You Don’t Need any Podcast Downloads to get Sponsors

I will just start off my saying, sponsorship is not the only way to make money. But it is of interest to many podcasters. And a question I get asked constantly is, “how many downloads does my podcast need before I can get sponsors?”

My answer to you is the same as the number I had when I got my first sponsor: Zero. Zilch. Nada. Here’s the how and why.

My First Sponsor Came with Zero Downloads

The scope of my podcast, How I Built It, changed pretty quickly. I assumed the show, which basically started because I picked up a killer domain name, would be a marketing arm for my newly launched online course site. But then I landed not 1, but 2 sponsors.

They were both warm outreach to people who liked my work. So I put together a sponsorship package, reached out to a couple more folks that I knew, and asked if they were interested.

Within the first few weeks of the show, I had Hover, Brand Bucket, and Pantheon as show sponsors. And I had no stats to show for it, only a slate of guests.

The secret sauce to this immediate success: my network.

You don’t need any downloads to get podcast sponsors in the beginning – just a network of people who trust your work. Click To Tweet

Your Network can Propel You to a Profitable Show

Here’s the thing about those early sponsors, some of whom still sponsor today: they weren’t necessarily betting on the podcast. They were betting on me.

These people knew me, knew my work, and wanted to support me. That can work early on1. If you develop that trust, it can go a long way.

Find people who know, like, and trust you, and ask for their support.

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In Venture Capital, They Talk About Friends, Fools, and Family

Now I would never call any of my sponsor fools, but the idea here is the same as working your network: talk to the people closes to you to see if they want early support in your endeavor.

For investors, it’s getting in on the ground floor, with massive ROI potential. For sponsors, it’s being the first in with little competition, and getting a forever link and mention in the show.

My first sponsors paid $99, 5 years ago, and their link is still on the site, and their ad-read is still in the episode. There are very few places you get that exposure.

Building Your Network

The caveat here is you need a network for this to work. If you have no network, build it. Participate in communities, build relationship, and show you can provide value.

This is the part that takes time. But I recon you probably already have a network of people you can reach out to.

One More Thing: Make the Offer too Good to Pass Up

The final piece of this puzzle it to make the offer too good to pass up. $25, $50, or even $99 is usually good enough for people to pay for a forever link and mention, even when you don’t have the stats to back it up. My recommendation:

  • Price: $50
  • Offer: 30-60 mention on the show (pre- or mid-roll)
  • Link and logo on the episode’s page
  • Shout out on social media, and if you have a newsletter, your newsletter.

This is going to be a pretty easy sell for people in your network. Try to lock them into 4-5 episodes, and you’ve paid for your podcast hosting for the year in most cases.

When you're just starting to look for sponsors, make the offer too good to pass up. Most people who trust your work will say yes to $50 for a forever link and mention. Click To Tweet

So remember: worry less about the number of downloads in the beginning, and talk to people who trust your work. Be SUPER upfront that you’re just getting started and your looking to offset costs.

Once you do that, you can figure out how to grow and deliver on ROI.

  1. Beware: This isn’t a long term strategy. You will need to deliver for your sponsors and supporters in some way.

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