Hosting a masterclass can be a financial gamble. Will enough learners sign up to cover your costs? What happens if you invest hours in planning your masterclass, but struggle to make a profit? Perhaps you want to teach learners who can’t afford to pay a large fee to join your masterclass, but you still want to make the income worth your while. Attracting a sponsor (or two!) is a great way to mitigate your risk and split your costs, making it easier to produce a profitable masterclass.
Different types of cost sharing
Cost sharing can take many forms, from affiliate revenue earned from products you promote to your learners, to a company logo or banner reproduced on your masterclass materials. Generally speaking, the greater the upfront benefit you want the sponsor to provide, the more input they’ll want in your masterclass. Affiliate marketers might not care what products you choose to promote, or how you promote them, while a sponsor covering all your expenses could insist on their brand name becoming part of your masterclass title.
Joint venture partners seek mutual benefit. If you’re hosting a masterclass on grilling steaks, you could approach a barbecue manufacturer to co-produce the masterclass with you. Or maybe you could host your masterclass on interview techniques in tandem with another edupreneur who teaches HR skills. Usually in joint ventures, the cost and the work of creating and presenting the masterclass are split between the partners, limiting the risk on both sides, while creating a more enticing opportunity for learners.
Investment is also possible for masterclasses. Investors will usually take a back seat when it comes to planning and promoting the masterclass, but expect a return on their investment if the class generates a profit. If you anticipate high upfront costs, for example if you need to purchase the equipment for demonstrations, or want to set up a home studio, seeking an investor who will cover the initial expenses could be the best way to limit your financial exposure.
Consider the subject of your masterclass, and your potential costs—the money you will have to recoup before you can turn a profit. This includes equipment, software, advertising, and the time you spend writing, preparing, and hosting your masterclass. Then be realistic about the number of learners you’re likely to attract, and the price point at which you can sell spaces. Will your estimated income cover your estimated expenditure? If not, how great is the shortfall? A masterclass with a predicted profit, or very slim margins, could make enough extra cash with affiliate marketing alone, while sponsorship or investment is a better route for masterclasses with more inherent risk.
Of course, you don’t need risk to make sponsorship worthwhile. Any revenue you generate over your costs increases your bottom line, so it’s always worth approaching potential sponsors even if you stand to make a profit. One great sponsorship deal could turn an already profitable masterclass into your biggest earner.
Locate relevant businesses and brands
Before approaching potential sponsors, you need to consider the value that sponsoring your masterclass will add to their brand. Ideal places to start are companies that offer goods and services your learners would use, or that are in the same industry as your masterclass. Businesses that hire learners with the skills you teach also make great sponsors. And don’t be afraid to think outside the box—if your learners share a demographic with a company’s customers, it doesn’t matter if you masterclass is on an entirely different subject. A chance to get their brand mentioned before the right people could be incentive enough to sponsor your masterclass.
Timing is crucial when approaching businesses with sponsorship offers. Large companies will usually have sponsorship budgets that become available annually and will often look to sponsor events at particular times of the year. Do some research on the busy and slow periods in the industries where you’re considering seeking a sponsor. Educational institutions will usually sponsor more events in the winter when students are considering applying to college and are less likely to strike sponsorship deals for the summer, when there are no classes in session. Alternatively, sporting goods stores are more likely to sponsor events during major sports seasons. Find the peak times for the businesses you want to approach and demonstrate in your pitch why the timing of your masterclass is right for them.
Identify your assets
Don’t expect your sponsors to connect the dots between their businesses and your masterclass. When you present your pitch for sponsorship, you should be able to illustrate exactly what benefits they get from sponsoring you. This is your value proposition, and it needs to be worth the price you expect them to pay.
If you have already created online courses, host a website, or have a dedicated social media following, drill into your analytics so you can show sponsors detailed information about your audience. What demographics do they belong to? What products do they buy? What shared interests overlap with your sponsors’ brands and businesses? The more evidence you can present that sponsoring you is a good investment, the more likely you are to get a favorable outcome.
Create different sponsorship levels and packages
It’s unlikely you’ll find a single sponsor to underwrite your entire masterclass. However you can spread your costs among several sponsors by providing different levels and packages of sponsorship. Entry-level sponsors might pay a small amount for you to mention a particular product and provide your learners with a link, while top-tier sponsors could pay four or five figures to tie their branding into the name and content of your masterclass.
Think about the different ways you can incorporate sponsorship into your masterclass. And remember not every sponsor has to provide financial compensation. If you need to use any equipment during your class, could a manufacturer provide it in return for getting it in front of your customers?
Other sponsorship opportunities and ideas include:
- Social media shoutouts and mentions on your website
- Product mentions and links in your masterclass handout
- Adding a company logo to your masterclass branding
- Offering your learners a coupon for discounted goods or services
- Providing sponsors with tickets for your masterclass
- Including an advertising for the company within the masterclass broadcast
Search (and research) sponsors online
There are sponsors available right now, looking for the right events to cover. Marketplaces such as sponsormyevent.com and sponsorpitch.com connect hosts with potential sponsors. Here you can list your masterclass and interested sponsors you might never have thought of can contact you, rather than you having to go to them.
Research relevant business in your area and use their online information to find the appropriate person to approach. For larger companies, try the branding team. For small businesses, speak to whoever controls the money. A personalized pitch is more likely to get a good result than a generic email. Check out similar seminars, lectures, and conferences to your masterclass and see who their sponsors were. They might be willing to sponsor your event as well or give you new ideas for companies and industries to approach.
Make the most of existing contacts
Your existing contacts already know and trust you and having an “in” with a company will go a long way toward getting you a good deal. Consider making a general social media or website post announcing that you’re looking for sponsors. You never know if a past learner or online friend works for a company looking for sponsorship opportunities or knows of places where you can pitch.
Speak to friends and colleagues in your industry to scout for sponsorship ideas and opportunities. The bar to convince a company to sponsor you will be lower if you approach them with a personal recommendation from somebody they already trust.
Finding the right sponsor for your masterclass is a good way of limiting your financial exposure, but it can also lend your masterclass credibility and prestige within your industry. Imagine choosing between a tech workshop with no sponsor, or one sponsored by Apple. Sponsors are often viewed as endorsing the product they put their name to, so make sure you research thoroughly to find the best sponsors to approach and deliver a winning pitch.