When you think about sponsorships, the first examples that may come to mind are major corporate partnerships, such as apparel company Uniqlo’s partnership with Roger Federer or Bank of America’s sponsorship of the Boston Marathon.
Most sponsorships, however, are significantly smaller in scale. Sponsorship deals are accessible to small businesses, local event coordinators, and even individuals. In fact, in the digital age, many individual creators earn sponsorship dollars for promoting a brand to their audiences.
To secure a paid brand deal, creators need to understand the sponsorship landscape, build an engaged audience and a strong personal brand, and craft a compelling sponsorship pitch. Here’s everything you need to know.
What is a sponsorship?
A sponsorship is a contractual agreement in which one party (the sponsoring company) compensates another (the sponsored party or sponsee) in exchange for certain promotional activities, such as including the sponsor's logo on promotional materials, hosting a backlink to the sponsor's site, generating content that is aligned with the sponsor’s brand messages or values, or granting the sponsor speaking time or another high-visibility opportunity.
Types of sponsorships
Sponsorship arrangements normally take one of two forms: financial or in-kind.
Financial sponsorships involve an exchange of sponsorship dollars for promotional activities. For example, a brand might engage in a paid partnership with a social media content creator in exchange for social media posts featuring the sponsor’s products.
In-kind sponsorships involve a contribution of goods or services. Event sponsorships often include in-kind contributions. For example, an in-kind sponsor might provide food, beverages, or prizes for an event in exchange for recognition. Brands might sponsor an influencer by providing goods or experiences, like a hotel stay.
How to get sponsored in 7 steps
Individual creators can generate revenue through paid brand collaborations. Here are seven ways to position yourself for sponsorship success, approach potential sponsors, and start earning sponsorship dollars.
- Identify your goals
- Define your personal brand
- Define your audience
- Elevate your brand profile
- Research potential sponsors
- Create a sponsorship proposal
- Contact potential sponsors
1. Identify your goals
Define your goals for sponsorship, such as gaining support for a particular event, adding a revenue stream, or elevating your profile as a creator. If your goal is to earn money, you might pursue influencer marketing strategies, such as securing a brand deal for sponsored content. A social media creator might pursue Instagram sponsorships that pay a certain amount for sponsored posts, and an influential blogger might look for opportunities to feature branded content on their personal blog. If your goal is to host a fundraising event for a cause—like a charity race—you might set goals for both financial and in-kind sponsorships to bring your vision to life.
2. Define your personal brand
Your brand identity is how you present yourself to your audiences. It includes the design of audience-facing materials, your voice and tone, and what you value. Individuals and organizations can have brands. Companies create formal brand guidelines (including visual and written style guides, brand values statements, and mission statements) to define their brands to ensure consistency across materials. Individual creators can use these tools for the same purposes—and your values and mission statements can also help you identify and approach sponsors who are more likely to be interested in partnering with you.
Whether you’re seeking sponsors for an event or creative project, having a strong brand is critical to helping you build an audience and communicating to potential sponsors the unique value of a partnership.
3. Define your audience
Sponsors care about who they can reach through a partnership with you. Record follower counts for your social media channels, subscriber counts for newsletters or other subscription services, and traffic volumes for your website or blog. Then, gather data on your current audiences, including interests, hobbies, needs, browsing behaviors, and socioeconomic data such as age, gender, geographic location, level of education, and income.
To do this, you can tap into customer data (if you have a website or online store), survey your followers, or use in-platform analytics tools to gather audience insights. If you’re planning to seek sponsors for a specific event, document the audiences you’ll endeavor to reach for the event, and how you’ll reach them.
4. Elevate your brand profile
Once you’ve defined your audience, make a plan to grow it beyond what it is today. The bigger your audience, the more attractive you are to sponsors.
To do this, first determine the metrics that will be most important to potential sponsors—for example, engagement rate on your social media content or trailer views for a film. Then make a plan for increasing those metrics. Here are a few tactics you can use:
- Post frequently. If you’re active on social media sites, regularly post high-quality content to your social accounts. If you run a newsletter or blog, commit to a regular publication schedule.
- Interact with audiences. Interacting with your audiences can help you boost visibility and engagement rates on social platforms. You can respond to comments on your posts, monitor social sites to find and respond to mentions of your creator brand, and adopt proactive engagement strategies like creating and responding to branded hashtags, joining conversations relevant to your particular niche, or posting open-ended questions and participating in the resulting discussions.
- Invest in paid social. Creators earn money for organic followings, but you can use paid social to advertise your content to new audiences. For example, if you’re selling sponsored content opportunities in your Substack newsletter, you might try to drive signups with paid ads on social media. If the ad results in 50 new newsletter subscribers or an increase in site traffic that extends beyond the ad’s lifetime, you can use these metrics to woo potential sponsors.
5. Research potential sponsors
Successful sponsorships pair the right company with the right person or project, providing the sponsor with access to the right audience.
Research potential sponsors to identify mutually beneficial partnership opportunities. Your brand identity and audiences will help you determine which sponsors might be interested in you, and your goals will help you identify partnerships that can benefit you or your brand.
6. Create a sponsorship proposal
Create a sponsorship proposal (or sponsorship pitch) that includes the following information:
- Your identity. Include a brief overview of your personal values and goals, or your organization’s values and goals. You’ll tailor this section for each pitch to highlight alignment with a potential sponsor.
- Your audience demographics. Provide information about your audiences, including demographics, subscriber or follower counts, and web traffic, if applicable. Be sure to customize your proposal to showcase overlap between your audience and a potential sponsor’s target audiences.
- What’s included. Specify what the sponsor will get in the partnership: a set of social media mentions, product placement in a film, or logo placement on a decorative backdrop at an event, for example.
- Your ask. Include the cost of the sponsorship package, in cash or “in-kind” contributions.
- Supporting data. Provide persuasive data about previous partnerships, such as social media analytics data that demonstrates the success of sponsored content or attendance data for past events.
7. Contact potential sponsors
Now you’re ready to start contacting potential sponsors. You can send an email pitch or, for social media sponsorships, send a direct message on a social media platform. You can also advertise sponsorship opportunities on your website or join an influencer or creator platform, like Shopify Collabs, to allow brands to contact you.
Many creators also use their personal networks or conduct LinkedIn research to look for connections at a target company. For example, if a friend works for a potential sponsor, you can ask them whether their employer has a sponsorship program (or might like to start one). They may be able to provide guidance on the pitch or make a warm introduction to key decision-makers at the company.
How to get sponsored FAQ
What type of companies or organizations offer sponsorships?
There are many types of sponsorship—and many types of organizations offer them. Large corporations might pursue massive sponsorship deals (like a named stadium or large event sponsorship), and smaller companies might purchase a series of sponsored social media posts.
What are some mistakes to avoid when seeking sponsorship?
Avoid these mistakes when seeking sponsorship:
- Neglecting your personal brand
- Not selecting sponsors based on target audience and brand alignment
- Sending a vague or incomplete sponsorship pitch
- Losing track of your goals
How can you increase your chances of getting sponsored?
These best practices can help you increase your chances of securing a sponsorship:
- Elevate your personal brand
- Pitch sponsors with similar values and target audiences
- Support proposals with persuasive data
- Use your network
Do I need to disclose sponsorship?
The Federal Trade Commission requires creators to disclose paid brand partnerships.