What is Branded Content and are brands taking advantage of this area of sponsorship?

Vesper: “Beautiful watch. Rolex?”

Bond: “No, Omega.”

Believe it or not but this dialogue featured in Casino Royale is a form of branded content.  The long association that Omega has had with the James Bond franchise is not just simple product placement but a well-developed history of brand recognition through the use of branded content in an exciting and interesting way.

Branded content (or content partnerships) has long been very hard to define especially as the definition is very elastic, meaning different things to different people.  In a nutshell, it is the technique used by brands to create a direct relationship with a type of entertainment through funding and/or creative content.  This can be done on TV, radio, online, or events platforms.  

You may be wondering how this differs from sponsorship.  Think of it as sponsorship+ as, although it carries the same benefits as sponsorship, it also allows brands to play a much more central part in the project, tailoring content to fit its message and reflecting the brands personality.  This content can then be taken and used in PR, direct mail, or in POS marketing. 

Among the brands that have long-favoured this marketing technique are Orange Playlist, Audi TV, Pepsimax Download Show, Red Bull Flugtag, Carling Music Events, Nokia Fashion Show, B&Q DIY Show, and BMW Films.  These brands have successfully integrated themselves into entertainment and have adapted to a changing media landscape. 

But does it work?

To answer this it is important to state that most brands will seek a return on their investment be that from media value, brand awareness or sales.  In this vein, The Branded Content Marketing Association (BCMA) recently used two case studies to promote the effectiveness of the marketing medium.  The first was ITV’s Farm Camp, funded by Morrison’s to support its “Let’s Grow” initiative.  Analysing the programme, promotional trailers, website and press ads it found that, from those in the test group, one episode of the show increased association with Let’s Grow by 24%.

The second case study was HSBC’s two-minute clip on CNBC called “Alternative investing” aimed at high net worth individuals.  Results showed that over two-thirds of the test group recorded positive reactions, with 67% saying “I’d like to see more of this type of thing in the future”.

Despite strong evidence of successful branded content campaigns there are risks involved with an ineffective campaign.  Shifting consumer habits and a constantly changing media landscape therefore drives the need for brands to think creatively about content and partnerships.  Simple product placement or boring and un-engaging content can have the wrong effects.  If branded content is to be done right it has to be a long-term, strategic commitment combined with time and money.  There are many challenges such as developing the right content, steering clear of breaking any product placement regulations and making sure that the product matches the target audience but if a brand manages all these elements well and also brings in all the right resources, then branded content can be one of the most effective marketing mediums. 

For more information on branded content statistics, research and case studies, check out Marketing Week’s Branded content: The confusing world of branded content and CNBC’s New Research Proves Effectiveness of Strategic Branded Content

It’d be great to hear your thoughts on branded content.  What are some of the stand-out campaigns for you?