Long before Patreon and other such platforms existed, podcast sponsorship was the way most creators monetised their content. It’s still a popular method to this day, and often how the bigger shows earn a crust.
Podcast sponsorship is an option for shows with numerically smaller audiences, too, providing their topic and niche is a good fit. In this guide, we’ll take a look at the various ways podcast sponsorship can work. We’ll also cover how to reach out to potential sponsors – should you decide that it sounds like the right path for you and your show.
And, if you run a business and have been approached about potentially doing podcast sponsorship, check out How to Sponsor a Podcast. That’s our guide for all the info you’ll need on that front!
Why Podcast Sponsorship?
Just like people have different motivations for podcasting, they also have different motivations for monetising their content.
For one podcaster, the thought of covering their web and hosting costs is enough. Maybe even to have enough left over to treat their other half to a nice meal every couple of months.
For another, it could be an essential income stream in their business, where they’re actually paying a team of freelancers and assistants to work on their show.
Ultimately, podcast sponsorship is simply a form of the age-old marketing tactic where someone has assembled a crowd, and someone else would like to advertise a product or service to that crowd.
The Strength of Podcasting
Most podcasts that “succeed” focus on a certain topic or niche. That means the audiences they build around them generally share a common interest. This could be anything, from losing weight to breeding gerbils to collecting stamps or brewing coffee.
Straight away, this gives podcasting the strength of targeting. Advertising on a podcast isn’t like putting up a billboard at the side of a road, where 90% of the folks who see it aren’t a company’s target audience.
Granted, targeting isn’t exclusive to podcasts. Things like trade magazines and blogs can be very niche and targeted, for example. But the other big strength of podcast sponsorship is in the delivery method.
Long-form audio content means listeners can spend lots of time listening to a presenter in a very intimate and regular way.
This builds a layer of trust and authority. It’s much harder to do this in the written word, where blog posts are Googled and skimmed for the one piece of info the reader wants.
How Podcast Sponsorship Works
At the most basic level, the advertiser pays to have their product or service promoted on one or more podcast episodes.
Commonly, podcasts deliver ads in one of two ways.
‘Host Read’ Ads
The most effective way is for the host to talk about the product or service. They’ll tend to mention why they recommend it, some examples about how they themselves use it, how they benefit from it, and why the listener would too.
Done well (and legitimately!), a host read ad can just be another part of the episode content, instead of sounding like an interruption.
‘Radio Style’ Ads
An alternative is for a third party to create adverts. This way, the podcaster simply has to play them on their episodes. This is a lot less effective because the audience listens to hear the thoughts and opinions of the presenter. Having a random Voice-Over interrupting the content to quickly give you a sales pitch can be jarring, and even annoying. Listeners can fast-forward or tune out as soon as they hear the change in cadence or background sound.
Placing of Ads
An advert might appear at the very beginning of an episode, the very end, or somewhere in between. These slots are known as:
- Pre-Roll – Before the content starts
- Mid-Roll – during the main content of the episode
- Post-Roll – After the content has finished
Mid-roll is the most desired spot (and thus, the most expensive). Listeners are less likely to skip this content. Post-roll is the least optimal position for an ad, but it’s also the cheapest.
How Do I Create a Good Podcast Advert or Sponsorship Slot?
Doing the ads yourself will make them more effective. Your audience turns up to hear you, after all.
There are a couple of options open to you here. You can do the ad during your recording, or you can record and mix one separately and stitch it into the finished episode. Let’s talk a bit about both approaches.
Sponsorship Slots as Part of Your Content
Here, you’ll talk about a product or service during the recording of your episode.
- Minimal interruption to your content. When done well, these are really just another aspect of your content offering and can blend in seamlessly.
- Minimal editing and production – you don’t need to add any segments in the editing phase.
- Can be difficult to transition to during a podcast interview.
- Can be more difficult for the inexperienced presenter to “get right” first time.
Pre-Producing Your Podcast Ad
The alternative is that you script up your ad, record it as its own segment, and edit it into the episode. Or, use a dynamic ad insertion tool to place it there.
- You don’t need to think or worry about doing your ad reads during the recording session. This lets you focus completely on your episode topic.
- You can take a bit more time to craft your ad and feel like the finished product sounds just right.
- Pre-recorded ads are easier to run a ‘Mid-Roll’ ad during a podcast interview.
- This type of ad – although delivered by you – can still be seen as an interruption by some of your listeners.
- If you’re playing the same one on every episode, it can train your listeners to hit the skip button.
- It can begin to grate on those bingeing through your back catalogue.
Podcast Sponsorship Best Practices
If you plan on doing some podcast sponsorship in your content, there are a few things to be aware of, either to optimise your efforts, or, to keep you out of trouble.
If you’re taking money to advertise anything, then you need to make that clear to your listeners. A quick “thanks to Jim’s Underpants Emporium for sponsoring this content” will do the trick. Adverts need to be clearly marked as such, and not sound like you just so happen to be waxing lyrical about Jim’s Y-fronts as part of your episode.
Create Special Links
A tool like Pretty Links is a great way to send your listeners to your sponsors. Here, you can make memorable links that are easy to read and remember. You can also track the clicks to measure the effectiveness of your ads, too.
Some sponsors will even create discount coupon codes which help track effectiveness, too.
Create a Space
Another good practice is to send your listeners to a bespoke page, whether that’s on your own site, or, your sponsor’s. This page would contain all the info about your Call to Action, as well as any discounts or special offers. Having a page like this makes it easier to track engagement, and encourage more conversions and sales, too.
Sponsoring Fiction Podcasts
There are great opportunities to be found in sponsoring fiction podcasts or audio dramas too. These shows tend to have really hardcore, fanatical followings.
Again though, just dropping a pre-recorded advert into an episode is never going to take advantage of that.
Some of the best adverts I’ve heard in podcasts have been on fictional shows because the makers can get really creative with them. They can build them right into the story world.
In Wooden Overcoats (a sitcom following the antics of two rival funeral directors) you’ll hear some outstanding examples of their Bruno Mattress commercials. Check out the opening few minutes in Season 2, episodes 2, 3, and 4.
With fiction podcasts, it’s obviously a little harder to nail down listener interests and demographics. But producers tend to know their audiences well, and a quick chat with them will help establish whether or not you’re a good fit for each other.
How Much Does Podcast Sponsorship Cost?
There’s certainly no one-size-fits-all answer here, and lots of variables to consider.
There’s what’s known as the “CPM model” (or cost per thousand listeners). This is a method of measuring advertising based on audience numbers.
Typically, podcasters stand to earn around $20 per ad, per 1000 downloads, within 30 days of an episode’s release.
CPM can work well for podcasts that have download numbers in the thousands. But many podcasts have much smaller audiences than that.
A smaller audience doesn’t make it any less valuable though. In fact, the opposite can be true, the more hyper-targeted it is.
Imagine you ran a podcast about building rockets capable of flying humans to Mars, and you only had one listener – but that listener was Elon Musk. How much could you charge for an ad slot on that show? Basically, you could name your price.
A very niche show with around 200 listeners might charge $150 per episode, whilst a podcast with 5000 listeners based around a much more general topic might struggle to get a better deal than $20 CPM.
The good news is that if you own your podcast – as most do – then it’s entirely up to you what you charge. That doesn’t necessarily mean someone will be willing to pay it. However, it does mean that there’s no need to run ads if you’re unhappy with the amount they offer.
Another model of podcast sponsorship is the affiliate commission route. Here, you run ads in the same manner as above. Instead of being paid per episode or 1000 downloads, payment is based on how many people actually buy the product or service.
This is a route many early-stage podcasters go down because it can be difficult to negotiate a good deal when you have a brand-new show and a fledgling audience.
The downside is that there’s no guarantee of any commission at all. On the flip side, there’s no cap on what you could potentially earn if your ads resonate with your audience.
You usually don’t need permission to sign up for affiliate schemes either, so you can run ads on your podcast from episode one if you want to. Check out our post on affiliates for podcasters where you can choose “sponsors”, based on your content, your audience, and which ones are a good fit for both.
Some media hosts and agencies can set you up to run ‘dynamic’ ads on your podcast. This means you can earn from running ever-updating radio-style ads on all your episodes.
An argument for this could be that any ‘baked in’ ads you ran 100 episodes ago, or five years ago, are still being played in your back catalogue, but you’re no longer earning from them.
Whilst this is true, the rates in dynamic advertising are pretty low. I’ve seen examples of podcasters earning a whopping two cents (literally, two cents) for an entire month of running dynamic ads.
On top of that, the ads risk being irrelevant to your audience, breaking up your content in a jarring manner, and generally annoying your listeners.
As a side note, the fact that non-dynamic, ‘baked-in’ ads continue to play in your back catalogue “forever” can be sold as a benefit to potential sponsors. For more on that, check out Should I Sponsor a Podcast?
Downsides of Podcast Sponsorship
Things change the minute there’s money involved. And your podcast is no exception.
If you’re taking payment from anyone, you have an obligation to them. They’re paying you for a service, and you need to deliver and try to keep them happy.
Up until now, if your podcast has been a hobby, you might’ve been able to miss the odd week if you were too busy, or just didn’t feel like hitting record.
That changes when someone has paid to advertise on your show, though, especially if those ads are time-sensitive.
Additionally, you have a duty to your audience. You’ve slowly built up a level of trust with them. What if they begin to question whether your latest episode was only released because you were getting paid to run an ad?
Take this all into consideration before deciding for sure that you want to go down the podcast sponsorship route. Remember, too, that if you’re looking to earn from your content but don’t like the idea of running ads, then other podcast monetisation avenues are available.
How Do I Find a Sponsor?
Some media ad agencies and podcast hosting platforms can work with you to help set up a sponsorship agreement for your show. This is the “middleman” approach, which can be easier to get off the ground, but less fruitful in the long run.
Typically, these services will look for a certain level of downloads, too. Commonly, this is 5000 US-based downloads per new episode, within the first month of its release.
Most podcasts have significantly lower numbers than this, though. We’ve talked about how having a smaller audience doesn’t necessarily make it any less valuable. But if your audience is in the low hundreds, you’ll likely be better off seeking out your ideal sponsor and attempting to negotiate a deal with them directly.
For identifying potential sponsors, think of products or services you use that would also improve the lives of your listeners. This is totally topic-dependent, but a few examples might be
- A running podcast where the presenter uses a particular piece of tech to measure her performance.
- A gardening podcast where the presenter uses a particular type of feed on his lawn.
- A show about miniature wargaming where the presenter uses a particular company to buy paints and models.
Each of these podcasters could reach out to the companies behind the products they use and make a pitch.
Our How to Sponsor a Podcast article was designed as a guide for business owners who’ve been approached about potentially advertising on podcasts. You can use this resource either as a template for your own pitch or you can just link them to it directly. It’ll answer all the questions they’re going to ask about how sponsoring your podcast will not only work – but how it’ll benefit them.
Creating a Media Kit
If you decide to actively seek out a sponsor, then it’s good practice to create a media kit for your podcast.
A media kit is the essential information about sponsoring your show, packaged up in an easy-to-read manner. You might create it as a designed and illustrated PDF, either available on request, or via direct download from your site.
In a media kit, you’ll want to include things like:
- Information about your audience. Their needs, wants, and pain points
- The role your podcast plays in your niche or topic
- Download and/or engagement statistics
- Episode pricing & slot availability
- Links to samples of your audio – make it easy for them to hear you
- Some examples of listener reviews you’ve had
Also, be sure that you make it easy for potential sponsors to contact you. This isn’t just relevant to folks seeking a podcast sponsor, but podcasters in general. Create a ‘Contact’ page on your website, and in there, list and link to every way someone can interact with you.
Podcast Sponsorship: Next Steps
- Planning to approach a business about sponsoring your podcast? Use our How to Sponsor a Podcast guide to create your pitch.
- Create a Media Kit for your show. Also, consider creating an audio trailer to present your work succinctly.
- Not fully bought into the sponsorship route but want to explore monetisation? There are other options available.
Finally, if you’d like more tailored help with podcast sponsorship or any other aspect of podcasting, join us in the Podcraft Academy. Here, you’ll find all of our video courses, downloadable checklists and templates, and we run weekly live Q&A sessions, too!