People don’t like advertisements; there’s even research to back it up. According to the Advertising Association in December 2018, public favorability of ads have hit a new low. Consumers are increasingly bombarded by ads and are averse to messaging that they deem unhelpful. It’s for this reason that content marketing, particularly sponsored content, is quickly becoming the most effective driver of sales.
Sponsored content is a longer-form piece of brand-sponsored content that lives on a media publisher’s site. It can take the form of articles, videos and other forms of engaging and branded media that moves prospects down the sales funnel. Here are some examples of high-caliber sponsored content on different channels in the wild:
Listicles, informational articles structured as a list, are one of the most effective content marketing tools to have in your toolkit. Listicles are easy to consume and allow the reader to skim for enticing information. In fact, people are wired to enjoy reading lists; check out this article from the New Yorker that explains why. This form of content also allows for marketers to seamlessly weave promotional messages into the article without coming off as too salesy. Here are a couple of great examples:
- 15 Bands That Probably Wouldn’t Exist Without Led Zeppelin by Spotify: This BuzzFeed article, sponsored by the music streaming service Spotify, is a phenomenal example of a strong listicle. It provides content that many music lovers would find interesting, and contains Calls to Action (CTAs) that link every band on the list to their Spotify profile. It also checked all of the boxes for how to create a successful listicle.
- Sunbathing: Expectation Vs. Reality by Cancer Research UK: This listicle, containing humorous content that is chock-full of images and video, was sponsored by Cancer Research UK. By including humorous examples of relatable scenarios, Cancer Research UK seamlessly spread awareness about a serious message: wear sunscreen when spending extended amounts of time in the sun to avoid skin cancer.
A big trend in sponsored content marketing is longer, more substantive content. A study conducted by Orbit Media found blog posts with larger word counts generate more traffic. When the content tells quality, memorable stories, like the examples below, the message sticks with its readers for far longer and ultimately garners results.
- Women Inmates: Why the Male Mode Doesn’t Work and
- Cocainenomics by Netflix: Netflix has had exemplary content marketing as of late. They partnered with two large national news media publications, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, to post in-depth exposés on subjects relating to their Netflix Original TV shows: an examination of how women are treated in prison to promote “Orange is the New Black” and an explanatory piece on cocaine traffickers in Medellin for “Narcos.” Both articles had engaging content that would resonate with the shows’ audience.
Source: The New York Times
- Exclusive Interview with Julia Marino by Mountain Dew: This long-form sponsored content was a feature article published by Vice Media. It contained a Q&A with snowboarder Julia Marino, a medal-winner for the 2018 U.S. Olympic team in Pyeongchang. The captivating article contained several references to different events that the brand, Mountain Dew, had sponsored.
According to Convince and Convert, 1200% more shares are generated on social media by videos than text and images combined. Videos and dynamic images draw the eye and generate considerably more engagements than other kinds of content. It can also fit in perfectly with the rest of your aligned and concentrated marketing strategy. This makes it an ideal medium for sponsored content, including product tutorials, expert testimonials, informative animations, webinars or exclusive behind-the-scenes content. It’s also perfect for influencer-driven content, particularly those on popular channels like YouTube. Here are a few examples:
- Partnership with a YouTube Influencer by Audible: Audible, Amazon’s audiobook subsidiary, got a number of YouTube influencers to post videos that highlighted their services. This instance was with influential lifestyle vlogger Grace Helbig, a user with more than 3 million subscribers. The video itself, as well as its bio, publicized a promotion that gave first-time customers an audiobook for free.
- How Worldly Experiences Can Shape One’s Success by InterContinental: This video, sponsored by InterContinental Hotels and posted on the Wall Street Journal’s website, features a CEO and founder of a company over the course of her stay at one of their hotels in downtown Los Angeles. She reflects on how her Korean heritage has inspired her work, while highlighting the luxurious features of her surroundings. This example successfully taps into its intended audience, professionals on business trips, by posting high-quality video content on the appropriate channel.
Source: The Wall Street Journal
According to a 2016 report from Statista, radio listeners have been on the decline. Podcast listeners, on the other hand, have skyrocketed, thanks in part to the rise of in-home interactive devices like the Amazon Echo and Google Home. They’re great channels for reaching a new segment of a brand’s target audience. Here are a couple examples of successful sponsored partnerships:
- “All WeWork and No Play” Planet Money Segment Sponsored by WeWork: The popular NPR podcast Planet Money aired a podcast discussing the trend of flexible workspaces and making office spaces for co-working. It was sponsored by WeWork, a company that offers these sorts of work venues. The engaging segment effectively boosted awareness of the company’s offerings and its benefits.
- “Chompers” by Oral B and Crest: “Chompers” is a podcast that contains entertaining trivia questions, riddles and stories and is published exclusively on the Amazon Echo. All of its subject matter has an emphasis on oral hygiene and health. It’s a perfect way to keep brands like Oral B and Crest at the forefront of consumers’ minds while delivering content that makes people smile.
Infographics are an essential storytelling medium for content marketers. Studies show that almost 50% of our brains are focused on visual processing. While infographics can be labor-intensive, they’re an investment your marketing team should consider to provide appealing and rich content.
- 7 Things You Didn’t Know About the Golden Gate Bridge by Wells Fargo and San Francisco Travel: This infographic was posted on Good Media’s website to boost tourism in the city. It provides visually appealing information about the bridge, ranging from the number of cars that have driven across to the babies born on the bridge.
- Global Logistics by UPS: This sponsored infographic, published by Good Media and Kiki Karpus, helps the audience visualize the grandiosity of the scale as to how a package goes from its source to your doorstep.
Thought Leadership Content
Thought leadership is a strong way for brands to build legitimacy within their industries; it’s particularly effective for B2B organizations. It demonstrates that you know your stuff and are pioneering new ways to succeed within your field. Here are a couple of sponsored thought leadership examples that hit their mark.
- Artificial Intelligence Innovation Video by Equals 3: Watch as the founder of Equals 3, a marketing tech startup, discusses how companies can solve the challenge of accessing unshared knowledge within their networks. The video was published on USA Today and effectively gave credibility to Equal 3’s services.
Source: USA Today
- Green Tips to Introduce CSR to your Organization by WCA Solutions: This blog, published on Business News, was a great example of a B2B company leveraging a publication with a professional audience to get the word out about its value. The content, in the form of a listicle, discusses how companies can become more environmentally friendly, while highlighting the benefits of CSR initiatives.
An honorable mention for effective sponsored content in the wild:
- This media medley created by Shell that was published on the New York Times’ website: It contains infographics, video, long-form content, photos and other interactive media. The post was educational, delving into the challenges and opportunities the nation faces with regard to transportation, and it’s evident that the content’s creator kept the user in mind throughout the creation process. Lastly, it has a kick-butt CTA to conclude the experience.
Source: The New York Times
People are more likely to pay attention to your brand’s stories if they’re strategically placed in formats that suit the message at hand. For more about creating content and partnering with media publishers to effectively drive prospects down the sales funnel, check out this resource.