Sponsored Email Marketing: A Full Guide

Do you need access to niche audiences that want and need your product or service? Or are you a newsletter publisher looking for ways to monetize your work?

In 2024, consider using sponsored emails to reach more customers, drive brand awareness, increase your subscriber list, or generate revenue.

What is a sponsored email?

Sponsored emails are newsletters that contain some form of paid advertising. Advertisers sponsor newsletters that align with their business goals, values, and target audiences to reach their subscribers.

The newsletter creator provides the content, and your sponsorship complements it, letting engaged audiences know that you're there to help solve particular needs or problems.

Newsletters differ in the way they accept and display sponsorship ads.

Many publishers feature one sponsor per issue, while others may have several ads at a time. They might highlight your sponsorship first and foremost, strategically place ads throughout the issue, or group all sponsors together in one, dedicated spot.

There are just as many ways of letting the audience know it's a sponsored email, too. "Presented by..." "in partnership with..." in collaboration with..." "sponsored by..." "brought to you by..." "our sponsors..." You'll see all these and more in email newsletters once you start looking.

Sponsored email example from Marketing Brew
Sponsored Email example from Marketing Brew 

Newsletters also have several different ad formats. In marketing jargon these include:

  • Featured header
  • Display ad
  • Native ads
  • Classified ads

Keep reading; we'll demystify them all.

Benefits of sponsored email marketing

How advertisers use sponsored emails varies depending on their marketing goals.

You might drive awareness for your brand by sponsoring a popular newsletter in your niche. You could aim to drive leads to your website, get sign-ups for your course, or sell your latest product to new customers by offering discount coupons or extra benefits to a niche audience. Perhaps you'll give the publishing partner an affiliate deal as an added incentive or make the offer time-sensitive.

Whatever you choose, a good-fit sponsorship benefits the publisher, advertiser AND their audience.

It's a three-way partnership.

The publisher creates or curates relevant and interesting content. The audience consists of engaged readers who want that information. The advertiser offers a relevant product or service that solves a problem the audience may struggle with.

Why does it work?

As we discuss in "How to Run Newsletter Sponsorships That Work," our lives are so saturated with ads that we rarely even notice them when they pop up on social media or websites. They're a bit like the junk mail that still turns up in your physical mailbox. You sort out the letters, glance at the flyers and send them straight to the trash can.

When faced with overt digital marketing, we behave the same way. Many of us read the words and ignore the ads, while others use software to block them completely.

For advertisers, email sponsorships bypass all those internet traps. Instead, your ad goes straight into the inbox of readers interested in the value your product offers them.

Sponsored emails can be an excellent revenue stream for email newsletters. At the least, sponsorship helps to cover costs. At best, your newsletter is such a success that it becomes your full-time job.

Sponsored email formats

A featured header appears at the top of a newsletter, usually under the newsletter's banner header. That makes the sponsor's name one of the first things subscribers see when they open the email. This spot is reserved for the primary sponsor, so it usually costs more than an ad or message that appears below the fold where readers must scroll down to see it.

Headers can include an image, the sponsor's name and logo, and an acknowledgement of the sponsorship. They may even include animation, e.g., a slideshow, but there's rarely a lot of written content. That often appears further down the page as "a word from our sponsor."

Example one
Masterworks sponsored email

This Unusual Whales edition shows the newsletter's header first, then the Masterworks featured header, with "in collaboration with" showing that Masterworks is the sponsor.

Example two
Amphibian Capital sponsored email

This Coin Stack header has a similar layout, with the Coin Stack header and essential information (in this case, the date, issue, and bitcoin values) followed by the sponsorship header. The colors, shapes, and sponsor logo create a different look and feel from the Unusual Whales example.

Display ads

A display ad uses images, words, and perhaps even gifs or other animation to attract attention. It's often shown in a square or landscape rectangular format and reflects the sponsor's brand or product.

Display ads can appear anywhere in the newsletter but often feature near the top rather than languishing at the end.

Decktopus AI sponsored email marketing

Here's one from the LinkedIn newsletter AI Frontier and Decktopus AI.

Yobi sponsored email marketing

And a different look from Hustler's Launchpad, but still a display ad with an image, copy and two ways to contact the sponsor: a hyperlink and a QR code.

Native ads

Flashy, intrusive and irrelevant ads get the thumbs down from almost everyone. They don't work because most of us have developed ad blindness and completely ignore anything that screams advertising.

Native ads are all about keeping ads consistent with the publication's look and feel so that users have an uninterrupted reading experience.

Example 1
Refind sponsored email marketing example

Here's a great example of a company advertising in a newsletter that goes to its ideal target audience. This is native advertising because the ad format looks & feels like it's part of the typical Newsletter Operator content (although the fine print clearly shows it's a sponsored link.)

Example 2
Sponsored email marketing example

Hybrid Athlete Pro provides links to their sponsors and some brief content.

This works because it covers the regulations (readers should know if it's an ad), yet the form and feel fit the newsletter style, so it doesn't seem intrusive. Finally, it says the writer uses and likes them, so they feel like personal recommendations.

Sponsored content is a particular subset of native ads.

The content may still be designed to look and feel like it belongs in the newsletter or stand out as clearly written by the advertisers. However, it's more than a simple ad for a product. The content gives subscribers valuable information (while still being marked as sponsorship in some way.)

Eppo sponsored email marketing

Here's an excerpt from sponsored content found in Data Science Weekly.

This content uses the same font and style as the rest of the newsletter. Yet, it's identified as sponsorship and is given its own section. It stands out with an image (the only images in this issue come from sponsors), and the content targets the sponsor's ideal audience by explaining the advantages of using a reliable experimentation system for AB testing and linking to a white paper providing in-depth information.


Classified ads are brief and usually advertise things like jobs, products, other newsletters, podcasts, and any promotions the audience is likely interested in. You'll usually find several ads listed in the classifieds section, all just one or two lines with a call to action link to learn more.

Podnews sponsored email
The Podnews classified ads section.

Start your sponsored email marketing campaign

So, have you sorted out your email marketing strategy? Are you ready to start your newsletter advertising campaign but unsure where to begin?

Try Reletter. You'll find over a million newsletters hosted on Substack, LinkedIn and Ghost, and some could well be your next sponsorship partner.

Use Reletter to:

Find newsletters

Use Reletter to find newsletters to sponsor

Start a search for newsletters in your industry, then refine it by using our Active, Sponsored, Publishing Model, Engagement and Subscribers filters to narrow down the options.

Check their stats

Check newsletter stats on Reletter

Every newsletter in our database has a dedicated listing on Reletter. You'll find information on subscriber numbers and audience engagement, links to the latest issues, where it sits on the charts (Substack), and links to related newsletters.

Get their contact info

Get newsletter contact info with Reletter

Use Reletter to create a shortlist of email sponsorship possibilities. Then, email the publishers using our proven pitch template or select Contacts to find their email addresses and social media details.

Lastly, if you're wondering whether you can afford newsletter advertising, we've written an article that might help you decide.

Final thoughts

Many companies have already realized the benefits of email sponsorship. More and more newsletter operators view sponsored emails as a way to earn money and support their writing.

Are you planning to join them?

Try using Reletter to get access to newsletters in your niche and tools to help you assess and contact them. We've got everything you need for newsletter outreach and research.

See Reletter's value for yourself with a 7-day free trial.

Lyn McNamee

Lyn McNamee

Writer at Reletter

Find, contact and get featured in email newsletters

Reletter gives you subscriber numbers, contacts, chart rankings and more across 1.2m+ newsletters.

Lyn McNamee

Lyn McNamee

Writer at Reletter

Find, contact and get
featured in email newsletters

Reletter gives you subscriber numbers, contacts, chart rankings and more across 1.2m+ newsletters.