Should You Get a Company to Sponsor Your Blog?

I started my first “blog” back in 2006. It’s called SwimUniversity.com (SwimU). I used to work in the pool industry and helped thousands of people take care of their pools and hot tubs. I was good at it. I was an expert. But only in Turnersville, New Jersey.

Pool Store in Turnersville

I combined my pool care skills with my website design skills to create SwimUniversity.com. That way, I could share my pool nerdiness with the world.

10 years later it attracts millions of pool and hot tub owners around the world and earns six-figures. Which would not be possible if it wasn’t for sponsorships.

How I Got My First Blog Sponsorship

When I got started, my original plan was to create a paid membership site. Like the Netflix for pool care. Then it evolved into a free blog-style site where I could recommend the products I like for a commission. This is an example of an affiliate site.

Swim University Circa 2011

Swim University Circa 2011

Never did it enter my mind that anyone would sponsor SwimU until someone asked me.

In 2012, A large pool company reached out to me via email and asked if they could put an ad on my site. Not a shitty little paid link or a shitty 300-word post, but a banner ad. They were willing to pay me money for this! Mind. Blown.

I didn’t plan for this. I didn’t know how to approach it. I asked my best friend what I should do. He told me to ask for $100 a month. So I did.

In hindsight, I could have commanded a lot more money. In fact, $100 a month to that large company was laughable. But they bought, and now I had my sights set on becoming a sponsored website. Wish I would have done this sooner.

How I Set Up My First Blog Sponsorship

Again, I had no idea what I was doing. I was jumping in the pool without knowing how to swim. But I did know two things:

  1. I knew how to put a banner ad on my sidebar manually since I coded the site myself.
  2. I knew how to make an invoice in Microsoft Excel.

And that’s about all I did. The person at the company I was working with was my age and understood the internet world. It was a fun partnership and we talked a lot, about tech stuff for fun.

They sent me a 300 x 300 pixel graphic and I sent them an invoice. I billed them for the whole year totaling $1,200. That was the most money I had ever made on my website at that point. Mind. Blown.

It was hacky, I’ll admit. It was crude. It was unprofessional. But I made money. I provided a company with a valuable position on my site. And they’re still a sponsor today. One of my favorites, in fact!

How I Got My Second Blog Sponsorship

I don’t like calling SwimU a blog anymore. It’s a resource site. I just happen to use WordPress as my CMS (content management system). But I digress.

I was living the Miller High Life. I had a good looking website that was making money. I took my confidence to the Atlantic City Pool show that year. I talked it up with some big players in the pool industry.

Atlantic City Pool & Spa Show

Atlantic City Pool & Spa Show

I remember talking to a CEO of another huge company. I said, “…yea, and my current sponsor is happy with the content we’ve been creating and…” She stopped me mid-sentence. “You have sponsors? Can I sponsor your site?” she said.

Holy shit! I think I just sold another sponsorship by accident. I said, “you can!” She said, “cool, send me an invoice.” I swear, that was our exact conversation. Holy shit again!

I had a good problem on my hands: two sponsors. I needed to come with a way to support that. I knew how to send an invoice, but how do I rotate ads?

Creating a Multi Sponsored Blog

I’m pretty good with PHP code and WordPress development, so I built my own little ad server. Meaning, I made a script that could rotate the ads. But the sponsors started asking for stats. Whoops! I needed a new plan.

I wanted to be more professional. I started selling more sponsorships slots and I needed a good way to manage them all. I did some minor research and found a little WordPress plugin called AdSanity. It was about $30, and it was a one-time fee. Music to my ears in today’s subscription-based world.

Adsanity Stats

Adsanity Stats

I’m still using that plugin today. It does the trick. There are others out there, too. I recommend finding one that suits your needs.

I was also tired of keeping track of my invoices in Excel Spreadsheets and folders. So I moved over to Xero online accounting software. I used that to send invoices and keep track of the payments.

I’m now using QuickBooks, but Xero was perfect for getting started.

Selling More Sponsorships On My Blog

I was all set up. I was ready to start reaching out to more companies to sponsor my site. It was easy getting the first three sponsors (yes, I got another one at that same pool show that day). But now the real work began.

I created scripts, built a sponsorship page, and started emailing everyone I knew. Every company that I would love to endorse. A lot of them didn’t understand the value of what I was doing. My site stands alone in the pool industry. I spent a lot of time convincing people. But I learned that some people get it and others don’t.

I wasted a lot of energy trying to convince others of my value. The easy sponsorships sales came from people who knew what I was doing. Who saw the value on their own without my trying to persuade them of it.

This is not always an easy thing to do, but here’s what helped me:

  • Put your work out there so potential sponsors can understand the value on their own.
  • Don’t sell. Just look for ways to partner with companies who you like. This will help them understand the value instead of selling them cold.
  • Meet people in person. The easiest sales came from people talking to me.
  • If you can’t meet in person, jump on the phone. When people heard my enthusiasm, they were sold. They knew I cared about what I was doing and wanted to take the ride with me.
  • Put your best foot forward. I spent a lot of time making a pretty and user-friendly website. When potential sponsors saw it, they knew they were dealing with something/someone cool.

So, Should You Get a Company to Sponsor Your Blog?

If you want to make money with your blog in the next 30 days? Then, yes! 50% of my income is from blog sponsorships. I make videos, write articles, serve banner ads and run contests with my sponsors.

I try hard to make them happy. To over deliver. So that each year, they’ll want to sponsor me again. And I’m happy to report that this year, 80% of my sponsors are re-upping their contracts.

This post was written by Matt Giovanisci, a serial brand-builder and sponsorship advocate. He also helped make GetSponsorships!