Everything You Need to Know About Sponsored Content



May 18, 2021 (Updated: May 4, 2023)

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Marketing is an integral step of a successful brand, and in today’s digital world, marketing is more effective than ever before. Sponsored content is one of the intricacies of highly effective marketing, especially in the current marketplace. When used correctly, sponsored content can help generate more traffic and revenue for your brand. Let’s take a closer look at what sponsored content is and how it can benefit your marketing efforts.

What Is Sponsored Content?

Sponsored content is a form of premium content created by a publisher to promote a sponsor’s product or service. The sponsor pays the publisher to develop and distribute the content. The copy of sponsored content is designed to resemble the editorial content of the publication in which it appears but clearly defines the products and services being advertised. This type of content is also called native advertising since it feels and looks like the native content found on the site.

The first step of any type of marketing is to identify your target audience. Once you have identified a target audience, the next step is to find the most effective way to reach that audience. Sponsored content is a proven method for engaging your target audience. Established publishers are an excellent resource for promoting your brand, and many of them have created separate divisions dedicated to designing, writing, and producing sponsored content. This type of content can include infographics, videos, entire microsites, or articles designed to capture the attention of your core customer base and drive sales.

When creating sponsored content, it must be engaging to the audience. This will ensure that the audience will spend much more time with the content. One of the main goals of sponsored content is to convey value to consumers of the media through entertainment or education. The less restrictive nature of sponsored content allows the content creators to be as creative as they want to be, as long as the posted media is clearly marked as promoted or sponsored content. Ultimately, it gives you the ability to mention your products or services directly and implement a call to action.

What Makes Sponsored Content Such a Popular Form of Marketing?

There are many advantages to using sponsored content to promote your brand. A few of the reasons why sponsored content is so popular are as follows:

  • Sponsored content adds credibility and trustworthiness to your brand when placed alongside other content that your target audience enjoys.
  • Sponsored content doesn’t disrupt the user experience like classic advertising does. In essence, you can pay for brand exposure without interrupting people with advertisements.
  • Sponsored content can be created in many formats, such as:
    • Listicles.
    • Articles.
    • Videos.
    • Infographics.
    • Photos.
    • Carousel Ads.
    • Snapchat stories.
    • YouTube videos.
    • Sponsored Tweets (Twitter).
    • Sponsored Pins (Pinterest).
    • Facebook stories.
    • Podcast series or episodes.
    • Instagram TV Episodes.

Brand exposure is also increased when sponsored content is used and can promote:

  • Brand awareness.
  • Trust.
  • Leads.
  • Customers.
  • Relevance.
  • Traffic.
  • Conversions.

Sponsored content mutually benefits content creators and product creators. Content creators with an audience are compensated for their time and efforts when integrating sponsored content into their platform. Product creators benefit from this arrangement by gaining an audience.

Sponsored Infographics

About 10 years ago, infographics erupted onto the graphic design scene and are now a staple marketing tool. The simple explanation of an infographic is taking information or data and presenting it as a visual representation. The purpose of an infographic is to combine minimal text, imagery, and charts in such a way as to give an overview of a topic that is easily understood.

These engaging and informative marketing tools can be taken a step further and turned into sponsored infographics. This is an infographic that is carefully crafted to give an overview of the products or services offered by your brand. Infographics that are curated to grab your target audience’s attention will pique their interest, having them engage in further exploration of what your brand has that can benefit their everyday lives.

Image via CopyPress

Sponsored Content Journalism

Journalism can be explained as an unbiased approach for disseminating information to the public. So how does sponsored content fit into journalism when it is anything but impartial? It fits into journalism by being labeled for what it is, promoted or sponsored. In this way, consumers are made fully aware of the type of content they are consuming.

Several phrases you may see marking sponsored content are:

  • Paid post.
  • Presented by.
  • Sponsored by.
  • Partnered with.
  • Promoted.
  • Affiliated with.
  • Powered by.

When publishers are enlisted to create sponsored content for your brand, their journalists can seamlessly integrate it with their existing media. This makes it easier to understand and read as their audience is familiar with the publication’s editorial style. Using sponsored content journalism as part of your marketing efforts helps expand your audience and reach people you wouldn’t have otherwise.

Sponsored Content Regulations

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires that sponsored content be clearly marked and suggests the following guidelines for disclosures to be:

  • In a clear and unambiguous language.
  • As close to the ads as possible.
  • In a font and color which stands out from the background and is easily read.
  • On the screen for a long enough period for consumers to read and understand in videos.
  • Read at a speed that is easily followed and understood in audio content.

Many brands that use social media platforms, key opinion leaders (KOLs), and influencers now use hashtags as a means of staying compliant with the FTC regulations. For example, #ad, #sponsored, and #partner are used to clearly mark content that is sponsored when on these media outlets.

Best Examples of Sponsored Content

Everyday examples of sponsored content are easy to find, and it’s an older concept than some may think. Sponsored content has been around for more than 100 years and got its start on 1920s radio. Radio stations of this era created shows that told stories, like the true crime podcasts of today. Producing serial radio programs was expensive, and radio stations had to enlist sponsorships from household goods manufacturers.

The first big brand to agree to such a partnership was Procter & Gamble who used the platform to advertise Oxydol, a soap laundry detergent. As the shows grew in popularity, they were synonymous with the brands that sponsored the shows and were appropriately named soap operas. Now, over 100 years later, sponsored content continues to grow in popularity and effectiveness, adapting to marketing’s ever-changing landscape.

Let’s take a look a some of the best examples of sponsored content in the modern age:

Hot Ones and Tums (YouTube)

This sponsored content is a match made in heaven. Hot Ones is an interview show on YouTube that features hot-wings and celebrities. For the ninth season of the show, Hot Ones partnered with Tums, and it was both appropriate and hilarious. The union of Hot Ones and Tums helps solidify how viewers associate spicy foods with the brand Tums.

YouTube has a few flavors of sponsored content for you to use, including pre-video adrolls, in-video segments, and in-video adrolls. Every episode of the ninth season of Hot Ones had a Tums pre-video ad and featured Tums when guests of the show were struggling with a hot wing.

BuzzFeed and Hot Wheels (BuzzFeed)

BuzzFeed uses its platform to reach the masses with topics of interest. Hot Wheels is quite possibly the most renowned toy brand to ever exist. When BuzzFeed created an opportunity to address the importance of children’s playtime with its editorial style, Hot Wheels sponsored the article, and this was a smart move.

BuzzFeed clearly states when their media is a paid post by indicating the sponsor of each post. All of their sponsored content is relevant to the featured brand, and the brand is always an authority on the specific topic. Hot Wheels used this platform to promote trust, awareness, and relevance for its brand.

NowThis and BlackRock (NowThis)

NowThis is a popular news site with an innovative approach to presenting the news. BlackRock is a successful investment firm. NowThis produces original shows, and it was only suitable for BlackRock to partner with them when they decided to create a show about investment. Invest in Yourself is a hit, and it helps viewers learn how to unlock financial well-being. It focuses on learning how to budget, give, save, invest, and more. BlackRock received a lot of brand exposure from the show, making the partnership a no-brainer.

Vanguard and Shopify (podcast)

Podcasts are one of the fastest-growing markets today. Brands can sponsor podcasts related to their products or services, gaining awareness and growing customer loyalty. Vanguard is a show that explores how communities and subcultures can make money in today’s world. Shopify inspires and empowers small businesses to make more money. It makes sense that these two would partner to help bring prosperity to those in need.

Taco Bell (Snapchat filter)

Taco Bell has always been on the cutting edge of advertisement with their witty commercials, radio ads, and now Snapchat filters. Taco Bell advertising typically sticks in your mind long after you have viewed or heard an ad. The Taco Bell Snapchat filter was viewed well over 200 million times, making it a huge success.

Sponsored content like a Snapchat filter is integrated into the user experience with no interruption. Snapchat users who saw and used the Taco Bell filter hardly noticed that it was an ad, but they most likely had a subconscious thought of their favorite Taco Bell menu item.

There are two types of Snapchat sponsored content for you to use:

  • Sponsored Snapchat stories are content that is spliced between the users’ stories to promote a brand.
  • Sponsored Snapchat filters are a created lens either placed on the users’ face or camera that promotes a specific brand, product, or service.

Jacob Moon and Live A Great Story (Instagram post)

Jacob Moon is a traveler and photographer with a large following on Instagram. Live A Great Story is an Instagram account that believes life is a journey. Jacob or @moonmountainman on Instagram shares common values with Live A Great Story or @liveagreatstory on Instagram, making a sponsored Instagram post the perfect fit for both.

As with other social media outlets, Instagram has a few different formats you can use, including:

  • Sponsored Instagram stories.
  • Sponsored Instagram posts.
  • Sponsored Instagram ads.

Jacob’s sponsored post is very consistent with the type of content he creates, not interfering or distracting users as they scroll through their feed. Live A Great Story was able to gain instant credibility from Jacob’s fans and create brand awareness by sponsoring this post.

UEFA Champions League and Heineken (Instagram story)

Heineken timed this sponsored content partnership right. Many people were excited by the return of the UEFA Champions League, and Heineken took advantage of the opportunity to target Instagram users that follow European football. Heineken was able to promote its brand as the only go-to beverage when viewing UCL action.

Sponsored content on Instagram comes in the form of a story and is not an intrusive ad. Sponsored stories only present themselves between other Instagram stories launched by the user. This allows sponsored content to flow naturally in the Instagram feed and doesn’t disrupt the user experience.

UPS (Facebook)

As with many different brands that sponsor content on Facebook, UPS-sponsored content on Facebook is very similar in appearance to any other post you will find in your feed. Like LinkedIn and Instagram sponsored content, sponsored Facebook posts are designed to match all other content’s functions and style on the site. This allows sponsored posts to be spliced into your feed and the content from pages you may follow.

Affinity.co (LinkedIn)

If you were to choose the top two platforms best suited for sponsored content, it would be LinkedIn and BuzzFeed. They both provide a format that seamlessly integrates sponsored content. LinkedIn has a specific design for uses in business without the clutter of recreational use.

LinkedIn’s feed is professionally focused and makes it almost impossible to distinguish between a sponsored post and a user-generated post. Both types of posts are the same in appearance, function, and how the user consumes them. When you click on a LinkedIn sponsored post, you will be directed to the sponsor’s profile, keeping you on the greater LinkedIn site longer.

Conclusion: Sponsored Content Is Good for Your Brand

Whether you are exposed to sponsored content via a podcast, YouTube video, news feed, social media platform, or any other platform, the premise is the same. Sponsored content is created to be engaging but not intrusive or distracting. You will experience sponsored content in the shows that you watch and the social media platforms you follow. When sponsored content is integrated within the things you already like, you will associate specific brands with those things. This grows brand awareness, improves a brand’s credibility, and builds trust between a brand and its target audience.

Author Image - jross

CopyPress writer

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