Three Ways To Get Podcast Sponsors
Sponsorships are a popular way of monetizing your podcast by getting paid to promote a brand — and it's easy to see why this model can be so effective.
Nearly two-thirds of podcast listeners take action based on ads, whether they make a purchase or search for information based on your recommendation.
The truth is, finding sponsors for your podcast is easy; there's plenty of companies who'd jump at the chance to make a buck off your show. What's tricky is landing sponsorship deals that are beneficial for both parties.
In this blog, we'll explain how podcast sponsorships work, review the three main ad models, and share tips for growing your podcast to maximize ad revenue!
How many downloads do you need to start?
Technically, you can connect with sponsors at any stage of your show's growth — as long as the sponsor in question doesn't have specific download number requirements.
But just because you can get sponsors at any time doesn't mean it's always a smart move for your show. Before seeking out sponsor deals, make sure you've earned your audience's trust; inserting ads into your episodes too early can cause your monetization efforts to backfire.
Providing quality content is the bedrock of successful monetization, and it's in your best financial interest to prioritize your listeners before making money.
Three ways to find podcast sponsors
When you feel like it's the time is right for your podcast, you can start reaching out to affiliates. These three methods are the best, most proactive ways to land deals that work for your podcast's unique stage of growth.
1. Pitch directly to brands
Unless you have a podcast with 10,000+ downloads per episode, sponsors probably aren't going to knock down your door for advertising opportunities. Most independent podcasters will need to do some legwork to strike a good deal with sponsors.
Research podcasts in your category
Do market research on podcasts in your category and sub-category to see which brands are sponsoring podcasts similar to yours. If your audience overlaps with the podcasts they are currently sponsoring, that brand will be more interested in working with you.
As you listen to 15-20 podcasts that feature host-read ads, make a list of the brands you hear mentioned. Then find the contact info of the person with the "buying power" at each company and send a pitch!
Consistency is key and you might get turned down a lot in the beginning. You can increase your chances of finding a great fit by breaking up the process; set aside an hour a week to research sponsors and pick a separate day to pitch.
Make sure the product is a good fit for your audience
We suggest holding off on reaching out to a sponsor unless you know their product fits your niche and audience.
Your listeners' trust and attention are the most valuable asset you have; be careful not to throw that away for a quick buck!
Convince the brand of your show's value
Why should a company give you money to promote their product? Make it your goal to persuade the sponsor that investing in your podcast is a smart financial decision, and have the numbers to back up your claim.
You can use data from previous promotions, stats on your latest merch drop, or analytics on your audience's demographics as tools to craft a compelling pitch.
Once you secure your first sponsorship, integrate host-read ads into your next podcast episode and blow them away with the value you give in return.
Pro tip: Pitch a five-episode trial period so brands can take you for a test drive without signing up for a long-term commitment. Companies are more likely to agree to work with you if the stakes are low, and having negotiations thought out before you send your pitch keeps you one step ahead of the game.
2. Join a podcast network
Podcast networks connect podcasters with sponsors and make it easy for advertisers to connect with the right audience. By joining a network, more advertisers see your content and are more likely to approach you with sponsorship opportunities that fit your audience well.
In the early stages of your show, sponsor deals through a network aren't likely to bring in a lot of cash, and you'll have to split whatever money you do make 70/30 (you get 70%, the network profits 30%.) You also might have to forgo some of your creative freedom to stay within the networks specific rules (each one is different.)
As you can see, networks are a give and take, and while they are an easy way to monetize your podcast, you probably won't make much after the network takes their portion of the earnings, and you'll need a large listener base to make any significant commission off ads.
3. Use Buzzsprout's Affiliate Marketplace
The Buzzsprout Affiliate Marketplace simplifies the process of connecting with sponsors by offering you exclusive partnerships with high-quality brands all within one platform. We think it's the best way to get your start in the sometimes complicated podcast monetization world.
Every company featured in the Buzzsprout Affiliate Marketplace meets four important criteria that we put in place with independent podcasters in mind:
- High-quality products with broad appeal
- Better commissions than anywhere else
- Earnings paid in cash
- No "level of influence" requirements
You can join the marketplace no matter how many downloads you get per episode; we waived all level of influence requirements to make sure podcasts of all sizes get an equal chance at monetization. The best part is, you'll get paid in cash at a higher rate than anyone else promoting these products.
To get started, all you need is to host your podcast with Buzzsprout. You can start a new podcast or migrate your existing podcast to Buzzsprout by creating a new account.
Already have partnerships with your own affiliates? No problem! You can add unique sponsors under Custom Brands. Once you add the affiliate, we'll automatically insert the affiliate link to your episode notes when mentioned.
Podcorn is a self-service platform designed to connect all podcasters with thousands of unique sponsorship opportunities. The site's open marketplace model does away with the download-based CPM model allowing podcasts of any size to benefit from quality sponsorships.
Once you sign up for a Podcorn account, the site matches you with potential sponsors based on your show's topic and demographic. If you decide you'd like to work with a specific brand, you can send a proposal directly to the company so they can determine if you're a good fit for their ad campaign.
Since Podcorn is not an ad agency, you get to keep 100% of your commission with cash payout directly to your PayPal account!
You can sign up for Podcorn via your Buzzsprout dashboard, or directly through their site. If you don't use Buzzsprout to host your podcast, you'll need to reach out to your hosting service to setup the Podcorn prefix URL (Buzzsprout integrates with Podcorn automatically.)
Types of podcasting sponsorship models
It's critical to understand how podcast advertising works before getting your first sponsor. If you aren't educated on the basics, you might get sucked into a deal that doesn't benefit you. Here are the three main ways sponsors pay podcasters to endorse their products.
Affiliate model (best for most independent podcasters)
Many brands are switching to the affiliate model to onboard new promoters since it's a "win-win" for both the company and the podcast host.
When you sign up to become an affiliate for a brand or company, you are compensated based on the number of new customers or purchases you create for that company. Every time one of your listeners makes a purchase, you earn a portion of that sale.
This strategy works best when you have a highly engaged audience that trusts you with their purchasing decisions.
Affiliate commissions are relatively high compared to the CPM model because the company knows they are only paying the podcast host after they've generated a profit.
Another benefit of being an affiliate is that the podcast host has much more flexibility when deciding how and when to promote the company's product. If you want to feature the product on every episode or only talk about it once a month, that's entirely up to you.
As an affiliate, you don't have to promote the product three times per episode on every episode. Just promote it when it makes sense. And if you want to make more money, do more promotion.
Most companies will start you on a referral program offering "store credit" as commission, so look for affiliate programs that pay you in cash!
When you find the cash payout programs, look to see if they have a "level of influence" requirement for being accepted into the program (Instagram followers, podcast audience size, blog visits, etc.)
Pro tip: Before investing the time it takes to find and pitch to affiliates, we suggest some quick math to make sure the venture is worth your time.
Let's say you get 500 downloads/episode at a commission rate of 15% on a product that costs $50. If 1% of your audience purchases through the link, you'd earn $37.50 an episode (5 x $7.50 = $37.50.)
CPM model (best for podcasts with 10,000+ downloads)
CPM stands for "Cost Per Mille," with mille meaning "thousand" in Latin. With a CPM model, companies pay you to insert pre-roll ads, mid-roll ads, and post-roll ads into your episodes. The more downloads a podcast episode receives, the more money the podcast host makes.
If a podcast episode receives 10,000 downloads and the sponsor pays $20 per thousand downloads, the podcast host would earn $200 for that episode ($20 is the current industry-standard sponsorship rate).
Podcasters can earn more money for each episode by either promoting more than one product or endorsing that product in multiple ad spots. You'll often hear host-read ads at the beginning and end of an episode.
When you negotiate a CPM deal with a sponsor, you'll typically agree to a CPM rate based on the download numbers of previous episodes and adjust the price each time the advertising contract renews.
While this model works well for podcasts that garner more than 50,000 downloads per episode, most sponsors aren't interested in CPM agreements with small to medium-sized podcasts.
You either grow large enough that sponsors begin to approach you or you work with an advertising network like Midroll, who connects your show with eager sponsors and takes a "middle-man" cut for facilitating the agreement.
Value-based sponsorship (best for small to mid-size shows)
The value-based sponsorship model is almost identical to the CPM model but for one crucial difference: rather than being paid based on the number of downloads an ad mention receives, the podcast host negotiates a flat rate with the sponsor.
Instead of being paid $20 per thousand downloads, the podcast host might negotiate a price of $300 per episode.
This model shifts the focus from downloads to a much more important metric: "did we make money from sponsoring your podcast?" This payment method typically works out better for the podcast host, since it emphasizes their audience's trust.
For instance, if 200 people listen to your podcast, but your audience trusts your recommendations, you can potentially net $500 or more for a single product mention compared to $4 if the same host was compensated at $20 CPM.
The value-based model works best with smaller companies that focus on the ROI of a sponsorship rather than vanity metrics.
Podcast advertising best practices
Along with the basics of creating a successful podcast, there are few other tips to keep in mind when looking to partner with affiliates.
Choose sponsors wisely
We encourage podcasters to partner only with companies that can add specific, relevant value to your listeners. Nothing's worse than listening to a self-help podcast only to be interrupted by an ad on hair dye.
The brand and product you recommend to your audience should fit within your show's niche. Choose reputable companies and products that you personally use and love. Authenticity goes a long way toward making sales, and listeners can easily spot dishonest recommendations.
Don't exceed 10% ad time per episode
Whichever sponsorship model you choose, make sure your total minutes spent promoting a product don't exceed 10% of your episode's length. If your podcast is 43 minutes long, your total ad space should not exceed 4 minutes and 30 seconds.
There's the real temptation to increase your episode length or frequency so you have more time to spend advertising, but we suggest quality over quantity.
If you have the content and the demand, releasing more than one episode/week can be an excellent way to boost download numbers and ad space.
Just make sure you have the ability to deliver; over-producing content is a recipe for burnout, podfade, and poor quality content.
Create quality content to increase downloads
It might seem obvious, but it's easy to get caught up in promotion and monetization so much that you lose focus on what really drives downloads: quality content.
Releasing quality episodes with consistent frequency is the best way to increase download numbers and heighten engagement with your audience. Ultimately, the value of your podcast is the gas in the engine of your show; without it, all your monetizing efforts will fall flat.
Improve your podcast's marketing
Marketing is a skill you need to have (or develop) to successfully grow your podcast and ultimately make money off of your show.
To get started promoting your episodes, you can share Buzzsprout audiograms to social media, publish transcripts of each podcast episode, and get listed in all the major directories.
These efforts taken together make your content highly accessible and optimize your chances of getting more downloads.
Podcasting is a casual, intimate, effective medium for promoting products and building brand awareness, and it will likely stay a profitable source of ad revenue for a long time to come.
By connecting with the right affiliates and having a working knowledge of the various sponsorship models, you can work to boost your monetization efforts and turn your podcast into a profitable and scalable business.
If you're unsure whether sponsorships are the right move for you, take a look at alternative ways to monetize your podcast!