Sponsored content is a type of advertising—often in the form of editorial content like articles and influencer posts or other digital content like video and podcasts—that’s created to blend in with the regular content on a platform, such as websites and social media.
To make it clear to readers, viewers, and listeners, this type of content should be labeled as “sponsored” to indicate that it’s paid content.
The value of sponsored content for brands
Sponsored content can effectively boost brand recognition and build trust through strategic placement and valuable storytelling. By partnering with trusted publishers or influencers, brands can reach wider audiences who may not be familiar with their products or services.
Thoughtfully crafted content that aligns with the publisher’s or influencer’s audience can generate positive associations and create a lasting impression.
When sponsored content provides genuine value, educates, or entertains, it establishes the brand as an authority in its field, earning the trust of consumers. This trust can translate into increased brand recognition, improved credibility, and ultimately, higher customer engagement and loyalty.
Sponsored content vs. traditional advertising
Sponsored content and traditional advertising differ in several key aspects, including format and presentation, purpose and intent, targeting and reach, and consumer perception.
Format and presentation
Traditional advertising typically takes the form of direct promotional messages, such as commercials, banner ads, or print ads. It is often designed to grab attention and persuade the audience to purchase a product or service.
On the other hand, sponsored content aims to blend in with the platform or medium it is presented on. It resembles editorial or organic content, offering valuable information or entertainment while subtly incorporating brand messaging.
Purpose and intent
Traditional advertising is primarily focused on driving immediate sales or generating brand awareness. Its main objective is to directly promote a product or service and encourage consumers to make a purchase.
Sponsored content, however, aims to provide value to the audience beyond just promotional messaging. It seeks to engage, educate, or entertain the audience while indirectly building brand awareness and thought leadership, fostering a positive association with the sponsoring brand.
Targeting and reach
Traditional advertising often relies on mass media channels, such as television, radio, or billboards, to reach a wide audience. While target options exist within traditional advertising, they are typically broader in scope.
In contrast, sponsored content allows for more precise targeting. It can be tailored to specific demographics, interests, or niche communities, ensuring that the content reaches a relevant and engaged audience.
Traditional advertising is often seen as interruptive or intrusive by consumers. Advertisements can be perceived as disruptions to the content or experience consumers are seeking.
On the other hand, readers can view sponsored content as credible and trustworthy because it mimics the website’s editorial style.
4 examples of sponsored content
Sponsored content takes many forms. But whether an article, video, podcast, or influencer content, it seeks to enlighten, motivate, or inspire a brand’s audience about their products and services.
A lifestyle website collaborates with a skincare brand to produce a sponsored article focusing on the importance of a skincare routine. The article provides helpful tips, expert advice, and product recommendations, all tied to the brand’s skincare line. It educates readers about skincare while subtly promoting the brand’s products within the context of the content.
2. Photo or video content
A popular fitness influencer collaborates with a sportswear brand to create a series of Instagram posts and YouTube/TikTok videos showcasing their workout routine while wearing the brand’s athletic apparel. The content features high-quality visuals, exercise demonstrations, and positive reviews of the products.
A technology podcast partners with a software company to produce a sponsored episode where the hosts discuss the benefits and features of the company’s latest software release. The episode includes interviews with company representatives, insights into the product’s functionality, and a unique discount code for podcast listeners.
4. Influencer content
A travel blogger with a substantial following on social media partners with a luxury hotel chain to promote their destinations. The blogger shares captivating photos and engaging stories of their experience staying at the hotels, highlighting the exceptional amenities, personalized service, and breathtaking locations.
Best practices for creating sponsored content
To create effective sponsored content, provide value, align with brand voice, label well for transparency, target the right audience, collaborate with influencers, and track and analyze results for future improvements.
- Provide value: Be useful and valuable to the audience. Sponsored content should educate, entertain, or inspire.
- Align with brand voice: Sync sponsored content to the brand’s voice and messaging to ensure it doesn’t feel out of place. It should be consistent with the brand’s other content.
- Label clearly: Ethically, it’s important to label content as “sponsored” to maintain transparency and trust with audiences. It also safeguards the integrity of sponsored content as an effective marketing strategy.
- Target the right audience: Aim sponsored content at the right audience. This increases the likelihood that it will resonate and be effective.
- Collaborate with influencers: Work with social influencers to reach a wider audience with your content and add credibility to your brand.
- Track and analyze results: Use a content analytics platform like Parse.ly and tracking methods like tagging to effectively measure the performance and results of a sponsored content campaign.
Parse.ly and content tagging
Standalone, or as part of the WordPress VIP content management platform, Parse.ly makes it easy for non-analysts like editors, writers, and journalists to monitor content performance and content return on investment (ROI) and optimize content strategy.
Here, tagging content plays a crucial role. This helps you effectively organize, compare, and analyze audience engagement between sponsored and non-sponsored content campaigns by assigning specific short tags—e.g., “sponsored: verizon” or “sponsored: youtube.”
Parse.ly’s Smart Tags can also do tagging for you—employing machine learning and natural language processing (NLP) to scan pages and posts to determine relevant topics and assign tags automatically.