Finding the Best Sponsorships

What separates the best sponsorships from the bad ones?

Looking For Sponsor provides a list of the best sponsorships and affiliate marketing programs so our creators can easily search for the opportunities that best fit their skills and brands. This page will give content creators and sponsorship seekers tips on how to find sponsors that best fit their brand and how to tell a good sponsorship program from a bad one.

This support page focuses on finding sponsors in our comprehensive sponsors list. If you're more interested in posting a custom sponsorship opportunity for companies to find, learn how to get sponsored on our platform.

Sponsorships, Partnerships, and Affiliate Programs

First, we should clarify some of the terminology surrounding sponsorships.

Most of the time, sponsorships, partnerships, and affiliate programs are interchangable terms. They may also be called referral, influencer, ambassador, or creator programs, though these terms are less common.

Different industries tend to focus on one or another of these terms. For instance, companies focused on gaming tend to offer sponsorships, affiliate programs, or both; fashion companies tend to offer ambassador and influencer programs; software companies tend to offer partnerships and affiliate programs -- you get the idea.

Regardless of the name used, these are programs that content creators sign up for in exchange for payment. The company/brand offering the program increases its revenue through partnership with the creator and the creator pockets some of that money.

With that out of the way, we can get on with our discussion of how to find the best sponsorships. If you get confused about any other terminology used in this article, see the small cheat sheet at the bottom of the page.

What is the Best Sponsorship?

This is the first question that many creators ask themselves. Of course everyone wants to find the best sponsorship available -- but what does it mean to be the best?

Creators are usually drawn to sponsorships that offer high base commission. However, most don't realize that their commission is only a piece of the puzzle; there are a number of factors that can impact how much money creators make from a given sponsorship. For instance:

What is the cookie duration?

Most sponsorship programs work by providing creators with a special referral link, which creators then share with their audience. When one of your followers clicks on the link, a cookie is set in their browser to keep track of their purchases on the sponsor's site. If that follower makes a purchase within the sponsor-defined cookie window, you get commission for that sale. If that follower makes a purchase after the cookie window has ended, then you do not receive commission.

As technical as this might sound, what it boils down to is: Long cookie window good, short cookie window bad. If a cookie window is too short, then it doesn't matter how high of a commission the sponsor offers -- you'll never manage to make a sale within that window anyway.

What do you get paid for?

You should read the fine print when you're looking for sponsors. Companies should always clearly explain when and how you'll receive commission. Sometimes, their terms for compensation are simple and easily achievable; other times, they're practically impossible.

You're probably in the clear if your sponsor outright says that you receive commission on any sales that are (1) made within the cookie window and (2) connected to your referral link. But if the sponsor only compensates you when referred customers perform some overcomplicated actions, then you're unlikely to earn money through that program.

On the other hand, some sponsors offer commission for relatively easy-to-accomplish customer behaviors (like free trial sign ups).

Are your payments recurring, one time, or a mix?

Some companies -- typically subscription-based and online businesses -- offer commission for the lifetime of a customer. That means that if a referred customer signs up with your sponsor, you'll receive a cut of their subscription fees for the lifetime of their subscription.

This can be a huge deal, especially if you're trying to make a living from sponsorships and affiliate marketing. Sponsorships like this can help make your sponsorship earnings more predictable and long-lasting.

What is the average sale price of your sponsor's product/service?

Quick: how much will you earn if a sponsor is offering a 10% commission on a product that costs $2 per sale? The answer: $0.20 per sale. So, not a whole lot. Sometimes a high commission can mislead creators into thinking they'll earn a ton of money from a sponsorship, but that's only true if:

  1. The product/service your sponsor offers has a low price, but your audience will purchase it in large volumes
  2. The product/service your sponsor offers has a high price

So remember to take into account both the price of the product/service your sponsor sells (they'll often provide the average sale price for you) and the volume of referred sales you can make. And the sale price also ties into another point...

What is the payout threshold?

Many sponsors define a certain amount of commission you need to earn before they transfer your earnings to you. This is important to consider, because if you can't earn enough commission then you won't actually get paid for your referrals.

For example, let's say that a sponsor only pays out your funds when you earn $50 in commission. If we look at our last example where you're earning $0.20 per sale, then you would need to make 250 sales before you'd see a dime of commission in your bank account.

Finally, how likely is your audience to care about the company, product, or service you're promoting?

Not every sponsorship or affiliate program is a good fit for every creator. Often, the best sponsorships are those that offer the products and services most appealing to your audience. If your supporters are vegan, then getting sponsored by a beef jerky brand (and yes, we have a few of those on our sponsors list) won't earn you a ton of commission -- no one will click on your referral links because they're just not interested.

You want to find a sponsor that your audience will want to buy from. For instance, if you're a YouTuber or streamer who plays fighting games (e.g., Dragon Ball FighterZ -- one of our faves), then you should be looking for sponsors that sell gaming merchandise.

Worried that sponsorships in your industry are too competitive? Or maybe you can't find sponsors that your audience would be interested in? Not to worry -- you can also get sponsored based on the indirect interests of your audience. This means taking a look at your supporters and thinking about the less obvious things they might be interested in.

Let's say you run a foodie Instagram account (#forkyeah). Your followers are obviously interested in food, so you can look for sponsors that sell food. But what other interests do they have? If you know that a significant portion of your fanbase is women, then they might be receptive to sponsors that sell women's clothing. If you know that your health food posts do very well, then maybe your followers would be interested in buying gym equipment.

Your Sponsorship Cheat Sheet

In other words, the best sponsorships are the ones that work best for you. You'll probably need to put a bit of thought into figuring out which sponsorships you should take and which you should pass over.

Sorry, we know that's not what creators want to hear. As a consolation prize, we've compiled a small cheat sheet to help you pick the very best sponsors for you and your brand. Check it out below -- and happy hunting!

Good sponsorships and affiliate programs have...

  • Low or non-existent payout thresholds
  • Long cookie durations (generally 30+ days, though standards vary by industry)
  • High conversion rates
  • High average order amounts OR potential for high volume
  • Clear explanations of when and how you'll be paid

Nice to have, but not need to have...

  • Recurring commission payments
  • Commission for leads, in addition to commission for sales (e.g., commission on free trial sign ups)
  • Advice, suggestions, and/or educational content to help their affiliates earn more
  • Discount codes to compliment your referral links, which can help bump up your conversion rate
  • Pre-made banners and marketing materials that are readily available to their creators

And here are some red flags...

  • Payment is required to join; almost every legitimate sponsorship program is free to join
  • Short cookie durations could prevent you from getting credit for referred sales
  • Unusually specific conditions for sale attribution could prevent you from getting credit for referred sales
  • High payout thresholds may prevent you from earning money, especially if you have low volume or a low average sale price
  • Inconsistent commission terms and/or referral windows; make sure to verify the actual values before enrolling in a program

Sponsorship lingo

  • Commission: Payment that you get for a sale or other desired action (e.g., free trial sign up). Expressed as either a percentage of the sale amount or a flat dollar amount.
  • Conversion rate: The rate at which a visitor to a website (typically called a lead) becomes a paying customer
  • Cookie duration: The duration between when a referral clicks on your link and when your credit for sales from that referral expire. If an affiliate program has a 60 day cookie duration and someone clicks on your affiliate link for that program, then you'll earn credit on their sales for 60 days (depending on the affiliate program's conditions for eligible sales). Also called cookie life, cookie window, referral window, click-through window, referral period, and tracking gap.
  • Payout threshold: The amount of commission you must accumulate before a sponsor will transfer your earned funds to you.
  • Referral: A customer that has clicked on one of your referral links. Sometimes called a lead, though this can vary based on the specific sponsor.
  • Referral link: A link provided by your sponsor, which tracks the behavior of the referred customer so that you can get credit for sales made by that customer. Also called an affiliate link or reflink.
  • Sponsorships: An agreement between a company (the sponsor) and a creator, in which the creator promotes the sponsor and is compensated for referred sales. Also called affiliate, ambassador, referral, partner, influencer, or creator programs.