I want to break down brand deals and sponsorships with you, because not enough people share the nitty gritty! If you’re a content creator, then this is for you – I’m getting into the good, the bad, and the ugly of brand deals and sponsorships.
Brand Deals & Sponsorships – The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
Want to listen to the podcast version of this post? I’ve got you covered!
What are brand deals and sponsorships?
A brand deal and sponsorship are basically the same thing – it’s when you are compensated to create content promoting a certain brand. When you dive into the nitty gritty, they can be slightly different.
An example of a brand deal would be Apple sending you an iPad and asking you to make a video about it. Afterward, you’ll get to keep the iPad and get paid.
A sponsorship is when you create content promoting a brand with or without a product and are paid for it. Essentially, they buy advertising within your space, like an ad on Instagram stories.
Everyone’s pricing is different, but there are some prices that float around the industry that I have seen prove themselves. Pricing depends on engagement, the platform, followers – a lot of variables.
In the past, sponsorships have paid a certain dollar amount for a certain number of followers as the industry standard. Now, advertisers are aware that you can have a lot of followers but not a lot of engagement. So it’s more about a certain dollar amount per engagement, view, etc.
Podcast sponsorships can be harder because listeners aren’t as easy to measure.
I think a good place to start is charging $100 per 10,000 listens/followers/subscribers/etc.
Sometimes, companies think that’s too much. For example, I went through a slump on my YouTube channel where my views dipped. So sponsors would reach out and then tried to re-negotiate when I shared my rate. And some of them I did but others I didn’t.
The $100 per 10,000 subscribers is a good place to start, although you could charge more if you’re willing to bring more to the table. You’d have to prove that you have really great engagement rates and start packaging things together. Maybe it’s not just a YouTube video, but mentions on Instagram stories too. Or a podcast mention and a mention in your Facebook group.
Most people who consider themselves content creators will take on brand deals and sponsorships. I have always considered myself a business owner who uses content to grow my brand. Prior to the last six months, I never even considered sponsorships because that wasn’t the purpose of my content.
But over the last six months or so, I have tried out sponsorships to see how they fit into my business model. And I want to share the details about that with you today.
THE GOOD – You can get brand deals to expand your income!
If you’re putting out content in some way, you can get brand deals. You don’t even have to consider yourself an influencer to get them.
To do a GOOD job with sponsorships, you have to know who your people are and what services or products would actually benefit them/they would like to hear about. That’s where you need to start. It always feels really weird to me when the sponsor doesn’t make sense with the audience.
I don’t care when the sponsor doesn’t make sense with the content, but if it doesn’t make sense to your audience, it totally removes your credibility.
For instance, my podcast audience is full of female entrepreneurs. If I have the option to work with Home Chef or ClickUp, it makes a LOT more sense for me to accept a sponsorship for something like ClickUp rather than Home Chef. Sure, women are generally food decision-makers in the home so Home Chef could make sense… but it feels too removed for me. ClickUp is a very obvious and awesome resource for my audience, so it makes sense.
Let’s break down the difference in content creator vs business owner who creates content
Like I mentioned, I viewed myself up until very recently as a business owner who creates content to grow my business. (I’m shifting my mindset to content creator though).
Content creators are much more likely to pursue sponsorships quicker than the business owner because the content is the source of income for the creator. A business owner’s content has a different job – to grow their business. But you can definitely take sponsorships no matter which one you relate to more!
I want to share my own experience right now. As I’ve done sponsorships and polled my audience, I realized that a content creator’s audience expects and is okay with sponsorships. The audience of a business owner who is creating content is JUST different enough that they don’t like to see sponsorships in that content.
That was bananas to me, but I also get it. Since the business owner pursues sponsorships much later on, their audience is used to seeing content that isn’t sponsored in any way.
No matter which type of creator you are, you CAN go after sponsorships. And that can be an additional stream of income for you! Having a sponsor does not change your content – it just expands the amount of money that piece of content can generate.
THE BAD – Some people won’t like that you use sponsors
Sponsorships are so deeply ingrained in influencer culture now, because everyone is doing them. And you absolutely can, too, because it’s a great additional source of income!
But know that when you do have a sponsor, some people won’t like that you have a sponsor. I actually had a dip in views once I started using sponsors, even as someone who was INCREDIBLY cautious with who I chose to promote.
It’s a weird paradigm. I could have an ad from Google roll in the middle of my YouTube video, and nobody cares because that’s normal. Then I could have a sponsored segment in that video and people would care.
I recently did a YouTube video about how my channel was dying, and of course a ton of people commented to tell me why they thought my channel was dying even though I didn’t ask. And a common thread people mentioned were the sponsorships in my content. Or that my sponsors weren’t relevant to my content.
That’s really interesting to me, because I watch a LOT of YouTube – mostly people who I would group into the “content creators” category rather than business owners creating content. EVERY single one of the people I watch have sponsors in all of their videos. And none of them have anything to do with their video.
Seeing those comments from people who consume YouTube content was very strange because other creators have those sponsors. So I asked those people a lot of questions, and nobody had any logical answers about why me having sponsors bothered people.
Here’s what I think: Because I went so long without having consistent sponsorships, people don’t expect it from me.
My experience with and opinion of sponsors
In one of my YouTube videos, sponsors are both a natural integration and hard for me to do.
Some of the sponsors I’ve worked with have been WONDERFUL. Others have been a total pain in the butt. I’ll talk about that in a second.
I have to make the choice about whether I want to focus more on getting my actual AdSense money back up and over what it was last year, or do I want to have a sponsor all the time? After the feedback from people and my own experiences, I’m likely not going to do many sponsorships on YouTube going forward. The way sponsorships work and my personal preference make me prefer creating free content and adding Google ads rather than dealing with sponsors.
It is REALLY easy to scroll past ads on a blog post, and it’s super normal to have ads on a podcast. I don’t think having sponsorships on those two pieces of content are the same as a YouTube video. YouTube sponsors have definitely proven to hurt my content, so I don’t want to continue those. But I might have podcast or blog sponsors.
HOWEVER – if you’re in the full time content creator space, sponsorships will be a huge piece of your income. And I don’t think you’ll get that same feedback.
I am all about trying things out and seeing whether or not they work. I’m a quick decision maker, and I’m fine to quickly dip out of seeking sponsorships.
THE UGLY – Sponsors will dictate your content
Sure, the point of sponsors is to promote their products. But when they think they have ownership over your content, things get ugly.
My friend Darrel Eves wrote a book called The YouTube Formula. The forward was written by Mr. Beast. In Mr. Beast’s forward, he talks about how business executives think they know WAY more than YouTubers (especially young ones), and how brands could convert way better if they gave YouTubers more creative freedom with their ad integrations.
Sponsors see it as a very cut-and-dry thing. “We’re paying them, so we’re giving them a bulleted list for them to read.” And usually, they’re jerks about it.
I have worked with one company over a long sponsorship deal that was NOT like this at all. And that was SO appreciated! They just wanted me to do what I thought was best for my audience. That gave me more freedom and gave them more authentic mentions.
I am VERY picky about choosing sponsorships, but even MORE picky after I learned about those types of sponsors. They would tell me they didn’t like one word I said and I’d have to create a whole different piece of content or I wouldn’t get paid.
Sponsors are going to have to change their strategies with creators moving forward. Creators can and will choose not to work within those strict rules. Creators aren’t making content because they want someone to put boundaries on it. Their NAME is literally about creating.
Most sponsors require that they review and approve your content before it goes live. It's had for me to give a brand one week of turnaround time when I have other things going on.
(That sponsor I worked with and loved? They didn’t require approval – and it was a BREATH OF FRESH AIR)
There’s a GREAT story about a bad sponsor in my podcast episode… you’ll have to give it a listen to hear that one 😉
This is the UGLIEST part about working with sponsors. And it’s why I don’t want to work with them moving forward.
Brand deals and sponsorships can be great! I don’t want to scare you away from them. But I do want to be real about the ways that they could take the fun out of content creation. If you aren't careful, they might even run your audience off because of the inauthenticity of the mention.