Sponsorship. It brings to mind famous athletes wearing high-performance shoes in order to prove the gear’s worth and cool factor. It’s about one brand partnering with another to promote a product in the perfect context. More slam-dunks? It must be those shoes!
Similarly, in the marketing world, sponsored content can put your business in front of already engaged readers to demonstrate its effectiveness, value, etc. It’s simple: a business partners with a publisher to create and deliver written or visual pieces to a larger, targeted audience. It differs from branded content, which usually lives within the brand’s own site, social media channel, etc. As we explain here at Star Metroland Media: It’s a form of brand journalism, a paid media strategy to help you, our clients, share stories in a native and engaging way.
We’re not talking about ads or “salesy” pieces; we’re talking about thoughtful, on-brand content that fits perfectly within the media source. It’s a way to get your stories to people who haven’t yet connected or interacted with the properties you own (website, retail store, social media).
It’s been popular for decades, starting with the likes of TV soap operas in the ’50s (which were sponsored by household-product brands that had a guaranteed audience of “homemakers”), in-flight magazines and recipe books by major food brands. Today, it’s more common to see sponsored content throughout social media, and in magazines and newspapers.
So, what are the benefits of sponsored content? It can:
- Encourage customers to interact with your business
- Build your/your brand’s identity as an expert
- Distinguish your brand from the competition
- Introduce new products and/or services
- Build brand awareness via reader shares
- Reach more people through the established audience of the publisher/outlet
- Drive SEO for your website
Why it works
When viewing your brand alongside an already trusted and revered one, viewers tend to instantly associate the two in terms of credibility and value. Further, it’s seamless: sponsored content adds to the experience of the viewer instead of interrupting it the way an ad can. Imagine this: we work with a sporting goods retailer to create a story about provincial parks that organically integrates a camping gear review; for a wine producer, we write a story about rosé being the trend for spring that includes a list of newly released wines for backyard entertaining. The idea is to give your brand a spotlight within content that captures the interest of your target customers.
But it goes even deeper than that. The content specialists at Star Metroland Media, for instance, are constantly learning from their huge audience. Our team can determine what types of stories perform well, what time of day people might read a particular article and what device they’ll read it on. From that information, the team can determine when, where and how to promote your content across the network and other marketing channels in order to get the best engagement for your content.
What it looks like
Just about anything can be sponsored content; the only restrictions may be the capabilities of your chosen publishing partner. It can include listicles (short articles consisting of lists, rankings, etc.), narrative features, videos, infographics, tweets, pins, podcasts and more. In order to avoid confusion as to what is editorial and what is marketing content, publishers will usually place a word — such as “sponsored,” “sponsor content” or “brought to you by” — on the paid pieces; it’s a way of being completely transparent with the audience.
Check out examples of our sponsored content pieces we’ve done with our clients here.
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