A man is giving a speech.

5 Ways to Win with Sponsored Content Marketing


Content Marketing is Getting Crowded

Brands are producing content at warped speed and the impact is getting harder to measure, though not for lack of measuring tools. Rather, marketers are struggling to get their content noticed and engaged by their intended audience. Enter sponsored content as one way to get your content noticed.

Content Marketing or Advertising?

Advertising is as old as dirt. So, how is sponsored content different than advertising? The primary difference is that sponsored content delivers an engaging experience rather than just promoting a product with a call to action on an advertising platform. Let’s look at five ways to sponsor content.

Speaking Engagements

The speaking circuit is a great place to get your content noticed by influencers and end users of your widget. The competition to be invited to speak is fiercer than ever. Not surprisingly, marketers who agree to purchase a sponsor package at many conferences sometimes also receive a speaking opportunity at the event. Marketers who go this route should be careful to put an effective speaker on stage whose subject matter expertise is strong that will result in creating a positive experience for the brand. The right person can create a positive impact. The wrong person can have the opposite effect. Once a brand identifies the right person (or people), this can be a successful approach to sponsoring content and can yield terrific results.


In many industries webinars are a popular channel to deliver a relevant content experience. A brand with a substantial following can often host their own webinars for a great turnout and outcome. However, upstarts or lesser known brands often can’t. In those cases, a sponsored webinar can be an effective way to reach your audience. Brands should seek out industry associations or more established complementary brands with whom to sponsor a webinar. Consider that the act of sponsoring a webinar may not necessarily involve financial compensation. Explore other ways your brand can offer something of value to another brand, for instance through in-kind services or some other means of value.

Social media has always provided users a free way to consume content delivered by individuals and by brands. In recent years as social media has become mainstream and crowded, several of the mainstream social channels have introduced sponsored posts as a way to allow brands to deliver their content to a target audience. Facebook sponsored posts have become the only way for a brand’s Facebook page to reach more than an estimated 16% of their fans. Twitter Promoted Tweets were introduced in 2011. Recently, LinkedIn introduced Sponsored Updates from a Company page. The common denominator across each of these sponsored channels is the same challenge – there is a lot of content being shared across social channels and marketers need ways to get their content through the clutter in order to reach their intended audience.

You have subject matter experts in your business and you want to produce a webinar or write an e-book, but you know your reach is limited. Consider hiring an influencer to be the main event at your webinar, or the lead contributor to your e-book. A common approach is to hire influencers as a keynote speaker at your event. HubSpot arranged to Seth Godin and Arianna Huffington to speak at Inbound 2013. This is a form of sponsored content. Five thousand Inbound conference attendees got to enjoy their wisdom while HubSpot got the brand equity for bringing these influencers’ content to us.

Online Podcasts and Video

With the rising popularity of mobile devices, podcast content has exploded. Social Pros is a popular marketing podcast where sponsors participate in the podcast along with host Jay Baer. Online videos are growing in popularity as another channel to sponsor content as illustrated by the Social Hour on Twit.TV. Similar to when sponsoring webinars, consider finding complementary brands or trade associations in your industry who actively produce audio or video content available through RSS or podcast subscription or through a YouTube channel. Explore ways to sponsor a portion of your content, but not as an advertisement. Rather, seek to gain the opportunity to showcase your expertise or product in action through a compelling use case. The key to doing this effectively is to truly showcase your brand as part of the story in a way that informs or entertains (or both). The consumer of the audio or video must walk away from the experience with a valuable insight h/she didn’t have prior to consuming the content.

Sponsored content requires budget. Some marketers have deeper pockets than others, which makes this option a limited one for smaller brands with smaller budgets. This approach may not be for all marketers. There are many other ways to have an effective content marketing strategy besides sponsored content. However, brands should consider this approach in their mix especially when struggling to stand out in a crowded market. Experimenting with sponsored content even with a limited budget is a worthwhile endeavor.

Walking the Walk

My new digital TV show the Social Business Engine is a sponsored content channel. Brands whose product or service provide value in the social business ecosystem can showcase a customer through online video. What sponsored content marketing initiatives have you implemented?


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