8 Unconventional Strategies to Level Up Your Sponsorship Game

Examples from successful creators

Newsletter Circle is the newsletter all about newsletters for indie creators.

👉 Every Sunday, you will read the unique journey of a different newsletter creator and learn more about how to start, grow and monetize your own newsletter.

👉 Every Wednesday, you will read articles and the list of curated resources to level up your newsletter business.

Hey, all newsletter enthusiasts!

Welcome to the “Wednesday Issues” by Newsletter Circle.

Today’s issue was originally published on Letter Meta by Richard Patey.

In Letter Meta, he shares behind the scenes of operating newsletter businesses on Beehiiv. 

Richard is an experienced online entrepreneur and newsletter operator. I’ve been following him since my early days in the newsletter space and had a chance to interview for Newsletter Circle as well.

Here we go!

8 Unconventional Ideas to Level Up Your Sponsorship Strategy

Sponsorship is one of the most straightforward ways to monetize a newsletter. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean crafting a sponsorship strategy is easy. It is a constant challenge for creators to find new partners, decide on offers, and manage the process.

Moreover, there is no one-size-fits-all recipe. While there are ground rules to follow, each creator has different priorities and resources, leading them to adopt unique approaches for sponsorship.

Given the current situation, I explored how successful creators approach sponsorship and uncovered 8 Unconventional Ideas to level up the sponsorship strategy for your newsletter.

Whether you’re about to secure your first sponsor or you’ve been monetizing your newsletter via sponsorships for a long time, these ideas can provide inspiration to enhance your strategy.

Let’s dive in.

1. Ask Your Readers If You Have Any Doubts

The sponsorship journey of a newsletter creator often starts with a crucial question:

When should I accept my first sponsor?

The answer varies significantly from one creator to another. I secured my first sponsor when I had 800 subscribers, while Morning Blitz choose to wait until reaching 10,000 subscribers making sure the price was right for brands and they saw ROI to come back as a returning customer.

However, there's another question that isn't widely discussed:

What if my readers get annoyed seeing an ad in the newsletter?

This concern holds many creators back from accepting sponsors. But, who benefits from acting only based on hypotheses when there's a chance to gather feedback?

Josh Spector, for instance, introduced ads in his newsletter after 4 years, considering it one of the most valuable improvements. 

He decided to include ads after a 1-question survey with his readers, revealing that 90% of respondents wanted to see ads in his newsletter.

Drawing inspiration from Josh Spector, Chenell Basilio also sought her readers' confirmation before proceeding with ads. 

Guess what?

82% of respondents expressed curiosity, and she discovered 14 potential sponsors!

Growth In Reverse Survey

2. Create proof for ad performance

Demonstrating the effectiveness of an ad is crucial in the world of newsletter sponsorship. Convincing brands that an ad will perform well, especially when starting, can be challenging due to a lack of evidence.

After running this test ad, here is his guideline in his own words:

  • “Measure the click-through-rate and conversions: Keep track of how many people click on the ad and, more importantly, how many make a purchase.

  • Reach out to sponsors: Once you have these metrics, approach the sponsors you want to work with and share the affiliate offer's click-through rate and conversion data.

Most sponsors would be keen on engaging in a conversation when you can demonstrate 100 clicks and/or a 2-5% conversion rate on the advertisement. If you haven’t reached that stage yet, it's advisable to continue focusing on growth before investing significant time in seeking sponsors.”

3. Leverage X to reach partners

By leveraging X effectively, you can tap into a dynamic network of potential sponsors and create valuable connections that contribute to the growth and success of your newsletter.

The platform holds more potential for building partnerships than one might initially realize, serving as a valuable space where newsletters that seek sponsors can connect with brands searching for newsletters.

To attract INBOUND sponsorship requests:

  • Actively Repurpose Your Newsletter Content:

Share snippets of your newsletter content on X to give potential sponsors a taste of your valuable insights and engage your audience.

  • Post About Your Search for Sponsors:

Be direct and proactive. Craft tweets indicating your interest in securing sponsors for your newsletter. 

To find OUTBOND opportunities:

  • Use X “Advanced Search”

I found the tweet below by simply searching for ‘sponsor’ and ‘newsletter’ words.

4. Build Relationships via Podcasts & Interviews

Yong-Soo Chong chose to delay securing his first sponsor until he reached 8K subscribers.

Despite the potential to start earlier, he prioritized relationship-building:

“​​I wanted to be very picky about sponsors. I don't want to bring on any sponsors that pay me. It's all a deliberate practice of partnering up with brands that I personally enjoy and use.

Those brands take time to build relationships, etc., so that's why it's taken a bit of time.”

Yong-Soo Chung / First Class Founders

During this process, he utilized his podcast to interview decision-makers and founders within these companies. This worked well for him to warm up their relationship and wait for a few months before asking for a sponsorship.

5. Get the most out of the Classified Ads

In many cases, the emphasis is placed on main sponsors, and Classified ads are often seen as a nice-to-have, secondary ad format. 

However, if you succeed in establishing a high-performing section for Classified ad links that drive clicks, it has the potential to become your primary source of sponsorship revenue.

Katt Risen receives successful results thanks to her smart strategy, which is:

  • Partnering with brands only she thinks her readers find interesting

  • Placement of this '5 Cool Finds' section: before the interview

  • Combining things she uses and paid ads in a very natural way

  • Short & catchy explanations focusing on the key benefits

6. Diversify ad packages

A typical newsletter ad strategy often begins with a combination of higher-priced 'Main Sponsor' slots supported by lower-priced Classified Ads. However, over time, it's beneficial to explore additional ad formats to maximize revenue and cater to the diverse needs and budgets of potential sponsors.

Here are three offers you can apply:

1. Bundle offers

A discount on multiple ads is a clever strategy to upsell your initial sponsors, closing deals for multiple issues in advance and simultaneously reducing operational workload.

Houck’s Newsletter Bundle Offers

2. Tiers

Great for capturing sponsors with limited budgets and maximizing revenue by adding multiple ad slots in a single issue.

Indie Hacker’s Tweet

3. Sponsored issues

Newsletter Circle Sponsored Deep Dive Offer

This sponsorship deal can yield the highest revenue as the entire issue is dedicated to the sponsor's product or service.

Various formats can be employed, including tool/product/service reviews, case studies, and founder interviews.

While newsletters with larger audiences often prefer this approach, starting with relatively lower prices can be a strategic entry point for smaller newsletters.

If you achieve positive results, you can then consider reaching out to more sponsors.

Two considerations for sponsored issues:

  • Frequency: Avoid doing sponsored dedicated issues too frequently to prevent reader annoyance.

  • Review Integrity: In the case of a tool/product/service review, ensure that you use the product or service being reviewed. Provide a balanced perspective by including both pros and cons in alignment with your sponsor. Always prioritize maintaining the trust of your audience as your highest priority.

7. Aggressive Campaigns

If you want your newsletter ad slots to be sold out, try implementing ultra-low prices! 

Anthony Castrio launched a $5 ad campaign for Bot Eat Brain newsletter and it turned out to be a huge success.

Anthony sold his first ad 3 months after launching Bot Eat Brain (1,000 subscribers & 40% open rate) with a $50 pricing.

He started pricing his ads as low as possible for 2 reasons: 

  • to build up hype & momentum 

  • to force himself to commit to a consistent publishing schedule

The next month, he launched the $5 ad campaign.

Available ads sold out immediately!

So, he doubled the prices. But, what? They sold out again. 

So he doubled the prices again and opened some new slots.

They sold out again. So he doubled the prices.

He kept increasing the price until it reached the market price, which he defines as "typically anywhere between $10 and $60 CPM for a newsletter."

This happened in Feb'23.  Today Bot Eat Brain has subscribers over 20,000+ subscribers and selling "Sponsored Shouout X 3 issues" for $949.

8. Automate the Process

Sponsorship acquisition can be time-consuming due to the hustle and back-and-forth email communications. 

To streamline this process and make it more passive, it's beneficial to build well-functioning systems.

As someone who believes in creating efficient systems, Eric Lam, for instance, incorporates a link in his newsletter that directs potential sponsors to a Calendly link connected to Stripe. This allows sponsors to input their details and book a sponsorship slot directly. Eric receives notifications whenever a new slot is booked, making the process more efficient and hands-off.

“This way, sponsorships can be relatively passive for me so I can focus on other things.“

Eric Lam

Eric Lam’s Sponsorship Link

For The Interested and The Empire Exchange newsletters also have similar automated processes for sponsorship.

Newsletter Circle Recommendation to make sponsorship easy

If you manage daily sponsorship deals or are part of a media company, the whole sponsorship process might turn into a nightmare due to back-and-forth emails, wrong assets, reminders, final approvals and hard deadlines.

Trusted media companies such as TLDR, Overstory Media Group, and Payload use Sponsy*.

They optimized their workflow with Sponsy’s automation and a dedicated customer portal. Less hassle, more time for growing your newsletter!

Ciler’s note: I know that sponsorship takes so much time, based on my experience so far. And I run a small newsletter with 1,700 subscribers and a frequency of two times a week. I will definitely rely on Sponsy when I have more sponsors and I recommend giving it a try.

ICYMI - The Latest Newsletter Circle Issues


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*Disclaimer: Affiliate link. I only recommend resources/platforms that I genuinely find useful.

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