Whether or not you started your podcast as a hobby or as a commercial venture, it feels pretty good to start getting paid for your efforts.
You could start off by making a little lunch money here and there, maybe enough to buy a new microphone if you’re a smaller podcast. Or if you’ve been growing an audience and hit critical mass, then finding the right sponsor could allow you to quit your job and work on your side-hustle podcast full time.
You don’t need a top 100 podcast in the world to land great sponsor deals. You need to know what to look for, what to ask for, and how to be found.
If you’re using your podcast as a marketing vehicle for your business and a way to become a thought-leader in your field (like many of our clients are), consider this:
You’ll be monetizing your podcast by generating leads for your business so you might not want external sponsors - you’ll be your own sponsor!
There may be a point where, no matter what your initial plans were, your podcast is growing at an amazing rate and the pros of taking on brand partnerships simply outweigh any possible cons, no matter how you slice it.
In 2015, 15% of advertisers polled by Advertiser Perceptions said they currently advertise on podcasts. By 2019, that number had increased to 39%. There are more advertisers getting involved, but there are also many more podcasts competing for those advertising dollars. You need to be strategic about getting your piece of the pie.
According to a study of “Super Listeners” (people who listen to 5 or more hours of podcasts each week) conducted by Edison Research, the most passionate listeners actually enjoy hearing from podcast sponsors.
Listeners trust their favorite shows to choose quality sponsors. Seventy percent of these listeners have considered using a product or service after hearing about it on a podcast. Sixty percent of these listeners say they appreciate podcast sponsors for supporting their favorite shows, and forty-four percent have a more favorable view of brands that advertise on podcasts.
We’re going to explore the different kinds of deals you’ll come across, the types of advertisers you’ll encounter, how podcasts with smaller audiences can still land brand deals, and where all of these great sponsors can be found.
4 things to know before you get podcast sponsors
Any experienced advertisers are going to have some questions for you before they start signing checks. It’s important to have these answers ready because this is what sponsors want to know:
1. What’s your pitch?
Simply put: why should a brand advertise with you?
A media kit can help answer all of the common questions they may have, and also help you to promote the idea of podcast advertising in general. Some companies will be familiar with podcast ads, others won’t. As you start to learn what the points of friction are, you can adjust your media kit accordingly.
A podcast trailer is a great way to introduce your podcast to advertisers and listeners alike, and you could even make a second unlisted version that’s specifically for advertisers to give your pitch a personal touch.
2. What are the demographics of your audience?
Who listens to your podcast? Is your audience filled with stay at home dads in their late thirties or college-educated people in Chicago that love basketball? Is it single women who earn over $80,000 per year, or teenagers who live at home? Knowing this is very helpful in determining how to get sponsors for your podcast.
You can, of course, have a pretty rough idea who your audience is based on the content you’re creating. But podcast analytics will give you the data that you can take to the bank. Your podcast hosting platform will offer basic information, but we recommend looking at your Spotify analytics dashboard for slightly more detailed demographics, or running a listener survey (perhaps with a giveaway as an incentive) to get a better understanding of who your listeners really are.
3. What’s your advertising rate?
Even if the prospect of earning anything at all from your podcast is exciting, you don’t want to undervalue your show. Remember, podcast advertising offers an incredible opportunity for businesses, and you’ve done all the heavy-lifting of putting together an audience. What you’re providing is very valuable. If you want to get sponsors for podcast episodes, they’ll need to know how much they’re going to have to pay.
Rates are typically calculated as a CPM (more on that in a second). That rate is usually determined either by the size of your audience, or who they are - which makes step 2 all the more important.
If you can prove that you have an audience of 500 CEOs, that’s a valuable proposition that you can successfully monetize. But just 500 nondescript listeners won’t cut it.
4. What is your inventory?
Podcast ads are often broken up into pre-roll, mid-roll, and post-roll ads. It’s a familiar format. The mid-roll is the most valuable, since people are already engaged in the podcast by that point, and the post-roll is often less valuable since fewer people are going to listen through to the very end, and the ones that do can just turn off the episode once the end-roll ads start. Pre-roll ads are often the shortest, in order to keep listeners on board. Native advertising is where you work more closely with an advertiser in order to integrate their brand with your brand of content. This generally means host-read ads, but could also be a business podcast that interviews the founder of one of their sponsors as an episode.
Types of sponsorship deals
Many sponsors will pay based on how many downloads your podcast gets, usually in increments of 1000. The amount of money that an advertiser will pay you per 1000 downloads is known as the CPM (cost per mille.)
For very low-quality advertising opportunities, like spammy pop-ups on seedy websites, the CPM can be under a dollar. Thankfully, podcasts are recognized as very valuable advertising opportunities, and it’s not all that rare to see CPMs reaching as high as $40 or even $50. Somewhere in the $20-$25 range is fairly average per Midroll and AdvertiseCast.
Other companies will pay based entirely on how many sales your podcast can generate for them. Instead of CPM, this is called “cost per action” or CPA. This is more like a traditional affiliate arrangement where your listeners will either follow a link or enter a referral code when placing their order with the company. Brands really have nothing to lose here, since this is a very advertiser-friendly arrangement.
As the podcast owner, you’re promoting them to your audience and you’re only getting paid for sales that convert. But is it really your fault if a CPA advertiser didn’t target their advertising correctly, or if their order process is clunky, or if their shopping cart crashes and they can’t accept orders? These are all things that are out of your control and that can hurt sales and conversions, which means you don’t get paid. The advertiser is gaining brand awareness regardless.
Often times, these arrangements are much easier to come by for podcast owners, and for good reason… they’re usually not as good as CPM deals.
Who advertises on podcasts?
If you listen to any medium to large podcasts, you’ve inevitably heard of Squarespace, Me Undies, ZipRecruiter and a number of other companies who have grown massively thanks to strategic advertising deals with podcasts.
Many clever marketers have built massive brands due to advertising on podcasts, but the idea is still foreign to many businesses of all sizes. As such, it can feel like there’s an awkward middle ground between landing the big brand deals or trying to convince smaller brands that podcast ads can be worthwhile.
In reality, it’s not a very hard sell, and there are plenty of places to find great small to midsize brands without having to go the affiliate route and de-valuing your audience for lower-tier offers with no guaranteed earnings. There are many case-studies of successful podcast advertising campaigns that you can lean on to help you with your pitch.
But how do you find companies to pitch in the first place?
And what if you don’t want to be responsible for selling them on the idea of podcast sponsorship when you could instead simply find companies that are already eager to support growing podcasts?
In both cases, you’ve got options. Let’s start by going over a few ways to find sponsors on your own.
Finding businesses that advertise in similar places
If there are “rival” podcasts in your industry, or podcasts that are thematically adjacent to yours, do they have brand partners? If so, who sponsors them? That’s a good starting point. You can reach out to anyone that buys ads on similar podcasts to yours since they’ll already be familiar and know what to expect.
Beyond that, you can make a list of keywords that are relevant to your field and type them into Google. You’ll be able to see which companies are advertising using those keywords as a target, and those brands will be worth reaching out to as well. They may not be podcast advertisers yet, but you know they’ve got a budget and are willing to advertise online, so that’s a good start.
Looking at the sponsor pages of conferences in your niche is another great way to find brands spending money to promote to an audience like yours. Which leads us nicely into the next approach.
Networking (online and in-person)
The first way to use networking is to attend industry events. At these events, you’ll have a chance to network with the very people who are advertising in your industry. They are at the event to gain exposure for their brand, and you have exposure to offer them. It’s a match made in heaven.
If travelling to trade shows and conferences isn’t practical for you right now, you can still network online. Facebook and Linkedin groups are good places to start, along with any relevant forums or other online communities.
Podcast advertising marketplaces
There are markets where podcasters can list themselves to compete for advertising dollars. All you have to do is submit your podcast and provide some information about your listenership and your podcast in general (good thing you got all of that ready before getting started!). Here are a few to check out:
After fleshing out your podcast’s profile, you’ll be listed in the marketplace among hundreds or thousands of other podcasts of all different sizes. This is when having a clear pitch is very important and your ability to stand out with a unique value proposition will help you attract advertising buyers.
If you’re trying to find brands to advertise with you on your own, it could be worthwhile to point them towards your marketplace listings, but only sometimes… Let’s dig a bit deeper into that, shall we?
Marketplaces vs. going direct
There pros and cons to consider when choosing between finding your own advertisers directly or getting linked up with them through a marketplace like the ones we’ve mentioned above.
The first thing to keep in mind is that these marketplaces can get you a lot of exposure to advertisers.
These marketplaces earn a commission on any ad sales they help generate. In the case of AdvertiseCast, it’s a 30% commission. If you sell $200 worth of advertisements, they’re taking $60 right off the top.
If you’re finding your own sponsors, being able to direct them to a marketplace can help contextualize the value you’re providing and help them feel more comfortable with the proposal, especially if podcast ads are a new avenue for them. But 30% is a high commission to pay for a sale that you generate yourself.
Being in a thriving marketplace with quality advertisers is arguably well-worth handing over a third of your income. It allows you to focus on creating your content, promoting it, networking, and all of the other countless moving parts that it takes to run a successful podcast.
But if you want to remove the selling aspect of finding sponsors entirely, leave it to dedicated agencies:
Podcast advertising networks
Podcast ad networks like Midroll, Art19, Acast and others have scaled the ad buying and selling process by using programmatic ads to automate it. With programmatic ads, you could lose some editorial control due to the automation aspect. If you want to cherry-pick all of your sponsors and set your own terms, a network might not be the best fit.
These networks offer a valuable service but they’re not doing it out of the kindness of their hearts. They earn a notable commission for connecting sponsors with podcasters, but they’re also able to open up the doors to advertisers you may not have been able to approach on your own.
Hopefully, you now have a clearer understanding of how you can find sponsors for podcast episodes.
Landing that first deal is a huge confidence boost. We’ve had countless clients ask us “How do I get sponsors for my podcast?” It’s not just a matter of knowing how to get podcast sponsorships, but most importantly how to get good ones that your audience will appreciate, and how to get the best terms.
So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to get out there and start finding companies to advertise on your podcast and get that return on your creative investment!