"Perfect partners don't exist. Perfect conditions exist for a limited time in which partnerships express themselves best." – Wayne Rooney, Manchester United
It seems unlikely that an English soccer star would deliver a quote that can be applied to digital media. Yet, truer words could not have been spoken about content sponsorships.
Born of offline media opportunities like event marketing and television sponsorships, online content sponsorships are built on a partnership between a branded site and an advertiser. They represent the perfect conditions for a marketer to showcase his products for a limited time, in a way that best expresses the advertising brand.
According to eMarketer's most recent report on U.S. digital ad spending by format, content sponsorships are on the rise. The segment has more than doubled in the past two years from $.72 to $1.56 billion. Assess its predicted growth from 2010 to 2016 compared with banners, rich media, and video, and only video is expected to see a higher increase. During the six-year period, spending on content sponsorships will grow by an estimated 300 percent.
Its popularity can be attributed in part to availability. More sites are offering content sponsorship opportunities, and those that are available are more integrated and more customizable to the advertiser's needs. This of course makes it easier for advertisers to find that perfect partnership and produce that "perfect campaign".
If you're wondering what a perfect content sponsorship looks like, look no further than these current media buys. All three showcase advertiser-site partnerships that are compatible, prominent, and memorable.
Chef Boyardee and Food Network
Ad placements associated with site search functions have value because they allow media buyers to reach consumers while they're actively engaging with the site – making them more likely to engage with a search-related ad. Couple this placement with video and ad content consumers can use, and you have a great content sponsorship. Chef Boyardee achieved this with its content sponsorship on FoodNetwork.com.
The buy includes a Sponsored Result recipe link integrated into the site's recipe search results and adjacent banners that link to a custom advertiser page promoting the "Cooking Together: Little Chefs Project." Cooking tips for parents, safety tips for cooking with kids, and more recipes that incorporate Chef Boyardee products round out a campaign that is perfectly suited to Food Network's family-based audience.
Calvin Klein and Vanity Fair
If you're planning a time-sensitive campaign, a content sponsorship in a relevant site section can be the ideal way to drum up interest fast. To promote its upcoming Spring 2013 Runway Show, apparel brand Calvin Klein partnered with VanityFair.com to create a content sponsorship in its Style section.
The buy includes expandable banners with integrated social media links, and sponsorship logos that link directly to the brand's Tumblr page. That the ads appear alongside Vanity Fair's 2012 International Best-Dressed List lends the campaign credibility, and gives the sponsorship the appearance of seamless integration.
One A Day and Eating Well
A content sponsorship that ties consumers' preexisting perceptions of a product with editorial content that substantiates it is likely to resonate with site users. With this in mind, one would be hard-pressed to find a better place to advertise a daily vitamin than in the Diet & Health section of EatingWell.com. The section features articles about healthy eating, weight loss plans, and calorie counting – all of which call to mind the importance of vitamin supplements (or at least make it easy for the advertiser to emphasize this critical selling point).
One A Day's Feeding America campaign donates meals to those in need, but it also offers consumers a product discount by way of an online coupon. So while they're thinking about losing weight while remaining healthy, potential customers can also think about picking up the product on their next visit to the store.
Regardless of the nature of your perfect content sponsorship, always remember that it's a partnership that must work for both site and advertiser. Respect the symbiotic relationship between the two, and your placement is bound to pay off.
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Tessa Wegert is an interactive media strategist with Enlighten, one of the first full-service digital marketing strategy and services agencies, serving such brands as Bioré, Bratz, Food Network, illy, Hunter Douglas, Jergens, and Olympic Paints and Stains. An industry veteran, Tessa has worked in online media buying and planning, marketing, and online copywriting since 1999. She is an active freelance writer specializing in interactive marketing who has contributed to U.S. and Canadian publications, including "USA Weekend Magazine," "Marketing Magazine," "The Globe and Mail," and "The Montreal Gazette." She is frequently quoted as an industry expert and speaks regularly at industry conferences and events.
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