Joshua Bell is one of the best violinists in the world.
But when he was asked to busk in the L’Enfant Plaza Station in Washington, D.C. with his 3.5 million dollar violin, he only collected a measly $32.
Thousands of people rushed past the world-renowned violinist, but only 20 people (roughly) tossed a bit of change into his violin case.
As it turns out, context matters—people pay more attention to something they know is important. And in Joshua’s mini-concert, passersby didn’t know who was serenading them.
As a creator, you and Joshua have more in common than you think.
You’re talented, but getting people to stop and listen to your message and buy your products is a struggle.
But with business sponsorships, you can align yourself with major brands and give your audience the context they need to see you as a true expert. In turn, you can grow your business much faster.
What is business sponsorship?
Business sponsorship is when a major brand supports your business in exchange for promotion. A sponsorship might include adding a brand’s logo to your blog’s sidebar for a year or creating sponsored mid-roll ads in your YouTube videos for the next several months.
Here are a few real-life examples of sponsored content in action:
- A brand sponsors podcast episodes. The Soft Skills Engineering podcast has a list of the brands sponsoring their podcast.
- A brand sponsors advertisements on a blog. Blogger Lisa Steele tells us she charges up to $30,000 for a top banner ad placement on her blog for a year.
- A brand sponsors a newsletter. Each time you send out your weekly blast, include a blurb about your sponsor, just as Growth Currency does.
- A brand sponsors an event (like a concert or a retreat). Bring more value to your event and reach more people by securing brand sponsors. HoneyBook sponsored a portion of Laura Lee’s Move Mountains Retreat.
- A brand sponsors content creation. Create content that features your sponsor, just like this IGTV series from Girl Gang Craft.
Business sponsorship is similar to influencer marketing, but with a few key differences:
Sponsorships last longer
With influencer marketing, you must continually fill your pipeline with new brands to promote. But with sponsorships, you’re working with a handful of select brands ongoing and don’t need to seek out new partnerships as often.
Sponsorships yield larger compensation
Sponsors invest more money and time into working with you—a single sponsorship can earn you tens of thousands of dollars. But aside from funds, sponsors want to see your business thrive. Your growth helps sponsors reach new people, so they may also provide you with extra resources like speaking opportunities or training to grow your business.
Sponsorships work for all types of creators
Sponsorships work for any type of creator—not just influencers. And unlike influencing, where brands tend to focus on follower count, sponsorships look at who’s in your audience rather than how many people are in your audience.
Take Phoebe Sherman, founder of Girl Gang Craft. Phoebe has landed impressive sponsorships with big brands like Adobe. She echoes the importance of an engaged audience:
I think anyone with 1,000 followers can get a [sponsorship] deal. You just have to have the audience the brand wants to target.
– Phoebe Sherman
Joe Casabona, a podcast coach who helps creators secure partnerships, says the same:
I landed my first five-figure deal with about 3,000 downloads per episode in the first 30 days, but I truly believe it's less about audience size and more about alignment.
– Joe Casabona
Benefits of business sponsorship for creators
Build authority and credibility
Your authority and credibility will skyrocket when people see their favorite brands endorsing your business. Sponsorship puts you on the fast track to becoming an authoritative voice in your niche.
Fund your business
Sponsorships secure funds for your business and give you a reliable source of income.
Podcast coach Joe Casabona says he likes sponsorships because those funds allow creators to work on other areas of their biz that they may not have had time for without the funding:
Landing one to two big deals could mean several months of income. This allows you to focus on your business and develop products or services that may not have an immediate financial benefit.
– Joe Casabona
Reach a wider audience
Sponsorships help you reach more people faster than you could by yourself. Phoebe tells us Adobe invited her to speak at their annual conference in 2021 (which reached over 100,000 people) and asked her to teach internal classes and community classes. (She even gets extra perks, like testing Adobe’s apps before they ship!)
Increase brand awareness
When you have a small audience, growing awareness is an uphill battle. But with sponsorship, you can piggyback off popular brands. As your audience sees your name alongside big brands they love, your brand awareness will grow—fast.
How to land high-value sponsors for your biz
You can land your first business sponsorship with a bit of elbow grease. Here’s how.
1. Create a proposal
Your first order of business is to create a sleek proposal. We recommend creating a landing page for your proposal so you can review its analytics (and see how many people visit your proposal after sending it out).
Using ConvertKit’s landing page templates, you can create an on-brand landing page with no code. Here are five elements to include in your proposal:
#1. Describe your business
The first section of your proposal should describe your business—but keep it brief. A couple of paragraphs is enough. Remember: your proposal is less about you and more about how you can help potential sponsors.
#2. Detail your audience and reach
Here’s the meat and potatoes of your proposal. Potential sponsors want to make sure you can help them reach a specific audience.
For this section, list basic demographic information for your audience like their age, gender, income level, education level, and geographic location.
Make sure to also include the likes and dislikes of your audience—also known as psychographic information. Learn about your audience by:
- Seeing which brands they follow on social media
- Reviewing the different segments of your email list
- Reviewing your most-liked content to reveal which topics interest your audience the most
- Using Google Analytics to dive into the interests of your web traffic
After detailing as much relevant information as possible about your audience, it’s time to prove your level of influence. Chris Grayson is the founder of InfluencerMade, a platform that helps influencers secure work. He says that:
Brands want to see that you have the ability to drive results, whether it's through sales or engagement. Be sure to share any relevant data points that will show just how powerful your influence is.
– Chris Grayson
List numbers like website traffic, email marketing metrics (subscriber count, open rate, or CTR), podcast downloads and reviews, or the number of social media followers you have.
Don’t forget to showcase numbers that prove you can drive results. Numbers like conversion rates for the products you sell and ROI for past brand work you’ve done.
When complete, this section will tell a powerful story to convince prospective sponsors that you can help them achieve their goals.
#3. Outline your deliverables
Next, list different deliverables brands can expect from you throughout a sponsorship (like blog posts, events, or newsletters). Keep this simple and scannable—a bullet list works great.
#4. List your rates (optional)
You may not want to include your rates within your proposal, but it’s worth deciding your sponsorship rates so you have a rough idea of the compensation you will/won’t accept.
And keep in mind that in-kind partnerships—where you receive goods or services instead of money—are also an option.
Blogger Dennis Kamprad writes about sustainability. Dennis’ sponsor provides free services to help his company achieve net-zero emissions. The reason why Dennis decided in-kind over cash payment? He says:
We decided to do in-kind sponsorships to make a bigger impact together. It's about my business walking the talk of becoming net zero and our partner supporting us with their services. These are great companies that we'd have loved to work with anyway, so an in-kind sponsorship is a great way to start partnerships that most likely last longer than the initial one-year period.
– Dennis Kamprad
For your business, you might look to in-kind sponsorships for things like supplies or software.
#5. Include contact information and a CTA
Lastly, outline the steps a brand should take if they want to work with you. Should they book a meeting? Give you a phone call? Add a CTA with explicit instructions.
2. Pitch brands with your proposal
With your proposal in your back pocket, it’s time to pitch brands your sponsorship ideas by:
- Pitching brands you’ve worked with in the past
- Cold pitching your dream brands
Brands you’ve worked with in the past
Alexandra Cook is a food blogger who had a sponsorship with an Australian produce brand. But before they sponsored her work, she worked with them for a one-off campaign. Alexandra enjoys working with brands on smaller-scale campaigns before diving into a long-term sponsorship:
There is a high value in working with a brand before committing to a long-term deal. Like any relationship, you want to make sure it’s the right fit. If all goes well with the initial brand work, then both parties know that working together in the future will be a smooth process.
– Alexandra Cook
As a bonus, pitching brands that already know and trust you is often easier.
Cold pitch your dream brands
Cold pitching can be an effective way to connect with potential sponsors. Send your pitch and proposal to brand managers or marketing managers—these roles usually organize corporate sponsorships. Tools like VoilaNorbert help you figure out email addresses so you can email the right person.
Better yet, find out who to pitch and interact with them on social media before emailing them. When they know who you are, they may be more likely to reply to your pitch!
Here’s an example of a cold-pitch template you can customize:
Hi [name of contact here],
I’m excited to pop into your inbox to discuss a potential business sponsorship. I love [why you love the brand].
I believe a sponsorship between [brand name] and [your business name] would be highly beneficial because [list a few compelling reasons why].
I’ve attached a proposal that outlines additional information and stats about my business, along with a few collaboration ideas. I’m also happy to answer any questions you may have.
Thank you so much for your time and consideration!
[your signature sign-off],
[your website link]
Creator Phoebe reminds us that following up after sending your initial pitch is essential:
[Cold pitching] is a numbers game. Keep reaching out to brands, and remember the follow-ups. I do two follow-ups after the initial email. And then even re-email that brand four to six months later to try again. You won’t annoy them. Take up space!
– Phoebe Sherman
3. Create a product with ConvertKit
After securing a sponsorship, you need a professional method for collecting payment.
The easiest way to ensure brands pay you each month is by setting up a recurring payment plan with ConvertKit.
Within your ConvertKit Commerce account head to Earn > Products.
Click Create a product (if you haven’t created a product yet) or New product (if you’ve already created a product).
Next, give your product a name and choose the type of payment. For sponsorship, it will likely be a subscription where a brand pays you each month.
Then set the price, frequency, and currency.
Set your fulfillment to Something Else.
Lastly, set the domain for the product and click Create Product.
After creating your product, ConvertKit will prompt you through the steps to design your product’s page, where you can customize the colors, imagery, and typography. After you’re done, click Publish and save the link to send it to your sponsor.
Other helpful tips for securing high-value business sponsorships
Polish your brand
Brands want to make sure the content you create for them will be high-quality, and the fastest way for you to prove your worth is by having amazing content. Before sending your proposal, audit your brand and online presence to ensure it’s cohesive and professional.
Focus on building an engaged audience
Social media followings are valuable, but nothing beats having direct contact with a group of highly-engaged brand fans—a.k.a. your email list.
Use ConvertKit to automate your email marketing strategy, so you can focus on pitching sponsors while your email list builds in the background.
Ask brands for their goals
During initial conversations, ask sponsors what their goals are for the sponsorship. Knowing what they want will help you build out deliverables to reach their goals. And as sponsorship coach Justin Moore points out, when you know the goal of the sponsorship, you can adjust your pricing:
Always ask the brand what the campaign's goal is, so you don’t leave potential money on the table. Your offer should change based on what the brand’s goal is.
– Justin Moore
Once you know the brand's goals, you can also nail down metrics that’ll best measure the impact and success of your sponsorship.
Work continually at building relationships
While a big brand might not give you the green light for sponsorships right away, keep working to make that relationship grow. Follow them on social media and interact with their content to show that you are passionate about forming a partnership together.
Attract and land major brand sponsors with ConvertKit
Business sponsorships are a great way for creators to build their brands and get paid to do what they love.
ConvertKit aligns the many moving parts of securing sponsorships, like building an engaged email list, building your proposal page, and collecting payment. Give ConvertKit Commerce a try for your first business sponsorship!