What Is Sponsored Content?

What Is Sponsored Content Definitions Examples

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What Is Sponsored Content?

Several factors have contributed to the rise of sponsored content as an effective and powerful way for marketers to reach online audiences amidst advertising overload. The overabundance of advertising forcing itself upon consumers has caused a significant uptick in ad blocking software. Apple's iOS9 (released earlier this month) gives mobile Safari users out-of-the-box ad blocking capabilities and was seen by many as the final "nail in the coffin" for display advertising. As such, brands and advertisers are proactively exploring marketing alternatives including sponsored content, native advertising, branded content, and influencer marketing (see our post "Adblocking Wars: Advertiser Alternatives To Ads").

The American Press Institute (API) prefaces its definition of sponsored content with the following:

Sponsored content/native advertising appears in many ways. There is no single form, but rather a continuum from banner ads to social media content to large microsites with articles and videos. It is better to define sponsored content by what it does than by what it looks like.

API offers two major points regarding sponsored content -- 1) a general understanding that sponsored content takes on the same form and qualities of a publisher's original content and 2) sponsored content usually serves useful or entertaining information as a way of favorably influencing the perception of the sponsoring brand. Additionally, API distinguishes between brand advertising versus direct-response sales mentioning that sponsored content skewers towards branding -- "it's higher up the marketing funnel - establishing relationships and awareness." API does differentiate sponsored content from advertorials, content marketing, press releases.

In the Interactive Advertising Bureau's (IAB) "Native Advertising Playbook," the IAB breaks down native advertising into six categories (in-feed units, paid search units, recommendation widgets, promoted listings, in-ad with native element units, and custom). According to Moz, sponsored content or sponsored articles are categorized in IAB's in-feed category. In Moz's article "Everything You Need To Know About Sponsored Content,"  author Chad Pollitt illustrates how "banner blindness" has forced marketers, brands, and advertisers to seek out new effective content promotion methods from influencer marketing to native advertising. Similar to API's definition of sponsored content, Moz remarks

Sponsored articles amount to advertising on a media outlet in the form of editorial content that looks like it's supposed to be there. Brands value this because association with a publication and exposure to its audience can drive awareness, traffic, conversions, and leads.

Digiday's article "Time To Define Native Advertising," differentiates sponsored content from native advertising, advertising content, brand content, and content marketing. Digiday gives the following examples:

  • Native Advertising - Facebook's Sponsored Stories, Twitter's Promoted Tweets. Ad units that can only be bought and displayed on one platform.
  • Sponsored Content - denoted with phrases including, "brought to you by," "presented by," or "sponsored by." Content that is not produced by the brand
  • Advertising Content - BuzzFeed's listicles, Forbes' BrandVoice. Advertising in the form of content but not display advertising. Often labeled as sponsored content.
  • Brand Content - Red Bull's YouTube channel. What brands produce on their own and run through their own distribution channels. Brands functioning as publishers.
  • Content Marketing - "the catchall phrase that encompasses all of the above."

What Is Sponsored Content With Influencers?

Sponsored content with influencers or influencer marketing takes the sponsored content model between brands and publishers and inserts top social media influencers as the publisher. Done well, sponsored content with influencers is an effective approach to content marketing because it leverages and aligns all the significant advantages of top social media influencers (positioning, audience reach, social engagement) with the brand's marketing objectives in order to create custom messaging that resonates and has relevancy with each influencer's fans, followers, subscribers.

As mentioned above in sponsored content's strengths, strategic association with these top social media influencers (the publisher) is valuable -- driving awareness, traffic, conversions, and leads. Additionally, sponsored content with influencers creates brand awareness opportunities and can be instrumental in establishing/building/driving consumer relationships.

Sponsored Content Influencer Examples


Castrol's #VirtualDRIFT campaign with top tech YouTuber, Austin Evans.

Hallmark's Signature Styles campaign with YouTuber, Alexandrea Garza.


<I am at the @hallmarksignature pop up shop at 101 Wooster Street from 5-7 PM today. Come by!> #SignatureStyle #sp

A photo posted by Blair Eadie / Atlantic Pacific (@blaireadiebee) on

Also See Our Posts On:

Adblocking Wars: Advertiser Alternatives To Ads

How To Create Sponsored Content With Instagram Influencers

3 Best Brands On Instagram Working With Top Influencers

Free Brand Guide: 10-Steps To Creating An Influencer Marketing Strategy

September 28, 2015 By Evan

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