How To Land Brand Sponsorships & Collaborations

How to land brand sponsorships and collaborations for bloggers, youtubers and instagrammers

I recently had a full circle moment in my life that I really feel happy about and compelled to share.

Back in 2013, I was at my first design internship at Keen. While I was working there as an intern, I was assigned the task of organizing all of the photos they use for marketing with all of the contracts they had with photographers & models. Because of this, I saw that people were getting PAID to go on adventures; to take photos of Keen shoes in Hawaii under waterfalls.

I’ve always loved photography, I love being outside, and more than anything I didn’t want to work in an office for the rest of my life. I dreamt of one day being paid to get sent on adventures and take photos… and as soon as my internship ended, I started my freelance journey and vowed to never work a 9-5 office job that I didn’t like. 

Cody and I started going on adventures and taking photos for local brands we loved to build our portfolio.

I figured if I wanted to achieve this dream of mine, I had to start somewhere.

Fast forward to 6 years later. Cody and I were recently paid to go on an adventure for Keen and be shoe models! If that’s not a dream come true, I don’t know what is.

Because we have been partnering with brands more often over the last year, I thought I would share the steps we’ve taken to get fun brand partnerships that actually PAY us. We’ve done many unpaid brand partnerships as well, but we would only agree to those if we felt the trade off was worth it. Sometimes it was, sometimes it wasn’t. I mean, no one wants to work hours and hours on a video only to receive a $45 water bottle in return.

Creative work is a lot of work despite what many people may think. It’s more than just running around and throwing shots together. A lot of the time, I see brands using people’s creative work for free without permission. Think about how much of your time you put into your work. To see some brands trying to get free marketing from unknowing people makes me very upset. And sure, there are some exceptions — like if brands ask permission first — but some people truly believe that “exposure” is compensation.

But we’ll save that discussion for another time.

For now, I want to tell you right off the bat that YOU ARE WORTH IT.

You are talented, you are creative, and you deserve to get paid for your amazing work. Whether that’s in monetary compensation or in products that feel like a fair trade off, you deserve it.

Oh, and before we go into it, if you want a more in-depth workshop on this topic, click the link below.

Now, here are my top tips for landing brand sponsorships & collaborations.

Define your own brand first.

If you want to start getting brand sponsorships & collaborations, the first thing you need to do is establish your OWN brand first. A brand is not just a logo, your fonts, and what colors you use. It goes way deeper than that. You need to have a great understanding of your message & who you are.

Start by answering a few questions about who you are, your goals, the dream brands you’d like to work with, and your values. What is the message you are trying to share with the world? For example, the main message Cody and I want to share within our own brand is to carve your own path & to create freedom to explore.

If you are clear about your brand, it’ll be easier for other brands to decipher if you are a good fit for them to work with and for your audience to find you! Need help with defining your brand even further? Check out our course Craft Your Brand.

Establish yourself by creating content that fits within your brand.

After you’ve defined your brand a little more, you should have a good idea of the topics you will cover when creating content. Will you be talking about travel? Lifestyle? Health? Once you choose a few broad topics you’ll cover, think deeper about them and narrow them down a bit. If you are creating content about travel, what kind of travel? Is it road trips? International travel? Local travel?

Once you’ve done a deep dive into your topics, choose 3 of your top values and create content based around them. Do you value sustainability? Then create content about sustainable travel. A brand will be more willing to work with you if you already have content that is similar to their values and the type of content they create.

Once you start creating content and establishing your own brand, it will be easier to determine which brands to work with and how to fit sponsorships into the content you already create.

Create content for free.

I know I mentioned above that you and your time are valuable, but there is a point in the beginning of your journey where you need to determine the value of working with a brand. Will creating content for free for them help you? Will it build your portfolio? Will it showcase your skills and talents?

When I first started in 2014, I took a look around at my favorite products. What type of content did I want to see? What did I want to create? What did I enjoy the most? I knew that I loved the outdoors and wanted to be in nature, so my target was outdoor brands. I started by taking a ton of photos of our hiking adventures and then posting photos and tagging brands in the photos I would post. I would blog about the adventures and share all of the photos. This was a great way to build my portfolio, practice working with brands, hone my skills, and it was the starting point to get where I am today. Now we are sharing our journey with others! If you want to see an old blog post of ours with brands we featured, you can check it out here.

I also have a recap post of our year in 2016 which was right when we decided to live in a van full time. There are a few different content creation projects that we worked on, most of them were for free, but we did end up getting a paid partnership with Stanley which was our first paid brand deal!

I share this with you because this is exactly how we started. The reason we landed our first paid brand deal with Stanley was because of a free project we worked on. This leads me to my next point….

Build a relationship with the people behind the brands first.

I believe the reason why we were chosen for a partnership with Stanley was because of the networking & free content we had created up to that point. We established relationships with others and started building our credibility by doing free projects in the beginning. So, think about your dream brands and how you can build a relationship with them first.

To this day, before I pitch a brand I still try to connect and build a relationship with them via social media.

Ask them questions, compliment them, and establish a friendship. The people behind big brands are just people. Don’t feel afraid to reach out and let them know how rad you think they are. Just remember that everyone you meet might be a very important connection. Treat them kindly, and give more than you receive.

Create a media kit.

After you’ve defined your own brand, established yourself with some content, and grown an audience, it’s time to create a media kit - also known as a press kit. A media kit is pretty much a resume for brand sponsorships & collaborations.

It’s normally a 1-2 page PDF that includes your numbers; followers, blog post views, popular content you’ve created, the type of people that consume your content, etc. It includes any previous collaborations, so if you did partner with a brand to create free content, this can help you look more credible by sharing logos of brands you’ve partnered with or case studies. You should also brand the media kit to fit your identity. Use your own photos, colors, fonts, and logos.

Include photos, examples of your work, & testimonials in your media kit. Give it some substance and show the world what your brand is made of. You want your media kit to outshine the others that hit your favorite brands’ inbox, so don’t be shy.

The point of the media kit is to look like you know what you are talking about (aka look like a pro) and to capture the attention of the brand you want to partner with. It should be everything an outsider needs to know about your business of influence packaged up in a clean tidy document, ready for presentation. This should be something you are proud to present, something that represents you and your brand.

If you’re interested in creating a media kit for your own brand, I have a customizable media kit template for you that you can edit in Canva or InDesign. Click here to check it out.

Find the right contact.

It’s important to make sure you are pitching the right person. So the #1 best thing you can do is find the right contact to connect with. Usually if you want to partner with a brand to create content, it’s best to see if they have a partnerships email via their website or find a point of contact from their marketing team.

The best way I’ve found to do this is to send them a DM via Instagram and ask for a good contact for partnerships & collaborations. If I haven’t already built a relationship with the brand, this is the next best way to reach out.

Think about it: you don’t want to send your pitches to their IT department… no one will see it! Make sure you find the right person to connect with. You can also check out a few influencer networks like Clever. We personally haven’t had any luck with these, but it is an option if you find yourself stuck.

Come up with your pitch.

Before you even send your media kit or an email to a brand, think of your idea first. Most brands are more willing to work with you if you already have an idea of what type of content you will create.

For example, if you are going on a road trip and you feel the brand would fit in with your road trip, give them brief overview of what you think the collaboration could look like for them. Let them know how it will help them and how it aligns with THEIR values & goals. Do your research on the brand before you pitch. Understand their goals and what they are trying to accomplish with their message. Once you have a good understanding of that, you can then pitch them your idea and show how it fits in within their brand.

Be authentic.

What does being authentic actually mean? It means that you’re sticking to your honest opinions, values, and you’re being 100% true to yourself. Don’t take a brand sponsorship that doesn’t align with your goals, your audience, or your own brand.

This is why it’s so important to define your own brand first because it’s easier to know what to say yes to and what to pass on. As YouTubers, we’ve been offered many types of brand sponsorships but if we don’t believe in the product or if we have never even used it before, we will say no. We always think about our own goals, values, and audience first before agreeing to work with a brand. Don’t try to fit into the mold of a brand, just be true to you and trust that you will attract the right people.

That is all I have for you today.

If you want a more in depth workshop on this topic, click the link below.