Sponsored Content Is an Increasing Opportunity for Media Sales

Sponsored content and its sister format, branded content, are often promoted as a new marketing tactic for brands and local businesses, but they have their roots in early radio, business profiles in newspapers as a perk for loyal advertisers and the advertorial. Today, they are important as a format to tell a brand or business’s story and to provide product and lifestyle content people are already seeking online.

By definition, sponsored content is information from a business that also promotes that business. A business usually collaborates with a publisher to create and publish the content on the publisher’s site, which that audience views.

Branded content is typically created by brands and self-published on their content hubs and micro-sites. It also tells a story and offers useful information, but its connection to the brand is more direct. Sponsored content is often considered a softer form and branded content a harder form.

In either case, many brands and businesses are using sponsored content to strengthen their engagement with consumers and customers and to drive foot traffic and sales. For media outlets, sponsored and branded content have become significant revenue streams and a new sales opportunity for media reps. 

Research from Borrell Associates during the past two years has found many local businesses “stumbled” onto the value of content marketing (with sponsored content as a subset) at the beginning of the pandemic. Instead of sales messages, these businesses had to provide information to employees, customers and the community about whether they were open, safety protocols, delivery options, etc.

Once they discovered how well this content connected with these audiences, many of these businesses started using sponsored content as part of their marketing strategy. Borrell’s March 2022 survey of small- and mid-size businesses found 42% said content marketing would be more of a priority during 2022 than it was during 2021. Businesses using content marketing also purchased advertising, on average, on twice as many media outlets as those that haven’t yet added content marketing.

Every local media outlet has a Website and social media platforms and can become publishers of sponsored content from their advertisers and often bundling it with standard advertising. To sell it effectively, however, media reps must think like a marketing consultant more than a salesperson.