What Is Sponsored Content and Why Does It Work?

Turn on the television or your car radio and wait for the next commercial (it won’t take long). Take note of phrases that signal sponsored content like, “Presented by…” or “Made possible by…”. 

Businesses develop media called sponsored content for a publisher or network to distribute to a wider audience than they can reach organically. While the content is relevant to the company, it’s molded to fit the specific platform’s style and audience.

Let’s dig further into what sponsored content is and why it works.

What Is Sponsored Content?

Sponsored content is just what it sounds like: organic content companies use to gain exposure, improve their brand imaging, boost product launches, and more. They pay someone to publish the content for them in a mutually beneficial partnership that gives the host extra content and some cold, hard cash.

What’s the difference between sponsored content and your typical advertisement? It is less invasive. It’s not a pop-up or a commercial depriving you of your favorite TV show. The content looks and sounds like it belongs on the platform — just with some brand mentions and talking points mixed in.

Examples of Sponsored Content

To help you understand how to implement sponsored content in your marketing strategy, let’s unwrap some examples.

  • Online or Print Articles

Many businesses use blog posts to increase website traffic and open up their sales funnel. When they pay third-party digital publishers to post these, they’re providing sponsored content. 

One of the most popular types of this content is the listicle. Listicles marry lists with opinion content to rank ideas in an engaging, selective way. An example of a listicle you might find online is “Top 10 Places to Visit This Summer” or “The Best Social Media Platforms for Your Business.”

  • Social Media Posts

Sponsored content is common on social media platforms. The rise of social media influencers has given brands new organic channels. These influencers have trusting, highly engaged audiences, which are as good as gold to brands. 

These posts may be text-based, but many are videos. Search YouTube for product reviews and challenges, and most of what you’ll find is sponsored content. Notice how these influencers mix their own ideas with branded messaging. 

  • Live Events and Presentations

Sports lovers will be familiar with this type of sponsored content. Every professional sports league has multiple partnerships with companies looking to tap into their fan bases. 

Like the social media content mentioned above, this category of content can take multiple forms. Trivia sessions during timeouts may be sponsored by companies. So might intermission content, like half-time shows. 

Why Does Sponsored Content Work?

Now that you have a better idea of what sponsored content is, it’s time to understand how and why it’s effective. As you continue reading, think about how to align your company’s messaging with one of the formats described above:

Less Intrusive

Most consumers aren’t fans of in-your-face sales and marketing tactics. Consumers want brand messaging to be integrated with the other content they consume. Brands should, too: Organic delivery prevents audience members from clicking away or tuning out.

Remember, sponsored content works best when it covers something the listener, reader, or viewer is already interested in. That way, it comes across as informational and helpful rather than merely promotional. 

More Authentic

Consumers find it easier to trust branded content than other forms of advertising. Sponsored content comes across as more sincere not only because of the content itself, but also because of the connection audiences feel to the partnered media outlet. 

Choose your sponsored content partners carefully. If a partner isn’t relevant to your audience, your content may come across as just another ad — assuming your customers bother to pay attention in the first place.

How can you tell whether you’ve found the right fit? The partner’s perceived authenticity leads to higher engagement rates and sales. Consumers listen to media figures they relate to and trust. 

Greater Exposure

When you release sponsored content, it reaches two audiences: your brand’s existing audience, as well as that of the platform you publish it on. The result is that your messaging reaches more consumers than you would either on your blog or through a traditional ad. 

Say you strike a deal with an Instagram influencer with more than a million followers. Your brand’s fans will check it out, even if they’re not already familiar with the influencer. Her fans will also be interested, even if they’ve never heard of your brand. That’s a lot of people who will see your content.

The trick of sponsored content is developing messaging that appeals to both audiences. That isn’t easy, but it is effective. 

Is your marketing team up to the challenge? Sponsored content could be the game changer that puts you over the top.

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