Sponsorship 101 for the Indie Podcaster with Jessica Kupferman

You may know that the big podcast ad agencies want you to have 5,000 downloads an episode before they’ll talk to you (see The Five Best Ways to Make Money with Your Podcast if you need a refresher on the CPM model). But small podcasts can do just fine without them by negotiating their own sponsorship deals. 

On Podcasting Step by Step, I dive deep into sponsorship for the indie podcaster with Jessica Kupferman, CEO of She Podcasts, the largest women's podcasting community, which she co-founded with Elsie Escobar

Listen to the episode with Jess to learn: 

  • the right way to approach o sponsor;

  • how do decide what to charge for an ad;

  • what to include in your media kit and in which order; and

  • so much more.

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How to approach a sponsor

Jess says approaching a sponsor is like going on a date. Don’t come at the potential sponsor full force and give them your life story Jess says that’s “ almost like showing up and saying, “I'm going to be a great wife and we'll have a white picket fence -- You don’t even know if the person wants to get married ever. You don't even know if they have ever been in a relationship.”

“For me, the pitch email is very very short,” Jess says. “‘I have this podcast and I talk to these people. I know they would love your show. Have you ever done podcast advertising? If you haven't, I would love to talk to you a little bit about it. If you have, would you mind if I told you a little bit about my show?” That's it. No paragraphs. No explanation. No numbers.” 

If they’re interested in hearing more, then you can send more information about you and your show. 

What to include in your media kit

Great! A potential sponsor is interested in you. It’s time to send them your media kit. If you don’t have one, you can find a free template on Canva. Jess says your media kit should take your reader on a journey and should include these elements in this order: 

  • cover art;

  •  picture of you;

  • a little bit about you and why you do the show;

  •  a little bit about the show and what topics you cover; 

  • your podcast and social media reach; and

  • your rates.

“So, “Hi,  I'm Jess. I do this show. Here's what we talk about. Here are the people who listen.  Here's how many there are. Here's what they think. A few testimonials. And then after the testimonials, you'd say, “In order to get in front of this fantastic, delicious audience, here's what it's going to cost you. Here's what it includes. If you're interested, give me a call and that's the exact order that I do it.” 

Only include the numbers that are relevant to your sponsor. If you have a lot of Instagram followers, but never plan on doing any sponsored posts there, don’t mention it to the potential sponsor. 

Jessica Kupferman, CEO of She Podcasts, the largest women's podcasting community.

Jessica Kupferman, CEO of She Podcasts, the largest women's podcasting community.

Your job is to make sales, not great content

Most podcasters I know would spend all their days creating if they could and not pay any attention to marketing and sales if someone could figure it out for them. But most of us are also working independently and have to wear many hats. If you want a sponsor for your show, Jess says it’s important to remember that you’re job is to make sales for your sponsor, not beautiful content (of course you want to do that, but that’s not what they’re paying you for). 

“Your mission, your vision...that's really secondary to reach. Any advertiser wants more clients and the more listeners you have the more customers they get. So, if you don't have listeners, per se, you have to at least show your reach.”

Reach means other ways you can engage and influence people. The She Podcasts podcasts gets between 1,000-2,000 downloads per episode. But their reach is much greater because their Facebook Group has more than 12,000 women in it, and their combined social media accounts has thousands more. 

“That’s a healthy reach. Even if the listenership is small, the reach is huge, so we could say, “$250 a show and no one would question in it.” 

So how do you name your price? Jess says it’s a combination of intuition and how much you think you can deliver for the sponsor. At the very least they need to make their money back in sales. 

“You have to feel in your gut, like, “This is a number that I know I can I can perform for this person and they will get a good result and I'll feel good and they'll feel good. And a lot of that is Instinct.”

But don’t take less than $100 a show. 

Set expectations for the sponsor 

Unlike digital advertising, which can be tracked via clicks and whatnot, podcasting advertising is more like traditional radio and TV. You can’t track all the sales that came from you. Someone may have heard about a product on your show a few times and then made a purchase, but didn’t use your affiliate link or promo code. 

Jess says that in addition to sales, you should tell your sponsor to look for spikes in traffic to their website when your podcast comes out. Most people have to hear an ad several times before taking action. And with podcast ads, someone could be listening sometime in the future and take action on the ad they’re paying for today. It’s an ongoing benefit. 

Jess advises sending your sponsor a monthly report that includes your download numbers. 

Your sponsorship contract

The essential elements of a sponsorship contract, according to Jess: 

  • You need an out clause. 

  • They need an out clause. 

  • You need a cancellation fee if they decide to yank your campaign at the last minute, especially if it's a multi-week campaign. 

  • You need payment terms so you know exactly when you’re going to get paid. “I like to get up paid upfront but companies don't always want to do that.” 

  • You need the advertising terms spelled out specifically: “30 seconds within the first five minutes of the show or 60 seconds in the middle of the show (mid-roll can be any time after the first 15 minutes to any time before the last 10 minutes).” It

“You do need to put all of those terms in writing so that the other person understands exactly what they're getting and when they're getting it and what it's going to sound like.” 

You also need to agree on who is responsible for what, including copy, sample products for you to try, logos, and other items you need to hash out.  

Contracts should last at least a month and hopefully longer because “it takes like seven or eight times for people to even remember what the ad is and then act on it,” Jess says. Whenever the contract is set to expire and the sponsor wants to extend, send them an updated contract “or  have somewhere in the contract that it's ongoing until one of you cancels.”