allow me to shed some light on how you can narrow it down.

Ask your audience. Send them a survey with the opportunity to win a prize if they participate. Include some questions on the survey about the brands they enjoy outside of your show.

Those brands will tell you everything you need to know. They’ll point you toward industries and niches to pursue.

This is a much better way to select sponsors than based on brand recognition or how much money you think they can give you.

You don’t have to use the list of brands procured from your audience as gospel. Use your own filtering mechanics to determine which brands are a good fit and which aren’t.

A more general podcast has a lot more leeway. You could work with any brand, and it wouldn’t seem like a mismatch. Those shows that focus on specific topics or niches must be choosier. Your sponsor should align with the niche or topic, even if by a thin thread.

Why does that matter? You want your audience to engage with your sponsor, right? You should, as that’s how you fulfill sponsor goals.

Audiences are more excited about interacting with brands they directly use or are interested in using, especially those related to their favorite topic or niche.

What Kind of Opportunities Should You Offer a Sponsor?

Why, commercials during your podcast, of course.

Just kidding!

I always talk about logos as one of the worst sponsorship assets because they’re unimaginative, low-value, and don’t achieve many goals. Branded commercials are the logos of podcast sponsorship.

How many commercial ads have you heard while listening to a podcast or radio show in your car, at work, or at home? Hundreds to thousands, right? Most radio shows and podcasts take several ad breaks, so you can be inundated with dozens of ads by enjoying one program alone.

What do you do when you hear a commercial? You might remind yourself to look up the brand later, then you get back to work, or you arrive home from your destination, and it slips your mind.

A commercial doesn’t do much for a sponsor. At best, it grants them name recognition, but allow me to let you in on a little secret. Most sponsors don’t want name recognition. They don’t need it!

New call-to-action

They need more leads, a higher conversion rate, and more sales. These kinds of objectives require more thoughtful assets and activations, such as interview spots, social media promotions, product placement, and a drawn-out advertising campaign.

How do you know what a sponsor needs? You should never guess. Instead, hold a meeting with them to discuss their needs and challenges. I call it the discovery session because it’s not a sales meeting.

It’s only about getting to know your new sponsor so you can serve them well. Once the sponsor clues you in on their challenges, you can determine which assets and activations fit.

This means that if you have three sponsors for your show or work with a new sponsor six months from now, you must present them with custom assets just the way you did your current sponsor.

How Much Money Should a Sponsor Pay You?

When it comes to how much money you can make from a podcast sponsor, most people turn to the average advertising rates in the 2020s.

However, please remember that you’re offering your sponsor more than a commercial slot. You’re getting to know their challenges and tailoring your assets to their needs.

I’m not saying eschew the CPM rate of pre-, mid-, or post-roll ads. That’s good information to have, but it only serves as a baseline.

You see, to determine what to charge a sponsor, you must know what your podcast is worth, which requires valuation.

Valuing assets is easier than it seems. Let’s use the CPM rate for a podcast advertisement to break down valuations as simply as possible.

If the current rate in 2022 for a 30-to-60-second mid-roll ad is $30, use that as your litmus test when valuing.

If you offer a mid-roll ad to sponsors, what makes it better than the norm? Is it your production quality? Your ultra-targeted audience?

If so, you could afford to increase the price of your mid-roll ads. Perhaps instead of charging $30, it’s $50.

What if you can’t think of anything that sets your mid-roll ads apart? Then, leave the price at $30.

Of course, if your show is new and you feel like you still have a lot to learn, you might cut down the price below the baseline, maybe to $20 or $25.

That’s really all there is to it. You have to do this for each asset and activation you’re proposing to a sponsor, then add all the numbers to determine the value of your sponsorship property.

How Many Sponsors Is Too Many?

However many you can handle!

Some podcast hosts assume they need a dozen sponsors to keep their ad breaks interesting. You know better, as you’re doing more than filling ad space with your sponsor’s time by delivering objectives they truly want to increase their reach.

Another reason that podcast hosts who only use sponsors to fill ad breaks need so many sponsors is that they’re not making a lot of money. As the CPM rate above illustrates, a commercial only brings in so much cash.

When you broaden the scope of your assets and activations and hit the nail on the head with what you offer sponsors, connecting your audience to their business, you make more money. Sponsors are almost always willing to pay the big bucks for access to an audience they want.

So, getting back to your question, perhaps a better answer is however many you need.

You might only need one sponsor if you have A+ activations and assets for which they’re willing to pay a lot. You could also have several smaller sponsors.

Your budget should be your guide. Of course, even if sponsors help you meet your budgetary goals, you might continue seeking sponsors for promotions or other areas of podcast growth.

That’s great, but remember that sponsorship is all about quality, not quantity.

It’s not impressive if you have five sponsors but recycled your assets and activations among them because you’re too creatively bankrupt to come up with new ideas for each. It’s much more impressive to have one or two sponsors with ultra-targeted activations.

Is Sponsorship an Ongoing Arrangement or One-and-Done?

That’s up to you.

Most sponsorships are based on events, programs, or opportunities. Podcast sponsorship works differently, as it’s based on season. Well, unless your show doesn’t take a break, then it continues throughout the year.

You have a longer-term need for sponsors than the average sponsorship seeker, which is why it behooves you to continue ongoing arrangements with your sponsors.

You have to put the effort in, and usually, you must say something about extending a deal. Sponsors can’t read your mind, so make sure you have a conversation with yours if you want to expand your arrangement. 

How Do You Keep Sponsors Coming Back?

A sponsor doesn’t have to say yes if you ask to continue working together. Whether they answer affirmatively depends on the quality of your partnership.

Here are some tips for keeping sponsors coming back for more.

Deliver ROI

Did you help your sponsor increase its lead gen? Did its conversions go up? Did it increase its website views or email list? Perhaps they even made more sales!

Working with you is fruitful for the sponsor, so why wouldn’t they want to sign up for more? Considering that longer-term deals usually come with more money, a sponsor will have few qualms about paying you what you deserve if you continue to deliver.

Keep It Fresh

You might work with your favorite sponsor again but don’t treat them like you know them when ideating assets and activations. Pretend they’re a brand-new sponsor, and you’re desperate to impress them.

New call-to-action

You would never use the same activations you did for another partner, right? You’d keep it unique and fresh.

Working with a brand long-term means seeing its uniquely evolving challenges in real-time. You must be ready to rise to the occasion and come up with solutions to those challenges to maintain your value.

Say It With Data

Present the whole picture to your sponsor as a well-curated proposal with audience data, podcast stats, and other valuable metrics. This will remind the sponsor what you can do, especially if it’s been a while since you two have worked together.

Value Afresh

Creating new assets and activations means a fresh round of valuations. It’s nobody’s favorite activity, but you should be a pro at it by now, especially if you have a few podcast sponsorships on your resume.

Start Your Podcast on the Road to Sponsorship Success Today

Your podcast can grow through sponsorship. Now that you know some secrets to maximizing your opportunities and achieving the most success, you’re ready to make your podcast bigger than ever.