How To Get Podcast Sponsors
Many of the world's most popular podcasts make money through sponsorship deals, featuring products at the beginning, middle, and end of each episode (These are commonly known as pre-roll ads, mid-roll ads, and post-roll ads). The company or brand then pays the podcast host in exchange for that endorsement.
But how do you actually get podcast sponsors? What if you have a small audience and you're just getting started?
In this blog, we'll explain how podcast sponsorships work, the key to finding sponsors that are a great fit, and three strategies to monetize your podcast using sponsorships.
Here's how podcast advertising works in a nutshell.
First, a company pays a podcast host to promote their product to their audience. This promotion typically takes the form of a host-read ad, where the host encourages their podcast listeners to purchase the product by emphasizing the features and benefits and offers their personal endorsement.
If the sponsor decides that it's in their best interests to continue sponsoring that podcast, they'll sign on to a long-term sponsorship deal.
There are three primary ways that sponsors pay podcast hosts to endorse their products.
1. CPM Model
CPM stands for "Cost Per Mille," with Mille meaning "thousand" in Latin. With a CPM model, 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.
2. Value-Based Sponsorship
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. So instead of being paid $20 per thousand downloads, the podcast host might negotiate a price of $300 per episode.
This cuts through the relatively insignificant metric of "how many downloads did you get" and shifts the focus 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 the trust that their audience has with them.
For instance, if 200 people listen to your podcast, but a majority of them are doctors making $400k per year and will buy anything you recommend, you can easily net $1,000 or more for a single product mention (and the sponsor will still come out ahead!).
That's compared to just $4 if the same podcast host was compensated at $20 CPM.
This model works best with smaller companies that focus on the ROI of a sponsorship rather than vanity metrics and want an easy payment structure.
3. Affiliate Model
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 out on a referral program, offering "store credit" for each new customer or purchase, so look for affiliate programs that payout in cash. Then when you find the cash payout programs, look to see if they have a "level of influence" requirement for being accepted into the program. Level of influence can be measured in Instagram followers, podcast audience size, blog visits, etc.
Many brands are switching to the affiliate model to onboard new promoters since it's set up as a "win-win" for both the company and the podcast host.
Important note: If you are an affiliate for a brand or company and choose to promote their product in an episode, you cannot say "Thanks to our sponsor" or "This episode is brought to you by so-and-so."
It may sound nit-picky, but it's a critical distinction.
How To Find Sponsors
Here's the simplest way to find podcast sponsors if you plan on executing a CPM or Value-Based sponsorship strategy and aren't going to be utilizing an ad network.
1. 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.
Pro Tip: Reach out to the podcast hosts that are running ads and ask if they can send you the contact info for that brand.
2. Make sure the product is a good fit for your audience
Do not - I repeat, DO NOT - reach out to a sponsor if you know their product is not a good fit for your audience.
Your listeners' trust and attention is the most valuable asset that you possess. Don't throw it away for a quick buck.
Ask yourself, "If I heard this product advertised on my podcast, would I feel compelled to buy it, or would I be confused why it's even here?"
3. Pitch the brand on the value of your podcast
There is only one question you must answer convincingly - "Why should someone give you money to promote their product?"
If you have data from previous promotions, stats on your latest merch drop, or analytics on the demographics of your audience, these can be useful tools when crafting a compelling sales pitch.
Do your best to persuade the sponsor that investing in your podcast is a smart financial decision. Pitch a five-episode trial period so they can test drive you without having to sign-up for a long-term commitment.
You're not asking them to marry your podcast, just casual drinks on a first date.
Once you secure your first sponsorship, integrate host-read ads into your next podcast episode and blow them away with the value you give them in return.
Focus on creating a clear call to action that makes it easy for your listeners to act on your endorsement. Leave links in the episode's show notes and on social media to guide them where they need to go.
You want each sponsor to become a long-term partner, so you aren't chasing new brands every month trying to make ends meet.
The Best Affiliate Marketplace For Podcasters
If you want to get started with affiliate marketing, the Buzzsprout Affiliate Marketplace is the best way to jump in.
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
This means that you can monetize your podcast, even if you're just getting started, and get paid in cash at a higher rate than anyone else promoting those products.
It truly is the best way to start monetizing your podcast!
To get started, all you need is to host your podcast with Buzzsprout. You can start a new podcast or migrate your existing podcast by creating a new account at Buzzsprout.com.
Top 10 Podcast Sponsors
Do you need help identifying potential sponsors? Here is a list of 10 companies that love to sponsor podcasts:
- Audible (Amazon)
- Blue Apron
- Cash App
- Rocket Mortgage