A blog sponsor is an entity – a person or company – willing to pay you for an advertising slot on your site. Depending on the scale of the sponsorship, they might have a permanent sponsorship logo embedded in your footer, or they might be one of several rotating ads. They might also just be a temporary partnership while you run a contest, prizes courtesy of your sponsor.
A sponsorship is a little different from traditional web advertising. Essentially, you cut out the middleman. Google, Facebook, or whoever; you don’t owe them a penny for your sponsorship, because it’s a direct deal between you and the sponsor.
There’s only one downside to cutting out the middleman, and that’s losing the regulations and competition that comes with a marketplace run by a megacorporation. Your sponsorship might be great, or it might be less than you’d get through traditional ads even with the middleman cut. It’s up to you to make sure you get a good deal.
So how can you attract a sponsor or two?
The first step is to make your blog look more attractive to advertisers and sponsors. Even if sponsorship doesn’t work out, the changes you’ll make here are going to help you in the long run, particularly with advertising.
As a relatively low-tier blog out searching for advertising, you’re not going to find industry giants willing to pay you for ad space. You’re not going to immediately earn the big bucks. It won’t hurt you to reach out to those larger companies to see how their communications process works, but don’t expect or rely on their sponsorship. Start small and work your way up.
While it seems like it defeats the purpose of a sponsorship to offer free advertising, consider it something of a pilot program. When you offer a free week or free month of advertising on your site, they can get some ads with no risk. You show the sponsor what your blog can do for them, and they can decide if they think it’s worth keeping up with the advertising after the trial period.
Another benefit of the free trial is that it gets people advertising on your site. There’s a certain mentality amongst humans that few people are willing to take the lead. There’s risk associated with being the first, sticking your neck out. When other potential sponsors see that company X is already advertising, it shifts their perspective. They go from “well, I dunno if I want to gamble on this site…” to “crap, X is already doing this, I better get in on it before I lose out.”
Of course, it’s also good practice. By running those ads for free, you learn about the process of putting together a deal, implementing advertising, monitoring ad performance manually, and dealing with other companies professionally.
One of the best ways to grow in the industry – any industry, really – is to be an over-achiever. If you estimate that your ads will give a 6% conversion rate, and you sell that rate to advertisers, how great will they feel when they end up getting an 8% conversion rate from them? The more you can deliver, in terms of traffic and conversions, the better off you are. You help hook them on sponsoring your site, and they’re more willing to roll with price increases over time.
All of this is talking about sponsorships that work like advertising without the middleman. It’s all about people running ads on your site and paying you directly for the opportunity. What about other kinds of sponsorships, like events and giveaways?
You have two options here; you can tie giveaways in with normal sponsorship packages, or you can keep them entirely separate. When you add them in, it’s a package deal to run ads plus the giveaway. If you keep them separate, you can potentially make deals to bundle them for a more profitable price.
One good scenario is partnering up with a semi-related business. You see this a lot in the tech sector. A site writing reviews about video games and computer hardware might partner up with a game developer to give away keys for a game. The sponsor gets the word out for their game, and the blog gets a boost in readership because they’re giving away free stuff.
This is the kind of event you want to set up whenever possible. It’s tricky to find companies in the right position to offer a giveaway sponsorship, but when you find them, they can work out excellently.
This is easier if you have a physical event where a physical business can sponsor you. Sites like this one act as marketplaces for sports venues, for example, to link sponsors with events. Finding a similar business in your niche, or even just studying their process, can help you rope in sponsors.
James is a content marketing professional who enjoys writing useful content for bloggers. He’s a contributing writer at Forbes, Entrepreneur, Inc, and Business Insider.