Sponsorship For Online Video

A man under a magnifying glass is in focus while all others around him are blurred.

Flexing your creative videography muscles can be costly; however, finding sponsors for your content can be an easy way to finance your projects.

While some YouTubers are seeing $50,000+ paychecks for monetizing their viral video, those creators are few and far between. Most videographers who are monetizing their videos are seeing on average between $1-$2 per thousand views. That's right, they're getting less than a penny per view (and even then, viewers have to watch the ad in order for the views to be monetized.) There's no sense in letting YouTube make all the profits from AdSense. Here's the information you need to put those profits into your own pocket.

Types of Sponsorship

There are five basic types of sponsorship: product placement, brand integration, pre/post roll, banner ads, and underwriting.

2 shots of a Pizza in a box and water bottle. One shot shows the names and logos of the products, the other shot has them hidden.
2 shots of a Pizza in a box and water bottle. One shot shows the names and logos of the products, the other shot has them hidden.
Product placement occurs when you place the branded content inside the video. For example, your character finishes a marathon, then pops open a can of Diet Pepsi. Sponsors typically offer product and/or cash for product placement. If you're doing a shoot with a large crew, product placement of Domino's Pizza with an in-kind donation can potentially save you some money in craft services.

Brand integration is similar to product placement except that the story revolves around the product. A great example of this is the recent movie The Internship. Google wasn't just a placed brand; the whole story revolved around two guys trying to get a job at Google. If you can create entertaining, viral, brand integration stories, you'll have no problems finding sponsors who are willing to give you cash.

Preroll or postroll is when a short five to 30-second advertisement (depending on the length of the video) runs either before or after your video. It can take the form of a commercial or graphic slide with or without voiceover saying, “This video sponsored by ...” Many video hosting sites have rules about these types of commercials, particularly if the site is also trying to place ads during your video.

A banner ad is a static advertisement that can be superimposed and is typically on the bottom of a video or that can be placed on the website that's hosting the video. Again, some hosting sites place their own banner ads and prevent you from doing so yourself.

Underwriting is when a company or organization funds your video. Most shows on PBS are underwritten by grants from corporations. Similarly, PSA videos or content showcasing a theme, social issue/cause, or view of a corporation might be a suitable option for underwriting.

Consider Your Host

According to YouTube's Terms of Service, content creators are not allowed to sell ads, stating on its website: “The sale of advertising, sponsorships, or promotions placed on or within the Service or Content; or the sale of advertising, sponsorships, or promotions on any page of an ad-enabled blog or website containing Content delivered via the Service, unless other material not obtained from YouTube appears on the same page and is of sufficient value to be the basis for such sales.”

While many creators do manage to slip in product placement or subtle brand integration, YouTube frowns on this particularly if you are trying to monetize your videos. Many videographers have experienced the frustration with YouTube shutting down their page or channel or having their videos made ineligible for monetizing. Obviously, one solution is an alternative host.

Facebook allows you to use commercial content in your video, but Facebook is full of ads that some sponsors might find unappealing. Vimeo has PRO services that allows you to do everything from use third party video players to charging for access to your videos. The added bonus of using Vimeo PRO is that you can assure your sponsor that there will be no competing advertising on the site since Vimeo PRO is ad-free. There are many hosting options. Ultimately, you need to consider your hosting platform and your sponsor's needs to ensure a good match.

Evaluate Your Content

Cat videos are great for advertising pet stores or pet food; posting marathon footage is great for advertising running shoes; your vlog about the latest designer fashions could be great for advertising a new boutique clothing store. You need to carefully consider the sponsor's brands and the content of your videos. Are they really a good match? Sponsors usually want positive, well crafted, tasteful videos that reflect well on their brands. This has been a problem that has plagued AdSense because many sponsors want control over their ads and don't want their ads to be paired with inappropriate, adolescent content.

A Question of Eyeballs

Before you can talk money with a sponsor, you need to talk traffic. Get to know the analytics for your content. These can be easily found on most host sites and the depth of the data can vary greatly depending on the site. Obviously, the more you know, the better you can sell. In addition to how many people are watching, your sponsors will want to know who is watching. If your extreme sports videos are being watched primarily by males age 14-25, then let your advertisers know. Likewise, if your cooking videos are being watched primarily in the South, regional sponsors might be a better match. If you're advertising on Facebook and your videos have a large following from the local Star Trek/Star Wars/Comic fan group then a local comic and collectible shop might be willing to advertise. Smaller numbers can, at times, be more relevant than larger runs if your data targets a specific demographic the sponsor wants to reach.

Determining a Rate

Advertising rates are flexible and variable when it comes to online content. Videographers with sales experience will definitely have an advantage because you have to sell the value of your content to a sponsor. This will be largely determined by your subscriptions and prior traffic including views, demographics, minutes watched, and location of viewers. You might want to offer a special or discount your ads when working with a new sponsor until you prove your video series or vlog's worth.

Screen shot of the Rocketboom.com website
Sponsorship opportunities on Rocketboom.com are an example of pre and postroll rates on an established channel. The channel hosts multiple new 3-5 minute variety shows per week which are viewed by thousands per day starting with their 115,000+ subscribers. Advertising rates for a seven-second postroll include, “This Episode Sponsored by” and the name and location of the company along with the company logo. Having such postroll added to each video for a week costs $20,000 with a guaranteed 1 million impressions. So if you take a closer look at Rocketboom's fees, they're charging $.02 per ad, per view or $20 per 1,000 impressions. A video’s view and impressions may be different and since a pageview and an impression are equal, you’ll need to know what you’re dealing with for each company.

If you have an established series and you're selling product placement or brand integration in an upcoming episode, there's no rotation of advertisement. Since the advertising is permanent, you'd obviously want to charge much more for this service. Permanent ads, including underwriting, command a higher price. While creativity is key in negotiations, consider all your options. A brand may only want to give you $50 for product placement, but they may offer $500 in products or services as an in-kind payment. Storing two pallets of soda can be problematic and it might not be a great deal particularly if you live in a studio apartment, while a $500 credit at a local pizza parlor may be a very attractive in-kind payment.

If you have an established vlog or channel, you might want to create a page on your site that has information on advertising opportunities. Most channels that do this will only post rates for banner ads and pre or postrolls. Many videographers shy away from talking about product placement or brand integration on their websites or channels because they don't want fans to think they're “selling out.”

It's important to remember that there's no universal guide to online advertising prices. Prices vary drastically, but by offering a good service at a fair price, you're more likely to get return sponsors.

Finding a Sponsor

Brainstorm a list of every type of product and/or service that relates to or compliments your video or vlog content. Once complete, associate the brands with the products and services on your lists. Try to divide or notate these brands by location; specifically, you want to keep track of brands by local, regional, national, and international advertisers.

While national and international sponsors may have deeper pockets, they oftentimes place their online advertising through an agency. You may find local and regional sponsors are easier to contact. Whether it's stopping by your local pet store or cold calling a regional marketing rep, there's no single best way to reach out to sponsors. Use a search engine to find company contacts and information. The more you know about a company and it's mission or vision, the more power you have in your sales pitch. Don't rule out using your social media network to find someone who's related to a specific company. It's all about getting your foot in the door. After that, a polished presentation, impressive video work, and compelling data are the tools you'll need to secure your sponsor.

Many sponsors, particularly grants or underwriters, will want a proposal. In addition to video samples of prior or current work, sponsors may ask for a written document that covers everything from your theme, mission, number of views, to demographics. The mantra “there's no one way to create your proposal” continues; it will need to be tailored to each individual project. PBS has an excellent website of grant funds available to new media projects.

Some brands and advertising agencies are reaching out to online content creators. Brandfame is one example of a site where advertisers and content producers can connect to match sponsors with video producers. Don't be afraid to contact advertising agencies, particularly if you have a large, dedicated viewership.

Tracking an Ad's Effectiveness

One way to show your advertiser the value of his or her advertising is to create a way to track the effectiveness of it. A great way to do this is to suggest to the sponsor that the advertisement be a coupon or discount code that somehow incorporates the name of your series or vlog, so the coupon can be traced back to the advertisement on your site. Be sure to ask a new sponsor if he or she noticed an increase in coupons, sales or store traffic since the advertisement began. Sharing your analytics with a sponsor can also increase confidence on placed advertising and may also inspire the advertiser to track their sales information more accurately.

Final Thoughts

Finding sponsors for your online videos requires research, preparation, and a lot of legwork. But once you establish a system and begin to build a network of advertisers for your content, your revenue streams will grow. Remember that a savvy sales presentation and compelling, polished video content will give you an edge when seeking sponsorship.

Don't Forget About Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing is an effective fundraising tool that many are using for both film and new media projects. Sites like www.kickstarter.com and www.indiegogo.com offer content creators the opportunity to seek individuals to sponsor their work. Usually these sponsors are private patrons who enjoy an artist's work as opposed to businesses seeking advertising. While crowdsourcing campaigns typically offer incentives such as T-shirts or DVDs as a thank you for a donation, there are many Web series that utilize crowdsourcing with the only perk of contribution being the continuation of the series.


White Hawk Bourne wears many hats. In addition to her work in journalism and corporate video, she is a screenwriter and an award-winning director.


White Hawk
Mon, 10/21/2013 - 8:21pm