From Brand Journalism to Branded Entertainment

Tonight’s "Late Night With Seth Meyers” show will feature an extra comedy sketch paid for by American Express in a slot where traditional TV ads would have appeared as part of an experiment involving branded entertainment.

Tonight’s "Late Night With Seth Meyers” show will feature an extra comedy sketch paid for by American Express in a slot where traditional TV ads would have appeared as part of an experiment involving branded entertainment.

First came brand journalism. Now we have branded entertainment. 

Tonight’s “Late Night with Seth Meyers” show will feature an extra sketch sponsored by American Express. Other shows such as “The Voice,” “Blindspot” and “Today” have slipped sponsored content into slots normally occupied by traditional advertising.

Branded entertainment, in the form of comedy sketches, extra interviews or extended segments, reduces the amount of advertising while still making the cash register ring. It is a response to more viewers moving to services such as Hulu that offer content without advertising breaks. TV networks are banking that fewer advertising slots will fetch higher prices and different kinds of slots will appeal to gold-star advertisers like American Express.

The notion of branded entertainment is as old as radio and television. Way back when, individual sponsors were associated with shows. The Jack Benny Show was originally called “The Lucky Strike Program.” Ed Sullivan’s Sunday evening variety show was primarily sponsored by the Lincoln-Mercury Division of the Ford Motor Company. 

Native advertising, where the ads look and feel like the content or medium they appear with, has been gaining in popularity. But it is still advertising, which some readers and viewers want to avoid. Branded entertainment, which involves sponsorships, is an attractive alternative.

National Public Radio has a form of branded news and entertainment, with sponsors that receive Twitter-size acknowledgements. Weather and traffic reports on radio and TV are another common form of branded content.

According to The New York Times, American Express approached NBC last December about its branded entertainment idea, which it will use to promote one of its credit cards. An American Express spokesman called the partnership with NBC an opportunity “to create a different kind of paradigm” for TV advertising in an increasingly segmented market. 

If the experiment works, expect to see it replicated on more than TV shows as well as promoted on popular online news sites. NBC invested $200 million in BuzzFeed, which “will produce online posts related to sponsored programming,” the New York Times reported.

Five Verbs to Animate Events

There are many business goals that warrant using event strategies and tactics. Five verbs- engage, build, inspire, increase and associate- can help you recognize opportunities to utilize events.

Engage your target audiences. Events provide opportunities to bring your target audiences together to interact with your brand. Interactive elements at your event allow attendees to experience your brand. In business marketing events, rich dialogue and question and answer sessions can support interaction. In brand marketing events, activities and product trial opportunities can support interaction. The event tactics for each business should be uniquely selected, but the common theme is interaction.

Build personal relationships. Live events foster authentic opportunities for target audiences to build personal connections with the people behind a company. Goodwill, trust and credibility can be strengthened.

Inspire buzz. Events can inspire people to share their experience at your event with their network. These personal, informal endorsements strengthen your brand reputation.

Increase recognition of and loyalty to your company. Events can raise the profile of your brand, and a person’s positive experience at your event supports brand loyalty.

Associate your brand with strategic partners. Events provide opportunities to partner with those who you would like to associate your product or service. Inviting strategically selected partners to join your event by filling an event need, such as for food or space, not only can help keep costs down, but also is mutually beneficial by associating brand names.

What are some of your favorite events? Did they have elements from the five verbs?

The Business Case for Community Engagement

Does your business receive numerous sponsorship requests from community organizations? The right sponsorship opportunity presents more that a chance for your company to be involved in ‘do good’ efforts. There is a strong business case for connecting with and supporting the communities that support your business.

Sponsoring a cause or event that aligns with your company’s commitments or mission strengthens your brand promise. Sponsorships can provide wide visibility with target consumers and decision-makers. They can help your company garner media coverage. And they can present opportunities for your employees to engage with the community in meaningful ways.

Here are five questions we recommend decision-makers keep in mind when considering sponsorship opportunities.