Sponsorship is about more than money, says Mark Steadman

Bramble founder says commercial deals can provide validation as well as revenue

For many podcasters, the sense of validation that sponsorship provides is more important than the resulting revenue, according to Mark Steadman, podcast consultant and founder of independent podcast hosting company Bramble. 

Steadman, who has over 15 years of experience in the podcasting industry, told PodPod in the latest episode of the podcast that although podcasting can be a lucrative business, many creators see companies’ willingness to invest in their show as more of a measure of the content’s worth than as a meaningful revenue driver.

“One of the conversations I have with people is around sponsorship. What I came to is this realisation that it's really not about the money when it comes to sponsorship,” he said. “I've been in this position myself; it's about someone tapping you on the shoulder and saying, you're in the club, you count, you've got a show… it's a sort of legitimacy and a sense of being valued, I think, far more than it is the money.”

This is especially true for those who see podcasting as a way of building trust and awareness with customers, he said, noting that he works with a number of people who see podcasting as a core part of their business despite the fact that it isn’t necessarily going to be their main stream of revenue. Instead, podcasts are used as a way to build trust, authority, connections, and community. 

“If podcasting is a part of your business and it's a way that you can encourage people and invite people to work with you - whether it's to buy your course, to download your ebook, to come to an event, or as a way of getting more public speaking opportunities - you're probably much more likely to make money through the things that you sell,” said Steadman. “You will give away a lot less trust by advertising the stuff that you create than you will by selling a mattress or home insurance or whatever it is.” 

“It's about building that audience that wants to work with you. That is far more lucrative, because you're not giving away these little bits of trust every time you do an ad for someone else.”

Steadman also added that it’s important for brands to think about exactly what the purpose of their podcast is and how it is going to serve other people before launching one, to make the process of building an audience and awareness easier down the line. 

Prior to launching Bramble, Steadman also founded podcast and audio consulting media company Origin in 2021 and cloud-hosted podcasting platform Podiant in 2018, which was sold to Castos in 2021. Steadman told PodPod that the aim of Bramble is to support independent podcasters by helping them not only with the technical delivery of podcasts, but also with planning their concept, curating show notes, titles, blog posts, and so on.

“It's about supporting the podcaster as well, so it's giving a home, not just for the media, but also giving a place where the podcaster can sort of feel held and looked after,” said Steadman. “I wanted to take those ideas and bring them through to Bramble as well, so make sure there's absolutely the human support behind the creator as well as the technical infrastructure.”

Bramble is also very selective when it comes to accepting podcasters to partner with in order to make it easier for shows on the platform to cross-promote and grow their audiences through guest bookings and other tactics, according to a blog post by Steadman. The podcast consultant also told PodPod that shows in certain genres such as comedy and true crime that serve to entertain audiences will be ineligible to join the platform, as it’s not designed for their needs. 

“This is not a value statement at all but it's about who I can help the most,” said Steadman. “As entertaining as those shows are, the way I work and the way some of the systems are built, it would just not serve them very well.”