How sponsored content has changed the way successful businesses talk about themselves

GAME CHANGER: Sponsored content has changed the way successful businesses talk about themselves allowing them to be thought leaders in their fields.
GAME CHANGER: Sponsored content has changed the way successful businesses talk about themselves allowing them to be thought leaders in their fields.

Sponsored content for Fairfax Media, publisher of this website

THE POWER of storytelling is being used like never before by advertisers determined to stand out in an increasingly chaotic and time poor world.

At the forefront of this change is sponsored content. Also known as native advertising or branded content, sponsored content has changed the landscape of advertising and the juggernaut shows no signs of abating.

Content is now growing faster than any other segment in the digital advertising space. This year the global sponsored content spend is estimated to reach $7 billion according to Polar, a technology provider for branded content.

Australia is expected to represent $200 million of this total.

Polar expects the sponsored content market will continue to grow at an average rate of 40 per cent each year until 2020. 

BACKGROUND

Sponsored content is content – stories, images, graphics, videos –that informs and entertains readers and is commissioned by an advertiser because they recognise it aligns to the values and interests of their customer base.

The advertiser wants to be associated with the content to let their customers know they’re on the same wavelength and understand their needs and wants. It helps promote a brand’s image and can position the advertiser as a thought leader in their field.

So hasn’t sponsored content been around for a while, you might ask? Well, you would be right.

While many think of sponsored content as the shiny new toy in advertising it has been used for decades.

Early adopters were brothers Edouard and Andre Michelin who, as it turns out, were not just tyre manufacturers but marketing geniuses who may have been the first businesspeople to venture into native advertising.

AHEAD OF THEIR TIME: Edouard and Andre Michelin understood the power of aligning their brand with a feel-good experience.

AHEAD OF THEIR TIME: Edouard and Andre Michelin understood the power of aligning their brand with a feel-good experience.

They figured the type of people who would be in the market for their tyres would also be interested in travel generally and, therefore, the more they promoted driving and gave people a reason to travel, the higher their tyre sales would be.

So in 1900 they launched a guide to hotels and restaurants in France. Their Michelin travel guides went viral – to use today’s language – and soon spread across Europe.

Today, the Michelin star ratings are coveted by restaurants and chefs the world over.

Sponsored content is not really new, but it’s certainly gaining favour.

POSITIVE RESPONSE

Recent audience studies have shown sponsored content can have a positive effect on brand image, product awareness, purchase intention and likeability.

Well-written sponsored content campaigns provide interesting content for readers.

The studies show people are looking for content that is relevant, informative, insightful, helpful or entertaining. The research also indicates the majority of readers don’t mind if that content is “sponsored” by an advertiser, as long as publishers abide by a couple of cut and dried rules.

WHEN LESS IS MORE

Studies on sponsored content have shown the less the advertiser talks about themselves and the lower the brand prominence, the more positive readers are about the article and the brand.

Readers find stories with fewer brand mentions as more honest, more credible, more fun and more convincing.

MAKING A WINNER

For a sponsored content story to resonate with readers it needs to deliver real value, be contextually relevant and provide full disclosure.

Publishers need to ask: does it bring value to the reader and is it something they will want to share?

If the answers are yes, you can be confident the content is creating a great user experience that will keep readers coming back for more.

Sponsored content for Fairfax Media, publisher of this website.