The first printed advertisement in the US was published in The Boston News-Letter in 1704. Since then, advertisements have undergone significant transformation. From television adverts to the rise of influencers ads on social media, the nature of advertising is changing as the world becomes growingly digital.
As a result of these changes, traditional advertising methods such as print adverts or website banner advertising are becoming less effective. Instead, people seem to be drawn more to sponsored content, where advertisements look less like a traditional ad and more like natural editorial content. Research has shown that sponsored content that is educational or informational results in increased brand trust when compared to traditional advertising methods.
In this article, we are taking a deep-dive into sponsored content to provide you with a detailed business guide to sponsored content covering everything from what is sponsored content, to where to find it, how to create sponsored content, and how to improve the performance of content.
What is sponsored content?
Sponsored content is a form of advertising where the advertiser pays a publisher to create and distribute promotional content for them. However, the format of sponsored content, or native advertising, differs greatly from traditional advertising methods. While traditional advertisements are easy to spot due to their format, sponsored content will blend in with the natural existing content on the publisher platform.
For example, sponsored content in a print magazine may appear as a sponsored article or editorial-style advertorial that is consistent style to other non-sponsored articles throughout the magazine. However, a traditional print magazine would be easily recognized as a quarter, half or full-page advert that is an image or text advert promoting the brand.
Sponsored content is a popular form of marketing. By integrating sponsored content into your marketing strategy, you can take positive steps towards increasing brand credibility and, in turn, improving consumer feelings of trust. Sponsored content can also add to the user experience by complementing other published content on the platform, rather than disrupting it. Furthermore, sponsored content isn’t restricted to just one format. This allows you to have more flexibility and creativity with your paid media efforts.
Where can sponsored content be featured?
Sponsored content isn’t just limited to print publications such as newspapers and magazines. In fact, sponsored content can be found on almost any type of content platform. Social media, podcasts, magazines, blogs, television shows, and the radio are all examples of platforms that frequently feature sponsored content.
An example of sponsored content on social media would be an Instagram post by a social media influencer that is promoting a particular brand or product. This type of sponsored content will either be part of a paid sponsorship or an agreement between the advertiser and influencer where the advertiser provides a “free” product in exchange for a post.
In podcasts, you may recognize sponsored content when the podcast host talks about a product they have recently been enjoying and shares a discount code for the listener to try the product for themselves. Whilst this is a more obvious example of sponsored content, some types of sponsored content are less easy to recognize. One example of this would be sponsored content on a blog. Sponsored content on blogs will normally be a guest post by the sponsor, or an article that includes links to the advertisers website, or features their products, services, quotes or infographics in their article.
However, it is worth noting that while all sponsored content will feature a brand, not all brand features are sponsored content. It is normal for natural, non-sponsored content to also contain brand or product recommendations, updates or information.
How to spot sponsored content
If you’ve read an article, listened to a podcast, or watched a YouTube video and seen or heard the words “sponsored by”, “paid post”, “affiliated with” or “promoted”, it’s likely that you’re already familiar with sponsored content. These phrases are clear indicators that the content you are consuming is sponsored content.
Newspaper, magazine or blog articles that are sponsored may also be prefaced with the tag of “advertorial” or “sponsored”. Meanwhile, in sponsored social media content by influencers, you may recognize sponsored content by the use of “ad” or “#ad” in the post caption or video title.
However, sometimes it isn’t that easy to tell if the content you’re consuming is part of a paid-for advertisement. Other things to look out for when trying to identify whether something is sponsored content include:
- Author name – Check whether the article has been written by the company or an employee of the company
- Links within digital content – Look for links within digital content that direct readers to the brand website or products
- Product placement within content – Does a product feature in the article, television show or content you’re consuming? If so, this could be part of sponsored content
- Brand mentions within content – Check if the content includes brand mentions, surveys by the brand, or quotes from the business employees
By being aware of the different elements of sponsored content, you will be more able to identify sponsored content when you’re next reading a magazine, catching up on a podcast, watching a television show or scrolling through social media. Although, it is important to note that organic content can also sometimes include brand mentions and links.
Advice for creating Sponsored Content for your business
Sponsored content can often be better received by consumers than traditional advertisement due to being less intrusive or obnoxious. Therefore, you may want to consider incorporating sponsored advertising into your wider marketing strategy. If you are thinking about creating sponsored content for your business, there are several steps you can take to make sure you get the most out of your paid media.
The first thing you want to do when planning sponsored content as part of your marketing strategy is to make sure that you align with publications, influencers and content platforms that are representative of your brand and target audience. By distributing your sponsored content on platforms that are in-line with your target audience and your brand values, you will be able to increase the authenticity and credibility of your sponsored content.
Although sponsored content may look more natural than traditional advertising, it is still a form of advertising. So, it is still important that you follow Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines for online advertising and marketing. These guidelines include advice on how to effectively disclose native adverts so as to not deceive your audience.
You should also make sure that your sponsored content aligns with your wider marketing strategy and campaigns. Establishing a cross-platform marketing strategy is great for building brand awareness. By marketing a single message across several platforms you will also make sure that you are making contact with potential customers at every stage of their buyer journey, allowing you to stay fresh in their mind while strengthening trust and affinity.
When it comes to creating your sponsored content, make sure you create engaging content that captures the audiences’ attention. While you don’t want your content to look like “clickbait” or be intrusive, you don’t want it to stand out enough that people stop to read or watch your content. Take time to think about what headline, visuals or topics your target audience will be interested in and use these insights to drive your sponsored content creation.
Sponsored content isn’t just sponsored articles or in-feed native advertisements. If you are looking to deliver maximum impact with your sponsored advertising, then go beyond written content. As mentioned earlier, sponsored content can be delivered in a wide range of formats and across multiple platforms, such as videos, podcasts, radio and social media. Research states that 78% of podcast listeners approve of podcast sponsorships due to the understanding that those sponsorships fund the content they value. Further to this, many listeners also report finding podcast adverts memorable and motivating.
So, if you are looking to deliver sponsored content for your business, you should first develop a sponsored content strategy. Doing so will ensure you get the best results out of your sponsored content.
How to evaluate Sponsored Content performance
Analyzing the performance of sponsored content can be difficult if you don’t know what to focus on. The performance metrics for sponsored content will vary depending on the method and platform used. For instance, the metrics used to analyze the success of sponsored content in a magazine will differ from the metrics used when analyzing the performance of sponsored content on social media.
Therefore, when delivering sponsored content campaigns, you should first determine what metrics you need to analyze to determine campaign success. If your sponsored content campaign includes distributing content on online publications or blogs, your performance analysis may include a report of the number of backlinks gained and the Domain Authority of those linking sites.
For sponsored content that provides a link through to your website, you may also want to analyze your site traffic and conversions during this period. Using UTM tags for your campaign URLs, unique URLs or discount codes can be a good way to determine which site traffic and conversions have come directly from your sponsored content.
Other metrics that can be important when determining the success of sponsored content, especially across social media platforms, include brand sentiment, likes, engagement rate, follower count and reach.
We’re sure that the popularity of sponsored content will continue to grow. So, if you are looking to build trust and authenticity through your advertisements, you may want to consider using sponsored content within your marketing strategy. However, it is important to make sure you are following FTC guidelines and ensuring that your sponsored content provides value to your target audience.