Branded content, also known as native advertising or sponsored content, doesn’t usually inspire excitement.
Sure, brands have come a long way from the days of old when they essentially wrote long-form sales copy and ran it as “articles” in local newspapers. But a lot of branded content is still commercial and boring, even when it’s masquerading as editorial.
It’s no wonder that content consumers are wary of anything with a “sponsored” label on it. A recent study by Contently found that 62% of respondents think a news site loses credibility when it publishes branded content; other studies have shown similar reactions from consumers.
Some people say that the problem with branded content is that it pretends to be something it’s not. I think the real problem is that many brands fundamentally don’t understand the format. They have the opportunity to create awesome content and share it with a new audience—but they often choose to hard sell their products or services instead. What a waste, for both the publisher and the advertiser!
In the Contently study I mentioned above, participants also reported that, after reading native ads they identified as high quality, they reported a significantly higher level of trust for the sponsoring brand. The moral of the story is that great content wins the day, no matter what channel you’re using.
This article highlights 5 branded content examples from a few companies that understand the value of producing fantastic content for paid audiences. Brace yourself—you’ll have a totally new perspective on branded content by the time we’re done, I promise.
Example 1: Dallas Cowboys & Pepsi, Carter-Romo Star Crossed
This interactive biography of Quincy Carter and Tony Romo, two players for the Dallas Cowboys, is a beautiful piece of journalism. It uses text, images, videos, and other interactive elements to bring the story to life. Aside from the the Pepsi logo in the header and the Cowboys jerseys in the graphics, there’s no promotional plugs for either brand in the piece. They’ve chosen to let the story speak on their behalf.
Example 2: Red Bull, Air Race—Texas Motor Speedway
This infographic from Red Bull is more overtly promotional than the Dallas Cowboys piece above, but the information they provide about the Air Race is fascinating. After watching videos, exploring the speed, altitude, and G-force pilots experience during the race, and getting to know one of the pilots from previous races, you come away with a true appreciation for the science behind the competition.
Example 3: Dockers, Define Your Dress Code Index
Retailers often have the most trouble with breaking out of “sales” mode when it comes to branded content. That’s why I love this interactive dress code index from Dockers. Yes, they talk about outfits—but they never once mention their particular clothing items. The cartoon drawings help to further reinforce that the piece isn’t just a splashy advertisement, but a style guide.
Example 4: Bwin, The Ultimate Tale of Tape
Betting site Bwin created this fantastic infographic leading up to the Mayweather vs. Pacquiao fight in May 2015. The infographic does a great job of presenting some key stats and facts about each boxer, as well as reviewing past fights and fan sentiment. The graphic treatment is really interactive and eye-catching, which reinforces the subject matter.
Example 5: Emirates Airlines, Bay Area Architecture & Design
Travel companies are getting a lot savvier when it comes to content marketing. This infographic from Emirates Airlines is whimsical and informative—and if you didn’t notice the header or footer, you probably wouldn’t realize this piece was created by an international travel brand at all.
The Bottom Line
Branded content doesn’t have to be lame, thinly-veiled sales copy. These 5 brands show us that native advertising can be fun, informative, enjoyable, and even innovative.