5 Tips for Getting the Most From Your Branded Content

July 19, 2021

Rather than blatantly selling products, branded content takes a brand’s values and puts them at the forefront. So how can you use branded content to make money? 

In our webinar, How Sport Media Companies are Monetizing Brand Content, Adam White, CEO of Front Office Sports, discussed this topic with Conviva’s Nick Cicero, Vice President of Strategy; Rich Calacci, Chief Revenue Office at Overtime; Zack Damon, Director of Digital and Social Activation for Learfield IMG College; Christina Carey Dunleavy, Vice President of Commercial Operations at Disney CreativeWorks and Multicultural; and Deirdre Lester, Chief Revenue Officer at Barstool Sports.

Here are five nuggets of wisdom they shared for getting the most from your branded content.

Be authentic to your fans and followers.

When you’re positioning your branded content on social as a revenue driver, it’s easy to fall into the trap of using views as your metric for success. What’s really important, though, is engagement.

No one is interested in a branded content series that’s just a logo slap and some product placement. What are your audiences talking about? What’s important to them?

If you try to force-feed an idea, even to an engaged community, it’s going to fall flat. Instead, bring your audience’s perspective to the table, and then lean on your creative to develop an idea that is memorable to get fans talking.

Bottom line: Do things in service of your community and the conversation—and the money will follow.

“It’s always about engagement, and the ability to create another conversation underneath the branded content conversation is really what drives the overall value. Can we make money doing it? Sure. It’s not really the driving force. The driving force is more about engaging our community with the brands that support Overtime.” – Rich Calacci, Chief Revenue Office at Overtime

Let creatives tell the story.

Instead of engaging in a tug-of-war with creators, brands should let go a little bit of their brand identity and give creators room to do what they do best: create.

For this to be successful, you must be comfortable with whom you’re partnering. The creator you choose is going to be a steward of your brand in a way that’s authentic to them and to their audience, so make sure they have your trust. If you try to dictate the content, creators won’t get behind it in a way that drives engagement and resonates with their audience.

“We’re currently in distribution on a show called Barstool vs. America and it’s sponsored by High Noon Hard Seltzer, and they literally just give us the keys. They say, like, ‘You guys run with it; you do what you’re going to do.’ … [Find] a suitable partner to create the content with; otherwise, again, it’s just going to be really difficult the whole process and ultimately not have the result that both of you want, the fans want, and ultimately the brand wants.” – Deirdre Lester, Chief Revenue Officer at Barstool Sports

Get creators involved in the conversation ASAP.

Learfield IMG College is putting creators on the ground to find content they think has revenue potential. The creators work directly with university athletic departments, attending games, capturing content, and coming up with ideas that are eventually going to get sold. This approach has allowed creators to start the creative conversation, in addition to strengthening Learfield’s brand authenticity.

Barstool Sports’ branded content team is constantly brainstorming ideas to use when the right opportunity comes along. Having an in-house team allows them to be proactive in their creative approach and eliminates middlemen looking for their cut of the deal. This all amounts to a better experience for Barstool and the brands they serve.

They’ve even been able to take partnerships with some of their more invested partners to the next level into a co-branded product or licensing business.

“It’s very much taking a step back and what is the best creative approach that’s going to hit on the brief, and those objectives while tapping into a larger internal resource, whether that’s CreativeWorks, which is our internal branded entertainment studio and consultancy, or our editorial team. What’s best going to resonate? What’s going to work for this audience? Really being able to build something that’s going to be meaningful and getting that into the conversation much sooner.” – Christina Carey Dunleavy, Vice President of Commercial Operations at Disney CreativeWorks and Multicultural

Come up with repeatable ideas.

Lester says that in the past, branded content was frustrating because you had to work hard to win business—without a lasting reward.

You brainstormed, took your best idea, dressed it up, put it in a deck, brought your best team, and went in and sold an idea. Then, the brand would say, “That was great. Thank you. I’m going to go to Vegas again, but I’m going to do it with your competitor because I want a different idea now.”

Now the Barstool team focuses on coming up with ideas that brands are going to want version 2.0. One tip is to center your ideas around episodic events or things that come back year after year or quarter after quarter. That could be anything from the Golden Globes to the Super Bowl.

“They’re not going to want us to … repackage it and sell it to a different brand. They’re going to want it to be something that they can own and sustain, and that their brand can be synonymous with.” – Deirdre Lester, Chief Revenue Officer at Barstool Sports

Overtime’s Calacci said that services provided by companies like Conviva can help with this because they aggregate the real-time data needed to better educate clients.

“We’ve got the ability to leverage these six social platforms by virtue of Conviva and the data they present in order to basically synthesize the opportunity for everybody that’s in the decision-making tree. Because without that, you’re really just doing a marketing one-off. I don’t know every CMO, but most CMOs I know are not interested in doing one-offs. They want to do something that’s sustainable.” – Rich Calacci, Chief Revenue Office at Overtime

Have a well-defined strategy for newer platforms, like TikTok®.

With a community of over 100 million Americans, TikTok® can be a growth engine for your brand—especially if want to reach 18- to 34-year-olds.

TikTok’s fun and entertaining platform creates a huge swim lane for both content creators and brands. When you show up on TikTok, be sure to think, operate, and act the way an influencer would, because that’s what drives TikTok® engagement. Put your biggest and brightest faces forward, and make sure you’re including many types of representation.

“We are certainly exploring how we can monetize the TikTok® platform. … One of the things that we’re working on as a broader influencer strategy is how do we tap into the college student on campus who happens to have a large following on TikTok® [and] produces some cool content? How do we leverage that piece in our broader influencer strategy?” – Zack Damon, Director of Digital and Social Activation for Learfield IMG College

To learn more about branded content, including how to use real-time data to ensure a successful partnership, watch our How Sport Media Companies are Monetizing Brand Content webinar.