The Complete Guide to Sponsorship for Influencers
As an influencer, you have a huge following on social media (hundreds of thousands of followers or more), and you know that your reach can only grow if you get sponsored deals.
Here’s how you obtain sponsorship as an influencer:
- Understand your brand
- Know your audience
- Choose companies within your niche
- Put together a media kit
- Write a great pitch
- Price your services fairly
- Connect with sponsors
- Have a discovery session
- Follow up
In this definitive guide to all things influencer sponsorship, I’ll first go through the above process of securing sponsors as an influencer. Then I’ll share 8 methods you can use to attract more sponsors.
To accompany this post, here are a few more articles we recently shared that will provide expertise in your niche profession.
You won’t want to miss them!
What Is an Influencer?
The term “influencer” has sort of become the buzzword of the late 2010s and early 2020s. Lots of people fashion themselves as influencers, but only some are.
According to Digital Marketing.org, nano-influencers have 1,000 or more followers, micro-influencers have up to 100,000 followers, macro-influencers have more than 100,000 followers, and mega-influencers have more followers still, up to a million.
Micro-influencers would include very small accounts, sometimes even business accounts. A mega-influencer is usually a celebrity. If not, they’ve otherwise achieved household name status. The Kardashians come to mind as one such example of mega-influencers.
You don’t necessarily have to be a celebrity to be classified as an influencer though. Thought leaders, industry experts, social media personalities (like YouTube stars), podcast hosts, and athletes can all be influencers.
What Is Sponsorship and How Is It Different Than Advertising?
Sponsorship is not a product endorsement, nor is it advertising. As I talk about in this post, sponsorship is a partnership between you and another company or individual. The relationship between the two of you is mutually beneficial.
Usually, in the world of influencing, you receive a product sample to use and review. Your content grows the audience and bottom line of the company you’re promoting. Yet a sponsorship deal can also entail so much more than that.
Some other examples include experiential marketing, product placement, social media, branded content, content marketing, and media exposure.
Sponsorship can include advertising, but on its own, sponsorship is is not advertising.
For an example of the advertising component of a sponsorship deal, as part of your arrangement with a sponsor, you’ll make X number of sponsored posts on Y product or service. These posts are technically advertisements and often must be labeled as such on social media.
Although sponsorships can get very transactional, I caution you against treating your sponsor as only a source of money. You should regard them as a partner as well.
As an influencer, I’m sure you’ve had many business partners over the years. You look out for your partners and are always working in their best interest. By treating your sponsors with the same respect, your working relationship will be far smoother.
How Do You Get Sponsorship as an Influencer?
Today’s influencers have a huge reach and thus their opinions are powerful. When they back a product or service, people listen. That’s why more and more companies are engaging in influencer marketing. Influencers are the future.
When a company decides to work with an influencer, they usually send the influencer free products or services. The influencer receives the product/service, tries it, and then reviews it for their audience. They’re also usually paid.
The posts pertaining to a company’s product/service are known as sponsored content and are clearly labeled as such. A new audience gets introduced to a company and they too will buy the products/services that the influencer uses.
As an influencer, how do you find and engage with sponsors? Per the intro, here are the steps to follow.
Understand Your Brand
Who are you? No, not your name, but your brand? What are the values your brand espouses? What mantra is ingrained in you? What life pillars do you abide by?
Before you approach a single sponsor, you must be able to answer these questions with confidence. More so than that, you have to be able to pull all this information together into one cohesive brand that’s authentically you.
Your sponsors are going to want to know what your brand is all about, so you can’t still be figuring yourself out by the time you start talking to them. If you need to hold off until you better understand your brand before you work with a sponsor, that’s okay.
My recommendation? Keep your brand centered around who you truly are. This way, you don’t have to pretend to like a product or service. When you recommend a product to your audience, you won’t feel like you’ve sold out.
Another reason to keep your brand true to who you are is that nothing can be more unique. We all bring something interesting to the table. So many influencers spend forever trying to figure out what’s so special about them when it’s them themselves that’s unique!
Know Your Audience
Now that you’ve answered the ultimate soul-searching question of who you are, it’s time to move on to those who are even more important. I’m talking about your audience.
Well, in the case of influencers, maybe followers is the more apt term. These are the people who account for your huge social media followers list, who like your posts, who always write comments, and who watch and respond when you go live.
Depending on how many social media platforms you’re on, you might have several audiences. Might some of the same people follow you from one social media platform to another? Perhaps. You might also discover that you have disparate audiences from Instagram to TikTok or YouTube to Twitter.
After all, the audiences that use these platforms are themselves different. A 2021 social media report from social media marketing resource SproutSocial found that on Facebook and Instagram, the biggest age group is between 25 and 34 years old.
Yet on Twitter and Pinterest, the average age of users is between 30 and 49, which is decidedly older. LinkedIn attracts an older audience still, 46 to 55 years old. Not like influencers use LinkedIn much, but this is still good info to have.
TikTok is seemingly exclusively for the young’uns, as the average age range on that platform is 18 to 24 years old. Snapchat attracts a viable range of users between 13 and 34 years old. YouTube’s demographics aren’t all that different, 15 to 25 years old.
Age is one demographic you can use to separate your audience. The social media platform is another. I always recommend niching down as much as you can, so try to do that.
For example, let’s say that on Instagram, you do attract the average range of users between 25 and 34 years old. In that age range, these are adults we’re talking about. They have jobs, families, maybe even a house.
You might split that audience segment into 30-year-olds who live in X city and earn $70k per year. After all, you need to know how much money your audience segments make, as that can really play a role in your influencer marketing.
You wouldn’t promote a $200 product to a TikTok crowd of teenagers who haven’t even worked their first job yet. They’d have to ask their parents for money, and how many of them are going to remember to do that? You’re missing out on viable sales.
Instead, you’d save a $200 product for your Instagram crowd, as your data has proven that they can afford it.
How do you even find this audience data? Well, for most forms of sponsorship such as business sponsorship or sports sponsorship, I’d recommend sending an audience survey. For you, since your audience is all virtual, you can use social media metrics.
On any social media account you have, especially if yours is a business account, you can learn detailed information such as who’s on your page and where in the world they come from. This will be hugely important in putting together your audience data!
Choose Companies Within Your Niche
Between researching your audience and branding yourself, you’ve created a comfortable little niche that you fit quite well into. Now it’s time to find companies that also fit into that niche.
This will require more research; there’s no way around that. I recommend starting with a list of businesses that might already follow you. If they’re engaged with your content, then it must resonate with them.
Don’t just look at a company’s social media profiles. You want to research their website and any press releases or news stories about them until you’re crystal-clear on what they sell and what their values are.
If you sense any mismatch between their values and yours, move on. One of the fastest ways to make your audience turn on you is to choose a company to shill products for just because they’re giving you a lot of money.
You want to work with companies whose target audience is your audience. That will increase your audience’s receptivity to your sponsored posts.
Put Together a Media Kit
In sports and business sponsorship, you write a sponsorship proposal. In influencer sponsorship, it goes a little differently. You also need a media kit.
Media kits or press kits include lots of useful information about you as an influencer. Sponsor companies can quickly digest the information in the media kit and decide whether to work with you.
Your media kit must include a biography. You can present this as more of an “about” page if you’d rather, but the bio is a big component.
Don’t write paragraphs and paragraphs about your many achievements as an influencer. Instead, you want to include testimonials, past collaborations and sponsorships, case studies, and social media stats.
Let’s unpack that all a little bit here. Depending on the type of influencer you are, you might not have testimonials per se, especially if you don’t sell anything. It shouldn’t take you long though to comb the Internet and find positive words from your audience. You can use those as your testimonials.
Any sponsorship deals you’ve had in the past should be detailed in your media kit. If you have none, then surely, you’ve collaborated with other influencers before. List those partnerships in the media kit as well.
Case studies might not be doable as an influencer, and it’s okay if you skip those. What you certainly cannot skip are your social media stats. You want to present more information than how many followers you have at current. After all, anyone can look at your social media accounts and see those numbers.
Instead, focus on metrics like how your followers have grown over time or how much attention certain posts of yours have garnered. If you’ve had content go viral, be sure to mention that as well!
Write a Great Pitch
Now comes the hard part, which is pitching to sponsors. For the phone-phobic, which are a lot of us today, the good news is that you don’t have to pick up the phone and call anyone. You can send an email or even a DM (direct message for the less social-savvy among us).
The risk of DMing a company you have no prior contact with is that the message could end up filtered. Keep that in mind.
What do you say to the sponsor? Here is a template pitch you can use, but I recommend tweaking it to sound more like you.
Hello [name of contact at company],
My name is [your name] and I’m an influencer in [niche]. I’ve been a big fan of your [ product/service ] for a long time and I personally use it regularly. I was wondering if you might be interested in a deal where I can promote your [ product/service ] on [social media platform of choice]?
My [social media platform] account is [account name]. You’ll see that I talk a lot about [niche]. My page attracts a big following of [number of followers] who love to check out my thoughts and recommendations.
It’s my goal to provide my audience with [ products/services ] they’ll love, and I think we’d be a great fit! I have collaboration experience from working with [past partnerships].
I’m happy to send my media kit if you want to check it out. You can also visit my website [web address] for more information.
Thanks so much for your time!
Price Your Services Fairly
One of the best ways to never hear from a sponsor that would have otherwise said yes is to overprice your assets. If you’re a smaller influencer, you have to recognize that you don’t have as much clout as the big names and thus you shouldn’t expect such a massive payday.
Marketing resource HubSpot says that influencer industry standards dictate that for every 1,000 likes a sponsored post gets, you earn $10. That’s as a baseline. If you’re a smaller influencer, then keep that price in mind, as it’ll more accurately reflect your earnings.
Once you have tens of thousands of followers, you can negotiate for more money. If you have a million followers, you’d earn more cash still.
When you’re discussing pricing, be sure to mention exactly what you’ll post. For example, maybe for $200, the sponsor gets three sponsored Instagram posts and two Instagram Stories. This helps the sponsor determine if what you’re charging is commensurate with what they’ll receive.
Connect with Sponsors
All the hard work is over and it’s time to send your pitch. Time will seemingly slow to a crawl as you wait to hear back. Hopefully, you get a response, although it doesn’t always happen. When the sponsor replies, they’ll ideally want to begin working with you immediately!
Have a Discovery Session
As an influencer, you know a sales tactic or two, right? Yet your initial meeting with the sponsor, which I call the discovery session, is not a sales meeting.
Instead, the discovery session is a cursory meeting where you two sit down and talk about what your sponsor’s goals are and what’s preventing them from reaching those goals.
For instance, maybe the sponsor has recently introduced a new product or service, but sales are way lower than projected. By having you promote their product or service to your audience, you can help with their flagging sales. Your audience might become their audience as well.
That’s one example of many kinds of issues that a sponsor can have. The only way to know what hurdles are unique to your sponsor is to ask.
In this post, I put together a list of nearly 40 discovery questions that will help you learn more about your sponsor. You can’t ask all 40 though; that would take hours. Instead, ask five to seven questions.
How can you possibly narrow it down to that few? I always tell my sponsorship clients to look at the research they already have on a sponsor. Whatever areas are sparsest, those are the ones you want to focus your questions on.
Such areas include the sponsor’s needs, their goals, their products or services, or their audience. I have questions in the post above that touch on each area.
Okay, I said you can only ask five to seven questions of the sponsor during the discovery session, but there is one more question you must ask them before you wrap up the meeting.
That question is: when can we meet again?
For every meeting you have with the sponsor, you must schedule your next meeting with them. If you don’t, then it becomes harder and harder to follow up. You have a lot going on with your schedule and they with theirs.
As you two get busier, you forget about the burgeoning sponsorship deal. Before you know it, you lose touch completely and what could have been a promising arrangement fades away.
When you take the initiative to request a next meeting before the current one is even over, it shows the sponsor that you’re serious.
4 Common Sponsorship Mistakes to Avoid
As a first-time sponsorship seeker, mistakes are a little too easy to make. That’s why in this section, I thought I’d talk about 4 classic sponsorship mistakes and how you can prevent them in your sponsorship program.
Not Doing Your Audience Research
I talked earlier about the importance of audience research, but it’s something I want to reiterate now. Your audience is everything, especially as an influencer. Without them, you wouldn’t have half a million followers (or over a million). They buy the products and services you recommend.
You must know who they are, and you must keep your audience data current.
Having your finger on the pulse of your audience is hugely beneficial to your career as an influencer. When you know what your audience likes versus what they don’t, you can make more data-driven decisions about what you recommend to them.
You’ll be pickier about the sponsors you choose, which is always a good thing!
The tailored content your audience sees increases their receptivity to your posts, which means you get higher engagement across social media that continues to captivate your prospects and current sponsors.
Overpricing Your Offer
Being an influencer is hard work, but it’s very rewarding. You can’t let your newfound fame go to your head though. If you quote every sponsorship prospect with high-figure deals, you better have the followers, clout, and track record to back it up.
If you’re only a micro-influencer and you’re charging five-figure deals, you’re in over your head. As you’ll recall from earlier, you should only earn $10 per 1,000 likes on a post in your early influencing days.
As unique as you are, there are plenty more influencers out there. If the sponsor feels like your services are overinflated for no real reason, they will move on to whoever the next influencer is like you.
Not Following up
You send your initial email or DM to a prospect quite excitedly. As the days go by and you hear nothing in return, your excitement fades. You figure that the best thing you can do is move on to another sponsor who might reply.
You’re giving up a little prematurely. Sometimes it takes a nudge or two to get a sponsorship prospect to respond. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not interested, just that they’re very busy people like you are.
Even once you and the sponsor meet, it can still take a repeated nudge to remind them to respond to you.
One to two follow-up attempts are perfectly acceptable. Even three follow-ups are okay, but don’t do more than that. If you’re not getting a response and you’ve followed up on three separate occasions, then the sponsor is telling you in their own way that they’re not interested. Let it go and continue with the next prospect.
Failing to Deliver What’s Promised
When you enter an arrangement with a sponsor, you’re expected to do your part and they do theirs. If you promise that your sponsored post will attract 20,000 likes, then as I said before, you better be able to back that up.
I always tell my clients the same thing. It’s better to promise a small outcome and then achieve that exact outcome than it is to promise a huge outcome and fail to deliver.
Yes, it will always sound more impressive to a prospect when you tell them that your post will get 50,000 likes and not 8,500. However, when you inevitably can’t earn that much traffic to your social media, your sponsor is going to be very disappointed.
Start small, especially if this is your first sponsorship arrangement. Once you discover that your posts can get the kind of engagement that sponsors like, you can start making your deliverables bigger and better.
8 Ways Influencers Can Attract Sponsors
Once you get one sponsor as an influencer, you can’t stop there. You can always strive to attract more sponsors. Here are 8 tips that will help you do just that.
Choose the Right Social Media Platform
According to eMarketer, the social media platform that has the biggest influencer reach is Instagram.
In December 2019, 97 percent of United States marketers planned to use that platform to further their influencer marketing goals.
That was followed by Instagram Stories at 83 percent, Facebook at 79 percent, YouTube at 44 percent, Twitter at 35 percent, Pinterest at 29 percent, Snapchat at 16 percent, and TikTok at 16 percent.
The eMarketer article has social media influencer marketing stats available for 2021 as well. Social media popularity seems to have decreased between 2019 and 2021. Whether that has to do with the coronavirus pandemic, that’s hard to say.
In 2021, Instagram is still the most popular platform at 93 percent versus 97 percent in 2019. That’s followed by Instagram Stories at 83 percent (unchanged from 2019), Facebook at 63 percent (11 percent decrease), TikTok at 68 percent (52 percent increase), YouTube at 48 percent (four percent increase), Instagram Reels at 36 percent, Pinterest at 35 percent (six percent increase), Twitter at 32 percent (three percent decrease), and Snapchat at 26 percent (10 percent increase).
Be Ready to Put a Lot of Time in
Working as an influencer is a full-time job, as you’re about to see once you begin pursuing sponsors. You have to pour in hours upon hours of research into your sponsorship prospects only to disqualify them.
For some of the prospects you do want to work with, you won’t hear from them, which also means your research was for naught.
Even once you get a sponsor, you have to continually update your prospects list so you can keep up your sponsorship deals. You also have to keep your audience research current, reviewing their stats and data frequently.
I normally tell sponsorship seekers to review audience data every six months, but for influencers, it’s not a bad idea to reassess after three months. The world of social media can change quite rapidly, after all. New platforms are introduced, old platforms fall out of favor, and audience data will shift at lightning-quick speeds.
Then you have to write your media kit, not to mention a killer email or DM. Only then can you do the part of the job you really like, which is taking photos or videos so you can review and share the product/service with your audience.
Oh, and don’t forget about keeping up with your non-sponsored content so you can continue to grow your following.
It’s a never-ending job with no days off. Today’s hustle mentality really is required for influencers to succeed.
Post Awesome Content
Getting back to your content, you should expect that everything you post is going to be put under a microscope. All the sponsor prospects you’re interacting with will review your social media feeds, especially because you’re linking to your accounts when you send your pitch.
If you’ve found the secret sauce for fantastic content that people just can’t get enough of, then keep it up. I would not recommend changing tact though because you think a new posting style will impress sponsorship prospects.
Your prospects are expecting to see post after post of awesome content that knocks it out of the park. Your posts should have good engagement and plenty of comments. A new style might not do that.
Oh, don’t anticipate that sponsorship prospects will only look at your most current posts. Some will, but others will dig deeper, checking out your content from six months ago or even six years ago depending on how long you’ve been on social media.
If you have old content that’s just not up to snuff with what you post nowadays, feel free to delete it.
And Post Consistently
The frequency of your posts can’t slip once you have sponsorship prospects reviewing your social media feed.
Many influencers don’t post whenever they feel like it. They follow a schedule that gels with their audience.
Maybe you post twice a day or once every other day. You could even be a three-times-a-week type of social media poster. Whatever your schedule is, don’t deviate from it. Well, unless you post once a week or once a month. That’s a little too infrequent, so increase it. (But you’re probably not an influencer if you’re posting that rarely anyway).
When prospects see that you post often and can attract the same number of views, likes, and comments (or thereabouts) per post, that shows that you have staying power.
Use Hashtags and Geotags
As influencers gain thousands of followers, then hundreds of thousands, then millions, they sometimes become less reliant on hashtags. They know that whatever they post, people are undoubtedly going to see it.
Now that you’re seeking sponsorship, you can’t quit hashtags. You need to use them every time you post, but within reason, of course. The recommended limit is three hashtags in the post itself. If you feel like your post needs more hashtags, you can comment on the post and add up to 30 more.
Not like I’m saying you should use 30 hashtags. The sweet spot is about nine, which is reasonable.
Try to choose hashtags that are specific to your niche while still largely searchable. Before assigning any hashtag to your post, be sure to search it and check out the posts associated with it. If the content is a brand mismatch, then don’t use the tag.
If you’re coming up with a new hashtag or jumping onboard a trendy one, please check that its meaning can’t be misconstrued.
Hashtags can be confusing, especially when they’re all in lowercase. For example, when the singer Susan Boyle wanted to have an album listening party in 2012, she used the hashtag #susanalbumparty.
You see the problem with that? I hope so, as I don’t want to have to explain it.
Besides hashtags, you also need to use geotags. Some readers might not know what geotagging is, so allow me to explain. A geotag is when you post your location with your social media content.
For example, if you were hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail, you’d tag that as your location. You can also use less specific geotags such as Los Angeles, California.
Why use geotags? Users can search specific locations and see your content. Location-centric sponsorship prospects will also care a lot about where you go and what you post about on social media.
Make It Easy to Contact You
This is something I always tell sponsorship seekers. You want sponsors to be able to reach out to you, so make it as easy as possible.
To reiterate, that means including your social media handles in your media kit as well as your sponsorship pitch. In the bio of your social accounts, add other contact information such as an email address.
If a sponsor doesn’t have to dig hard to find out how to contact you, that makes their lives easier.
Use Social Media Automation
Very rarely does an influencer contact one sponsor at a time. Rather, you might be after three or four sponsors at once. This can be hard to juggle since you have to do research the sponsor, write separate media kits, and price your services differently.
Social media automation software can make the posting part of your life easier. You tell the software what you want to post and when and it will do it for you.
Have a Strong Digital Presence
As an influencer, you’re all about social media, but don’t that let that be your only online presence. Influencers should also have their own website.
Your website is a chance to talk about yourself, highlight your career accomplishments, showcase your social media handles, further brand yourself, and increase your credibility. It’s worth hiring a graphic designer and a web builder rather than use a free website.
After all, if your site doesn’t look legit, this can hurt your credibility rather than help it.
Influencers work with sponsors all the time to promote products and services among their audiences. The payday for doing so is sweet, as is the feeling of knowing you’re recommending quality products/services to your audience.
Use this guide as your go-to as you enter the world of influencer sponsorship. Best of luck!
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.