How to Find Sponsorships for Your Blog

By Amy Lupold Bair, Susannah Gardner

You can get sponsorships for your blog in two ways: by receiving requests from companies and by seeking them out yourself. Such sponsorship can mean one of two things:

  • Sponsors might pay you to put their ads on your website.

  • Sponsors might simply provide you with free goods or services in return for advertising on your website.

You need to think carefully about whether to take on a sponsor because you might not want to agree to the requirements, such as the following:

  • Prominent placement or exclusivity: A sponsor is different from the usual ad on your website because sponsors like a prominent placement on your blog — possibly including the exclusive right to advertise on your blog.

  • Acknowledgment: A sponsor might ask you to use the phrase “This blog sponsored by…” or some variation of it to let your readers know that a specific company is funding your blog. You may also want to thank your sponsor occasionally to generate extra goodwill.

  • Time commitment: Sponsorships often run for a set length of time, usually much longer than a standard ad runs. Sponsorships of several months to a year aren’t unheard of.

Getting sponsors interested in your blog is probably the hardest advertising strategy, though it’s also the most lucrative. To find a sponsor, you need to “sell” your blog, from the design to the content. Make the sponsor want to post its advertisements on your site — not someone else’s. When you’re seeking sponsors, keep your blog dynamic, on topic, and well written.

One of the best things sponsors do for your blog is legitimize your work. Many bloggers might be viewed by the public as “just another blogger” within the static of the Internet. But, if you have sponsors that believe in what you’re doing, you can attract other professional relationships, such as speaking engagements or press interviews. If you’re regarded as an authority, you can build a stronger brand.

How to negotiate a sponsorship experience

Sponsors can be demanding advertisers, and they can restrict how you develop your monetization plan by changing the way you advertise on your site.

Some sponsors demand exclusivity — which means that they’re the only business of that type that advertises on your site, forcing you to turn away other potential sponsors. Others might demand that you always write about their products or services in a positive way. Dealing with sponsors can be a true balancing act. But the rewards can be worth the work.

Here’s a recipe for a successful sponsor/blogger relationship:

  • Be clear on your topic. Know who you are and what you’re writing about. If you have a blog that isn’t clear about its subject, when you’re seeking sponsorship, potential sponsors may be unable to understand why they are a good match for your blog. Sponsors want a very clear idea about the content you’re creating and what you can do for them.

    Keeping your blog on topic is especially important when sponsors are actively using their brand identities on your site. Make sure that they’re aware of everything you might write about so that they don’t have any surprises or objections to editorial content.

  • Be clear about what you’re promising. Be sure that both you and your sponsor understand exactly what influence and control — if any — the partnership offers the advertiser. Thoroughly outline how you’ll handle both content and advertising placement of the sponsor; the advertiser should be upfront about its expectations of you.

  • Know your audience. Educate yourself on your audience if you’re seeking paying sponsors for your blog. With increased sponsorship, you absolutely must address the question of who your audience is. You need to document the activity in your community, track your comments, and analyze the information from your web statistics.

    Create a report of your statistics to prove to any sponsors that you have the numbers you claim. Don’t use any guesswork when creating this report. Your sponsors want to see solid numbers and data to back up your claims. Sponsorship arrangements often require you to create statistics reports. The simple fact is that if you want to make money, you have to gather data.

    You can collect data from your audience in the form of contests, polls, and other interactive experiences. Ask your audience members who they are — and if you approach it in a professional manner, they might be happy to reveal a little bit about themselves.

  • Banner placement and visual cues. If you’ve been placing advertising on your blog for awhile, you already have a good idea where ads appear to good effect on your site, and you probably also know what types of ads work best. So, you can demonstrate the benefits of placement and ad types to any potential sponsors.

    However, if you’ve never had ads on your site when you first seek a sponsor, be prepared to offer ideas and suggestions for adequately highlighting the sponsor’s ads and branding. You can even provide a design mock-up or some kind of visual representation. Or you might even consider creating a demo website that actually shows the ads in the positions and formats that you think can work.

  • Limit other monetization methods. Some bloggers find that if they use other advertising systems at the same time as a sponsor, it dilutes the effectiveness of the sponsorships.

    Many sponsors ask to be the exclusive advertiser on your site or that you limit what other kinds of advertising and advertisers you use while they sponsor you. This request isn’t unreasonable, especially if you have a lucrative sponsorship agreement that compensates you for the loss of those ad spots.

How to set boundaries for blog sponsorship

Jumping to the professional level in the blogging world poses a few potential pitfalls and requires ongoing reinvention on your part. Set up and keep to a few simple rules about what your professional limits and intentions are, and don’t be afraid to write those rules down in a document that you share with sponsors and your readers.

Also, be ready to say no. Some sponsors might want more than you’re willing to give. Yes, you may be able to earn some money from your blog, but don’t forget the reason you’re blogging in the first place.

Your blog is your territory, not your sponsor’s. You’re renting the sponsor space on your site, giving it access to your audience. You aren’t signing up for someone to tell you what to do. You already have parents for that!

Don’t jump at every offer that comes in the door. You may find this advice difficult to follow when you’re seeking your first sponsor, but you need to maintain a high level of professionalism — not just for yourself but also for your audience.

In the same way that you protect your audience from nasty comments and spam, you need to be sure that you give them an appropriate experience with your sponsors and advertisers. Protect the integrity of your blog and avoid sponsors that demand more time, editorial control, or space on your blog than you’re willing to give.