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Sponsored Content: Everything You Need to Know!

You’ve likely come across phrases like “Paid post,” “Presented by,” or “Sponsored by” while browsing online. These are telltale signs of sponsored content, indicating that a brand has invested in getting its content in front of you. The reason they do this? Sponsored content works!

Traditional advertising methods often go unnoticed due to banner blindness, but sponsored content offers a non-intrusive alternative.

Brands are increasingly shifting their digital marketing budgets towards native advertising, which includes sponsored content, paid social media posts, influencer marketing, and more.

Sponsored content is a smart way to expand your brand’s reach without the hassle of creating your content. It’s a strategy that has evolved from its print roots and is thriving in digital marketing.

In this blog post, we’ll delve deeper to gain an understanding of sponsored content, explore its different forms, and provide practical examples. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to engage your audience through this valuable marketing strategy.

But first, what is it?

What is Sponsored Content?

Sponsored content is a form of paid advertising where one brand pays another to create and share promotional material. It looks like regular content on a platform, seamlessly blending in without feeling like an intrusive ad.

It’s a win-win situation. Advertisers get to promote their products or services through content that doesn’t disrupt the user experience, and content creators, whether they’re publishers or influencers, receive compensation while delivering valuable information to their audience.

Sponsored content offers a more engaging and less intrusive way to connect with audiences compared to traditional advertising, and it’s prevalent on social media, blogs, and other platforms.

So, next time you come across content that seamlessly blends in but promotes a product or service, you’re likely looking at sponsored content.

How To Identify Sponsored Content?

Identifying sponsored content amidst the sea of online articles is crucial for making informed choices and maintaining trust in the information we consume. This task might seem daunting, but with a few key pointers, it becomes more manageable.

First and foremost, check for clear labels, such as “paid” or “sponsored,” which news organizations often place at the outset of these articles. This transparency helps readers distinguish sponsored content from regular news stories.

Another useful tactic is to look for the author’s name – if there isn’t one or it’s credited to “Staff,” this often indicates sponsored content. Sometimes, the brand is listed as the author, showcasing its promotional intent.

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Additionally, following the links within the article can be revealing. Sponsored content typically aims to guide readers to the sponsor’s website, and this can be accomplished through quizzes, lists, or mentions of the sponsoring brand.

In essence, keeping these strategies in mind ensures a more discerning approach to navigating the online landscape and safeguarding the trust of readers. After all, clarity and honesty are paramount in sponsored content, ensuring it remains a valuable tool for both brands and consumers.

Sponsored Content Vs. Branded Content

Sponsored content and branded content, though related, have distinct differences. Sponsored content involves a partnership between a brand and a publisher, where the content is collaboratively created and hosted on the publisher’s platform.

In contrast, branded content is crafted by the brand itself or its internal departments and is typically found on the brand’s properties like blogs, micro-sites, and content hubs.

Branded content serves as a tool to bolster a brand’s credibility by offering expert-level content. It’s often directed at an existing audience to enhance trust.

On the other hand, sponsored content is a strategic way to expand one’s audience and outreach. It’s an effective approach to reach new potential customers through the publisher’s existing readership.

In this era of content marketing, many forward-thinking brands are evolving into content publishers. They create content hubs and micro-sites to share valuable, informative content produced in-house.

This shift empowers brands to connect with their target audience by delivering content that is not only relevant but also engaging.

Take American Express, for example. Their digital content hub, OPEN Forum, is a prime instance of branded content. Instead of sales pitches, it prioritizes delivering valuable information, resonating with the audience, and solidifying their trust.

Such examples illustrate the power of branded content in building enduring relationships with customers.

Here’s a table summarizing the key differences between Sponsored Content and Branded Content:

AspectSponsored Content
Branded Content
Content CreationCollaborative effort between brand and publisherCreated and produced by the brand internally
Content LocationHosted on the publisher’s platformTypically found on the brand’s properties
Target AudiencePublisher’s existing audienceBrand’s existing audience
PurposeExpanding the brand’s reach and audienceEnhancing brand credibility and trust
Style and ToneOften aims for educational or entertaining contentFocuses on providing expert-level content
Publishing PlatformPublisher’s websiteBrand-owned blogs, micro-sites, content hubs

Having dissected the ins and outs of branded content, it’s time to shift our attention to another key aspect of digital marketing: Sponsored Content Vs. Native Advertising.

Sponsored Content Vs. Native Advertising

Sponsored content and native advertising, although similar, have some important distinctions. Native ads blend seamlessly into the platform where they’re displayed, matching their look and feel. They’re designed to be less intrusive and typically consist of a headline, product image, short description, and a call to action. For example, you might come across these on social media or in search results.

On the other hand, sponsored content takes the form of an article, video, or social media post. The publisher or content creator often creates it, although brands can produce it. Sponsored content aims to educate rather than directly sell, making it less “salesy.” This approach can be more engaging and informative for the audience.

A crucial point to remember is that sponsored content is subject to disclosure regulations. Publishers and influencers must clearly indicate when a post is sponsored, ensuring transparency.

Here’s a table summarizing the differences between sponsored content and native advertising:

AspectSponsored ContentNative Advertising
FormatArticles, videos, social media postsVarious formats (e.g., in-feed ads, sponsored search results)
CreatorOften by the publisher or content creator, but brands can create it tooCreated by the brand that benefits from them
Sales ApproachEducational, less “salesy”More direct, aimed at sales and conversions
TransparencyMust adhere to disclosure regulations, indicating when posts are sponsoredTypically marked as “ads” or labeled but less explicit
EngagementInformative and engagingBlends into the platform, may be ignored or scrolled past

Both sponsored content and native advertising have advantages, and choosing the right one depends on your marketing goals and audience engagement preferences.

Sponsored Content Examples

Sponsored content takes various forms, offering brands diverse opportunities to engage with their audience authentically. In this overview, we’ll explore several formats of sponsored content examples, showcasing their effectiveness and versatility. Let’s take a closer look at each of these formats and their unique characteristics:

Format No. 1: Sponsored Photos or Videos

Sponsored photos and videos offer a visually compelling way for brands to collaborate with content creators. These formats allow brands to seamlessly integrate their products or services into content, creating a natural and relatable connection with the audience. The success of this format depends on the ability to maintain authenticity and relevance, making it an engaging and memorable promotional tool.

Here are two examples of this format:

Good ‘n’ Fun: Good ‘n’ Fun, a dog treat brand, harnessed the power of real dog enthusiasts to promote their products. They shared a heartwarming photo featuring two delighted pups surrounded by their treats.

Digital creator Dulce Randall, who owns the dogs, seamlessly integrated the sponsored post with her content, showcasing her Husky and Corgi adventures. This example illustrates how sponsored content can organically blend with the content creator’s narrative, making it relatable and engaging for the audience.

Michelob Ultra: Michelob found a unique way to blend into content by sponsoring a Tastemade recipe video where their beer played a role in a shrimp ceviche tostada dish.

The beer’s usage as an ingredient subtly promoted the brand without altering Tastemade’s video style. This instance demonstrates how product integration in video content can be non-intrusive, offering value to the audience while promoting the brand.

Format No. 2: Sponsored Podcasts

Sponsored podcasts provide brands a powerful audio platform to connect with their audience. They can offer valuable insights, expertise, and relevant content while subtly promoting their products or services. The key to success in this format is to enhance the listener’s experience by aligning the brand with the podcast’s identity, ensuring the promotion feels seamless and valuable to the audience.

Here are two examples of this format:

Rise and Grind: ZipRecruiter sponsored a podcast series hosted by Shark Tank’s Daymond John. The content featured interviews with entrepreneurs, business leaders, and career tips, creating brand alignment for both ZipRecruiter and John.

This partnership demonstrates how sponsored content can enhance the listener’s experience by offering valuable insights and expertise while promoting the brand.

My Brother, My Brother, and Me: This comedic podcast creatively integrated Totino’s sponsorship by dedicating an entire episode to the snack brand.

The hosts discussed Totino’s history of favorite snacks and even played games involving Totino’s products, showcasing how product placement can be fun and engaging.

This example highlights the potential for sponsored content to be entertaining and memorable, increasing brand recall.

Format No. 3: Sponsored Influencer Content

Sponsored influencer content leverages the influence of social media personalities to promote brands authentically. Influencers connect with their audience through genuine, relatable content, making the promotion more effective and memorable. This format is highly effective in reaching niche markets and fostering trust with the audience when the influencer and brand values align.

Here are two examples of this format:

NordicTrack Sponsors Ben Gravy: Semi-pro surfer and vlogger Ben Gravy used humor to document his recovery with a NordicTrack stationary bike after a surfing injury.

The video was funny, relatable, and effectively showcased the product in action. This case underscores the power of influencers to connect with their audience through relatable, authentic content.

OTOTO Sponsors Hungry Artist NY: Kitchen product company OTOTO collaborated with food influencer Hungry Artist NY, seamlessly integrating their product into a recipe for garlic scallion noodles with steak.

The product placement felt natural and didn’t disrupt the video’s flow. This example showcases how sponsored influencer content can provide practical value to the audience while promoting the brand.

Format No. 4: Sponsored Articles

Sponsored articles are a subtle yet effective way to blend promotional content with editorial pieces. They seamlessly integrate into regular editorial content, enhancing engagement and credibility. The success of this format relies on delivering valuable information to readers who are already interested in the topic, making it an informative and non-disruptive form of promotion.

Here’s an example of this format:

Sleep Number: The Huffington Post published a sponsored article in collaboration with Sleep Number, offering a quiz and slideshow about the science of sleep.

The content seamlessly blended with regular editorial posts, enhancing engagement and credibility. This instance demonstrates how editorial sponsorships can provide valuable information to audiences interested in reading online news or blogs.

Format No. 5: Other Sponsored Content Formats

Various other sponsored content formats offer unique opportunities to engage with audiences. Whether through Snapchat filters, podcasts, or other innovative platforms, these formats can enhance the user experience by becoming an integral part. This approach adds value and ensures that the sponsored content aligns with the interests of the target audience, making it a highly effective promotional tool.

Here are two examples of this format:

Taco Bell (Snapchat filter): Taco Bell sponsored a Snapchat filter for Cinco de Mayo, which was viewed over 224 million times. This example showcases how sponsored content can become a part of the user experience, adding value rather than interrupting it.

Shopify Sponsors the “Vanguard by Shopify Studios” Podcast: Shopify empowers small businesses to make money, aligning perfectly with the podcast’s focus on subcultures and communities making money. This demonstrates the potential of sponsored content to connect with a niche audience through podcasting.

These examples highlight the effectiveness of sponsored content when it aligns with the content creator and the brand’s identity, regardless of the format or platform, creating natural, engaging, and credible connections with the audience.

Final thoughts

Ads surround today’s consumers, and many are ad-blind. Sponsored content is the way to break through the noise and create a lasting impression. It’s a win-win for brands and their audience.

But before diving into the world of sponsored content, consider the pros and cons. On the plus side, it provides real value to your audience, avoids annoying banner ads, and opens doors to new audiences. However, there are costs involved, regulatory rules to follow, and content creation challenges to conquer.

“The more we see something, the more we like it.” That is the idea behind Sponsored Content.

Further Reads:

Social Media Optimization: What Is It & How It Works?

Content Creation: The Ultimate Guide With Ideas!

Bandwagon Effect: Understand This Phenomenon & The Causes!

Video Content: The Power of Creating Engaging Content!

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