NPR Proceeds With Caution in Sale of Digital Sponsorships

  |  July 31, 2009   |  Comments

As its digital presence evolves, nonprofit media organization is taking special care with sponsorships of new platforms.

As National Public Radio's digital presence evolves, it's taking special care with sponsorships of new platforms, even though they're unregulated. In conjunction with a site re-launch earlier this week, the nonprofit media organization is planning its first official iPhone app, and new mobile formats for its underwriters.

Visa sponsored the site re-launch Monday with a display ad roadblock touting its Signature Card. Though users may not notice the distinctions between a standard display ad message and the sponsorship messages seen on NPR.org, they're there. The Visa display units, for instance, promoted the card as a way to get deals on Broadway show tickets or hotel reservations. However there was no direct call to action or transactional language.

The NPR sponsorship team works with each sponsor to craft messages that create awareness or describe products without seeming like bold sales pitches. It's all in keeping with NPR's traditional media legacy of quasi commercial breaks that don't offend listeners -- or the Federal Communications Commission. For decades, NPR has had to abide by the FCC's restrictions on advertising in conjunction with its public funding. In lieu of commercial advertisements, NPR's radio broadcasts include underwriting messages from big donors.

Although NPR is not restricted by such rules on digital media platforms, the organization recognizes the importance of maintaining the spirit of the guidelines in Web and mobile environments.

"It's something that we try and navigate every day," said Bryan Moffett, director of digital sponsorship operations at NPR.

NPR's digital sponsorships are done in a way that's "very similar to how a commercial Web site would do it," said National Public Media SVP Blake Truitt. The difference, though, is the organization must meet the expectations of NPR listeners who are accustomed to short and subtle sponsorship messages. Digital advertisers have included Progressive Insurance, Bank of America, and American Express, along with movie studios and record labels. Jazz label Verve plans to sponsor NPR's Music site to promote a series of album releases.

According to Truitt, digital sponsorships account for about 15 percent of overall sponsorship revenue, up from around 10 percent last year.

A display placement for American Express's entrepreneur-aimed site Open Forum seen on the site this week read, "See how business owners are innovating, connecting, and taking charge." A related video unit for the financial services firm featured video clips organized into categories like marketing and leadership. The display units are labeled, "NPR thanks our supporting sponsors."

Its latest offering is a sponsorship of a soon-to-launch Apple iPhone application, the first officially-branded NPR app. The banner unit links to the sponsor site, launching an overlay browser window; this allows the user to interact with the sponsor's site without leaving the application. The organization also offers mobile banners on WAP sites, standard display, and pre-roll audio in-stream and in podcasts; pre-roll spots are limited to one 10-second unit.

NPR revealed its site redesign Monday, making headlines for focusing more on text-based content than video. The new version includes more images and enhanced integration of audio and article content.

The organization has three sales people dedicated to selling digital sponsorships, and nine who sell both radio and digital. About half of the sponsors buy digital exclusively, according to Truitt.

He said he doesn't believe some sponsors favor NPR's digital offerings over its traditional radio sponsorships just because they're less restricted. "I don't want it to be the safe haven for sponsors that sell products to NPR enthusiasts," said Truitt. "Some marketers just don't have radio budgets at all. They don't think of radio, but they do think of the Internet."

ClickZ Live San Francisco This Year's Premier Digital Marketing Event is #CZLSF
ClickZ Live San Francisco (Aug 11-14) brings together the industry's leading practitioners and marketing strategists to deliver 4 days of educational sessions and training workshops. From Data-Driven Marketing to Social, Mobile, Display, Search and Email, this year's comprehensive agenda will help you maximize your marketing efforts and ROI. Register today!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye was Managing Editor at ClickZ News until October 2012. As a daily reporter and editor for the original news source, she covered beats including digital political campaigns and government regulation of the online ad industry. Kate is the author of Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media, the only book focused on the paid digital media efforts of the 2008 presidential campaigns. Kate created ClickZ's Politics & Advocacy section, and is the primary contributor to the one-of-a-kind section. She began reporting on the interactive ad industry in 1999 and has spoken at several events and in interviews for television, radio, print, and digital media outlets. You can follow Kate on Twitter at @LowbrowKate.

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

ClickZ Today is our #1 newsletter.
Get a daily dose of digital marketing.

COMMENTS

UPCOMING EVENTS

Featured White Papers

BigDoor: The Marketers Guide to Customer Loyalty

The Marketer's Guide to Customer Loyalty
Customer loyalty is imperative to success, but fostering and maintaining loyalty takes a lot of work. This guide is here to help marketers build, execute, and maintain a successful loyalty initiative.

Marin Software: The Multiplier Effect of Integrating Search & Social Advertising

The Multiplier Effect of Integrating Search & Social Advertising
Latest research reveals 68% higher revenue per conversion for marketers who integrate their search & social advertising. In addition to the research results, this whitepaper also outlines 5 strategies and 15 tactics you can use to better integrate your search and social campaigns.

WEBINARS

    Information currently unavailable

Jobs

    • Internet Marketing Campaign Manager
      Internet Marketing Campaign Manager (Straight North, LLC) - Fort MillWe are looking for a talented Internet Marketing Campaign Manager to join the...
    • Online Marketing Coordinator
      Online Marketing Coordinator (NewMarket Health) - BaltimoreWant to learn marketing from the best minds in the business? NewMarket Health, a subsidiary...
    • Call Center Manager
      Call Center Manager (Common Sense Publishing) - Delray BeachWanted: Dynamic Call Center Manager with a Proven Track Record of Improving Response...