My blog has moved!

You should be automatically redirected in 6 seconds. If not, visit
and update your bookmarks.

My name's Joel Kelly and I live in Halifax, NS.

I'm a 20something guy doing digital and social media strategy for a Halifax-based marketing agency.

I'm a vegan nerd and marketing asshole.

You should follow me on Twitter.

Contact me about whatever (like, say, your marketing questions) at

Saturday, December 27, 2008

How to offer sponsorships and co-branding - Part 1

So after I wrote my post about advertising in a down economy I had a conversation with @moreglen, who writes the Halifax Web Development blog.

We tried to work out just how websites with strong communities can be successful by offering sponsorships and co-branding opportunities without a) annoying their user-base, and b) providing enough ROI for their sponsors.

Sponsorships and co-branding can mean a few things, like "presenting sponsor" banners throughout the site, permanent ad space, logo placement throughout, wallpapers/skins, and more opportunities that aren't just regular banner ads placed among other advertiser's banners. With a sponsorship or co-branding, you own a space, you're attaching your brand to the website and vice-versa.

We outlined a few potential issues that would need to be addressed:

  1. If you're an advertiser relying more on sponsorships over huge, high-reach display ad campaigns, you're going to lose reach overall, and you'll end up spending more money on fewer eyeballs.
  2. You'll potentially be increasing the amount of work you'll have to do to manage your sponsorship campaigns.
  3. If you run a community website with a passionate user-base, they'll see the appearance of a sponsor as an intrusion, and worry about whether they'll be affecting the day-to-day operation of the site and its editorial content.
So let's take these one by one over the next couple days and work out some potential solutions.

This series will be written from the viewpoint of an advertiser, because I am one. But if you're a publisher or run a community, this should help you assess where your site might present opportunities to people like me. See the issues we're trying to work out and prepare to partner with us to provide increased value for our customer's and your audience.

Okay, what can we do about that first problem?

Well, my immediate thought is that, yes, you'll likely decrease reach. But if you're owning a co-branding opportunity or permanent sponsorship position on a website, you're hugely increasing your frequency and engagement. So yes, reach overall goes down, but attachment goes up.

So instead of engaging a large audience only slightly, you're engaging a smaller audience heavily.

As well, if you're going after community websites, you're getting an already engaged and passionate group of people. These impressions are worth more than others.

Added to that, if you handle your sponsorship cleverly (offering contesting, prizes, increased value to the user-base) they'll talk about you and what you've done. If you screw it up they'll talk about that, too. So be smart, be nice, and see the site's users as people, not eyeballs you're trying to throw your message in front of.

My second thought is that this complaint sounds a little lazy. If you find enough great websites and communities, you should be able to hit a huge number of people. It's just going to take some more work on your behalf.

But isn't this going to cost more, too? Well, sponsorships and co-branding opportunities can cost you a decent amount right now, sure. But that's because websites haven't quite figured out how to handle them yet. This will change.

This naturally leads into the next question, though: Isn't this all just more work?

Check back on Monday for a few answers to that question.


Ben said...


kathryn said...

I don't agree that the sponsorship will necessarily be seen as an "intrusion". If it's introduced as something that provides value and is engaging and addressed the community that already exists it can be presented as a benefit.
Good stuff - I'm learning lots . Thanks

Joel Kelly said...

Thanks Ben!

You're absolutely right, Kathryn. It's about making sure that the advertiser provides, not just value to the site owner/publisher, but to the site users and fans. They need to see the direct benefit of having this sponsor be a part of their community.

Which I'll be getting to more in the next couple days :)

Craig Moore said...

I also believe that it is not an intrusion as most of the audience understands that these great communities take time and everyone knows what time is. So that being said it is a pre-gone conclusion that as a community participant you will see something at some point to start offsetting the cost, especially if it is a active site.

With online offerings like video that have production costs associated to them you quickly will see advertising add-ins. It also hearkens directly to broadcast television models. Television we often forget (as we have become accustomed to them) is riddled with advertising not only in interstitials but also in product placement and season sponsors, etc.

I think with the vast majority of online communities you can expect advertising to show up quickly and unless it throttles the community experience (i.e. watch this two minute video before proceeding...every time) then the audience understands and is savvy to the fact that nothing is free.

Craig Moore

Joel Kelly said...

Great points, Craig!

Glenmore said...

I do not know Joel Kelly and do not endorse these ideas. I am part of a group intent on placing one 1500 x 1200 pixel Viagra vokken over every Facebook / YouTube page that you visit. In exchange we are going to buy those sites the rights to the Scrabble brand name / Comedy Central Colbert clips respectively.

Joel Kelly said...

Glen, sir, I think you've got a solid plan there.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.