Navigating Brand Sponsorships During a Financial Crisis

The current health and financial crisis our world is facing is a challenge for everyone, including content creators and influencers. The economic uncertainty right now has changed the way that many brands and organizations are doing business.

If you’re a podcaster, blogger, YouTuber, or content creator, sponsorships and influencer marketing might be a significant portion of your annual income. Many creators have seen those partnerships shrink or vanish over the last few weeks.

Rich Jones is one half of the team at Paychecks & Balances, a personal finance podcast focused on helping millennials make money, save money, and get out of debt.

Kelan Kline is a successful full-time blogger. He, along with his wife, Brittany, founded The Savvy Couple to help families successfully budget their money and to find more freedom in their lives through gaining control of their finances.

Rich and Kelan sat down recently with Andy Hill to discuss their business models, how brand sponsorships have changed in the past month, and what other content creators and influencers can do to survive and thrive during this financial crisis.

Brand Sponsorship Experiences

For Rich, much of his podcast’s income revolves around brand sponsorships. Like many podcasters, they offer sponsorship packages with “midroll” advertisements during podcast episodes, along with social media and email newsletter mentions.

Kelan considers himself a micro-influencer. The Savvy Couple partners with brands in various ways, including:

  • Blog posts
  • Facebook Ads
  • Social media shares
  • Email marketing

Want to learn more about Sponsored Blog Posts? Click here.

How Brand Sponsorships Have Changed In This Crisis

Like many of us, both Rich and Kelan have experienced changes from brand partners recently as a result of COVID-19 and the current financial crisis. Influencer marketing is a line item getting slashed or dropped from marketing budgets everywhere.

The Paychecks & Balances team has been using a service to find and land sponsorships. If you’re finding it hard to find time to contact potential sponsors, using a service like this could be the way to go.

Recently, they’ve received notes from current sponsors looking for deep discounts on ads, often up to 50% off current rates. Rich says he’s told brands that, while he understands the current financial climate, he’s not willing to take a huge pay cut right now.

He’d rather pass on the discounted sponsorship revenue, especially since he has a day job. For Rich, it’s not worth his time investment to offer discounts at this point.

Rich Jones Paychecks & Balances
Rich Jones, Co-Host, Paychecks & Balances

Changes in Advertising Messages

Another change that Rich has seen is the specific talking points in sponsor ads. Rich says he’s had to have conversations with sponsors about the difficulty of “happy go lucky” ads during the middle of a pandemic.

At this point, all of their sponsors have provided updated talking points to reflect what’s going on now.

Decline with Blogging Sponsorships

Kelan says he’s noticed a decline in companies who want to work with other brands, including past partnerships. He thinks “everyone is in that stage where it’s like a lot of uncertainty happening right now,” which is affecting brands’ budgets to work with blogs and creators.

Something he sees is people in the personal finance niche setting themselves up to become leaders to serve their audiences. That’s what he and Brittany are doing right now.

They’ve made it a point to think outside the box on future partnerships and who they can reach out to in the coming months.

Click here to learn more about how influencers and brands can build better partnerships with each other.

Dealing With the Current Changes in Brand Sponsorships

Rich and Kelan have both spent time creating strategies for dealing with changes in their partnerships and sponsorship revenue. Here are some of the ideas they are currently implementing.

Focus On Your Audience

Rich says it’s important to understand your values when looking at sponsorship opportunities. Your audience should always come first. If a partner or product doesn’t serve your audience well, you shouldn’t touch it.

Rich says this has led to some missed opportunities, but he’s not concerned. Unfortunately, situations like we’re facing right now lead to people using questionable, predatory tactics, whether it’s on purpose or not.

Paychecks and Balances has gone as far as to include a note in their email newsletters to let their audience know that they’ve vetted every brand partner and used the products they are advertising. It’s a good idea to adopt this practice with your audience to continue to build trust and provide some peace of mind.

Kelan echoes those sentiments, and The Savvy Couple is focused on its audience because of this. It’s important to partner with companies that solve real problems and are helpful to your audience, whether it’s something you’ve used in the past or will use going forward.

Kelan says that always putting the reader first is big.

The Savvy Couple - Kelan and Brittany Kline
Brittany and Kelan Kline, Creators of The Savvy Couple

Be Proactive

Because some less-than-desirable opportunities are floating around, it’s crucial for content creators to get proactive when it comes to selecting brand sponsorships, both now and going forward.

According to Rich, everyone should be asking themselves, “what do people REALLY need right now?” Blogs, podcasts, and other creators should spend time making sure the brands they promote right now actually serve a need to the audience.

It’s also to remember that just because there’s a financial crisis, doesn’t necessarily mean people don’t have money to invest in themselves right now or in products and services they may need. There are people who do have the financial means. The audience for specific products might be smaller right now, but they are still part of your audience.

Kelan says that it’s a fine line for influencers to walk right now. You need to partner with brands you know are helpful to your audience.

Learn more about Influencer Marketing from a Brand’s Perspective here.

Find Ways To Pivot

An essential skill for all content creators is the ability to pivot when necessary. There’s never been a better example of this than right now.

Rich says he doesn’t feel pressure because his day job provides financial security. He’s not worried about getting laid off.

Affiliate Marketing

One way that their podcast pivoted is in the area of affiliate marketing. Rich noticed some of their partners were promoting services or products that didn’t align with their values, so they’ve removed some affiliates from their newsletters even though it’s more revenue. He realizes they will take a financial hit in this area.

Rich also says there are so many people and brands within the FinCon community doing great things. He’s been able to plug in other affiliates to replace the ones they’ve removed. He’s not sure about the financial outcome of doing this yet, but it was important for them to go down this route.

Click here to read about Affiliate Marketing for Beginners.

Since Kelan and Brittany both work full-time on their blog, they both have a lot at stake right now. Last year, almost 50% of their revenue was from sponsorships. They have seen a dip in their income.

While they do still have sponsors they’re working with, Kelan says their focus is on their current audience and growing their following and email list. He knows that in a couple of months, people will need financial help. When that happens, they will be ready with products and affiliate partners.

Email Marketing

Advice For Content Creators To Survive and Thrive During A Crisis

Kelan and Rich both have advice for other creators and influencers searching for answers right now.

Cut Expenses When Possible

Kelan says it’s wise to look at your monthly business expenses. Look at every tool you use in your business to see what you can cut out. If you work with freelancers, is that something you can pause until things improve? Cut back on any expenses possible to get yourself through this time of uncertainty.

Focus on Relationships

Relationships are everything. Think about current sponsors. Stay in touch with your contacts at those companies, whether it’s the head of their marketing department or someone else. Kelan says it’s much harder to find new partners than to keep the ones you already have.

Rich says podcasters need to stay in touch with sponsors, even if things are slowing down right now.

Partner with Sponsors on Timely Content

Another possibility is to partner with sponsors on Coronavirus-related content. This might not sell products or services for you or your sponsors but gives you a chance to work together to help people right now.

Prepare For Future Opportunities

Depending on your current situation, use any extra time to create new content to generate revenue down the road. Rich has been busy building a new course to market and sell one day.

Kelan says now is the time to get creative. Work on proposals right now for future partnership opportunities.

As content creators, we’ve had to lay a lot of groundwork before we achieved any success. Take advantage of this time to do the same thing by working on future projects.

Take Advantage Of Affiliate Opportunities

It’s a great time to find other ways to monetize to generate income too. Rich says if you don’t have sponsors to push people towards, think about affiliate opportunities. He says that they have a spot in their podcast episodes where they mention an affiliate if they don’t have a sponsor in place.

Use those times to share about a company or product you do believe in, even if it doesn’t lead to revenue right away.

Are you a beginning content creator? If so, check out Creator Camp, new this year at #FinCon2020.

Has the current crisis affected your brand sponsorships? How are you dealing with these changes? 

Please let us know in the comments below.


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Kevin Payne

Kevin Payne is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance and travel. He is a regular contributor to Forbes, The Ascent, Student Loan Planner, and FinanceBuzz. His work has also been seen on sites such Credit Karma and Millennial Money. Kevin is the budget and family travel expert behind