Here’s an unfortunate truth that’s been happening for a while now; online ads are becoming less effective.

Eye-tracking studies have shown that online users ignore ads and make a beeline to the content they were looking for in the first place. 

In fact, users have become so ad-averse that they give the cold shoulder to content that resembles ads, is close to ads, or is in locations traditionally dedicated to ads (like the Sponsored section of Google’s search results). 

This behavior is known as banner blindness — a form of selective attention where users ignore ads or entire sections of a website that don’t have the type of content they want.

If visitors ignore your ads, you won’t generate as many clicks and conversions as you’d like. That’s not to mention all the money you’ll waste on paid ad placements (which don’t come cheap, especially today). 

So, how can you A) reach your target audience in a way they won’t ignore, and B) get them to complete the actions you want (i.e., sign up for your newsletter, make a purchase, etc.)?

One way is through sponsored content.

By getting trusted YouTubers, bloggers, and journalists to create sponsored content for you, you’ll gain your audience’s undivided attention (and they won’t even realize they’re being advertised to).  

If you’re not already using sponsored content in your marketing mix, you’re missing out on opportunities to engage and convert members of your target audience.

In this article, we’ll break down what sponsored content is, showcase different types, and provide examples of how to leverage this channel to drive measurable results.

What is sponsored content?

Sponsored content is a form of paid advertising where you work with blogs, newspapers, YouTube channels, and influencers to publish content that promotes your products and services.

Unlike traditional ads that are often intrusive, sponsored content appears organic as it comes in the form of blog posts, videos, and social media posts. 

In other words, instead of ads getting in the way of users trying to view something else (like an ad before a YouTube video), your sponsored content will be the very thing your audience is seeking out (like a TikTok video from one of their favorite creators who you sponsor).

Using sponsored content to promote your brand

How does sponsored content work?

The way it works is simple — a company partners with a content creator who agrees to publish content in exchange for payment (or another perk, like free products and services, discounts, etc.).

It’s up to you to determine how you’ll compensate your sponsors, but the most common way is to provide a fee for their service. 

Sponsored content is EVERYWHERE today, so you’ve undoubtedly encountered it while on social media or YouTube. 

After all, how many times have you heard a content creator on YouTube say “and that brings me to today’s sponsor,” followed by a lengthy plug for a product or service?

That’s sponsored content in action, and it’s exploded in popularity over the last decade.

To cite a real-world example, Audible, a subscription service for audiobooks, regularly partners with influencers. In the post below, photographer Jesse Driftwood discusses using Audible to listen to audiobooks on business management and productivity.

Sponsored content on Jesse Driftwood's Instagram


As you can see, the post generated thousands of likes, and it directly appeals to professionals eager to continue their education. 

It also doesn’t appear like an ad since it just looks like one of Jesse’s regular posts (complete with a relevant, high-resolution image). For this reason, it circumvents the ‘banner blindness’ problem mentioned earlier, which is why sponsored content is so effective. 

Why bother with sponsored content?

Let’s face it:

Nobody likes ads.

We’ve all been there; you’re completely engrossed in a captivating article when, suddenly, a giant pop-up ad consumes your entire screen. 

Or worse, you’re watching a YouTube video, and just as things are getting juicy, it cuts to not one but two paid ads that you have to sit through.

It’s not surprising that 39% of respondents are often annoyed by internet advertising, which isn’t good news for paid advertisers. 

What makes matters worse is over 912 million internet users use Adblock to avoid ads completely.

Number of adblock users worldwide

The bottom line is that people don’t like ads, and many will go out of their way to block them.

Sponsored content provides an alternative to disruptive ads. A sponsored post will help you reach your audience without disrupting their current experience. Instead, the sponsored post will be the experience they actively seek out, so there won’t be any need to disrupt it. 

Since sponsored posts closely resemble editorial content (just like the Audible post from Jesse Driftwood), users are far more likely to engage with it (which is why that post got 10,000+ likes).

This type of paid advertising helps you:

  • Raise brand awareness
  • Educate and entertain your audience
  • Build trust and credibility
  • Establish thought leadership in your field

If users get value from your content (learning how to do something, answering a question, solving a problem, entertaining them, etc.), they’ll likely continue interacting with your brand in the future and may even become customers.

Sponsored content vs. native advertising

Due to some deceptively close similarities, it can be easy to mix up sponsored content with native advertising, but the two are distinct forms of advertising. 

Here’s how to tell the difference between a sponsored post and a native ad. 

Native ads

A native ad is a form of paid advertising that intentionally matches the look and feel of the platform on which it resides. 

In other words, a native ad on Instagram will try to ‘blend in’ with the organic posts that appear on your feed. A native ad will look like a post from any other profile, but it will subtly promote a product or service. 

Here’s an example of a native, in-feed ad on Instagram that perfectly illustrates what we’re talking about:

Example of a native ad on Instagram


Since this ad comes in the form of an Instagram post (complete with a profile, picture, and caption), it blends in with the rest of the user’s feed. Someone scrolling through their newsfeed may not even notice that this is an ad, which is the point of native advertising.  

Most native ads include the following:

  • Headline
  • Product image
  • Short description
  • Call to action

These ads are less intrusive than traditional ads, but that doesn’t mean that they’re indecipherable from organic posts. Most social platforms provide some way of telling users that a native advertisement is indeed an ad, such as the ‘Sponsored’ tag appearing on the top-right corner of the Instagram ad provided above. 

Paid advertising 

Paid search ads are another example of native ads, but they appear on search engines like Google instead of social media platforms. 

Let’s do a quick search and find some paid search ads to analyze. 

Sticking with the theme of the Instagram ad, If we search for “quality mineral water” in Google, these paid ads appear at the top of the results page:

The only clue that these listings are ads is the ‘Sponsored’ tag circled in red. Besides that, they appear like normal product listings that would appear for any type of search. 

Paid content 

Finally, another popular format for native ads is paid content that appears below an article, as shown below.

Example of promotional content


Every article you see here promotes a product or service, which is noted by the Paid Content subheading above them. Despite this, they’re made to appear like regular blog posts, which is why they qualify as native ads. 

Clicking on these posts typically directs visitors to a landing page where they can learn more about a product and make a purchase.

Those are the different types of native ads, and they can certainly help you generate sales. In fact, research shows that native ads have a click-through rate that’s 8.8x higher than standard display ads. 

However, some visitors may find it off-putting if you try to push them towards a conversion too soon.

Also, native ads aren’t immune to banner blindness. As we’ve pointed out, every native ad will have some sort of identifier revealing that it’s an advertisement (required by law), which can cause users to scroll past them without a second thought. 

For these reasons, sponsored content is a better option to reach your audience without being too pushy, and it’s far less likely to cause banner blindness.

Sponsored content

Sponsored content takes a completely different approach to native advertising, and it’s a lot stealthier. 

For one, sponsored ads take the form of articles, videos, and social media posts. 

Another difference is that native ads are created by advertisers, while sponsored content comes directly from publishers and content creators. At first glance, this may seem negative, as it grants you less control over the content of your ads. However, this is usually a good thing, as it will make your ad appear more organic and less ‘salesy.’

Also, brands still create their own sponsored content at times, but they still have to work with a relevant publisher to ensure it fits their audience. 

The main reason why sponsored content is able to perfectly blend in with traditional content is that its primary goal is to educate rather than sell. Sponsored content isn’t concerned with hard sell tactics, as immediate conversions aren’t your aim. 

Instead, you want to build your audience’s trust by providing them with valuable content that answers questions and solves problems. Once your audience trusts you, they’ll be far more likely to make a purchase or sign up for a service.  

One thing to note before we continue is that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires publishers and influencers to disclose when they have a “material connection” to a brand.

Undisclosed advertising is illegal, so every type of ad, sponsored or not, must let the audience know in some way that it’s an advertisement. In the case of sponsored content, your audience must know that the content creator or publisher has a material connection to your brand (more on FTC guidelines below).  

FTC disclosure guidelines


Types of sponsored content (with examples)

Creating sponsored content can be an effective way to raise brand awareness, showcase your expertise, and build trust with your audience.

Here’s a look at different types of sponsored content. We’ve also provided examples of how companies use these content formats to drive engagement.


Blog articles comprise the backbone of most companies’ content creation efforts. They’re cost-effective, easy to create, and can encompass numerous content types (how-to’s, buyer’s guides, listicles, etc.). 

As such, articles are one of the best ways to take advantage of sponsored content. As long as you post sponsored articles on your audience’s preferred platforms, they will help you reach and connect with qualified prospects. 

As an example, music streaming juggernaut Spotify once sponsored a BuzzFeed listicle entitled ‘15 Bands That Probably Wouldn’t Exist Without Led Zeppelin.’


Notice that at the top of the page BuzzFeed clarifies that it’s a Paid Post, and they list Spotify as the Brand Publisher

Besides these two identifiers, users would have no way of knowing that the listicle is actually a paid ad for Spotify. 

Despite being an ad, the article is an informative, entertaining post that chronicles Led Zeppelin’s influence on modern rock music. It’s a genuinely interesting read for music enthusiasts and rock lovers, which are definitely who Spotify is trying to appeal to here. 

Interested in getting professional long-form content written for your business? Get started with HOTH Blogger, and we’ll take care of the rest.


Long-form content (anything over 1,000 words) is a great way to explore a topic and provide lots of helpful information for your audience. 

Yet, many users prefer watching videos, so you shouldn’t ignore video-sharing platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok.

Sponsored videos will help you reach new audiences and generate more sales. 

In fact, 82% of people have been convinced to buy a product or service by watching a video. After all, there’s a reason why so many businesses choose to sponsor YouTubers. 

84% of consumers have been convinced to make a purchase after watching a video

A good example is the investment firm BlackRock, which sponsored a series of financial well-being videos for the popular news outlet NowThis News.

Invest in Yourself sponsored video


The sponsored videos provide financial advice on budgeting, investing, and more. It’s a perfect match for BlackRock as it offers investment management solutions.

Social media

The sponsored videos provide financial advice on budgeting, investing, and more. This was a perfect match for BlackRock, which offers investment management solutions to professionals worldwide. 

Social media

It’s no secret that social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram are a huge part of consumers’ lives in the modern world.

People turn to social media to find entertainment, connect with friends, stay informed about current events, and learn more about local businesses. 

For this reason, it makes sense that brands are investing more in sponsored content for social media. 

In fact, global influencer marketing spending reached an impressive $34.08 billion in 2023.

Estimated influencer marketing spending

Acquiring sponsored posts on platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook gives you the opportunity to increase brand awareness and drive referral traffic to your site.

Let’s take a look at a sponsored post on social media to see an example. 

Popular OTC (over-the-counter) heartburn medication Tums sponsored the following post on First We Feast’s X account.

Example of a sponsored social media post by TUMS


First We Feast is known for producing the wildly popular Hot Ones series. The show’s host interviews famous celebrities while they eat spicy chicken wings (and typically struggle to do so).

While the ad is comical, it’s a perfect sponsorship — spicy food can cause an upset stomach, which antacids like TUMS just so happens to relieve.


While podcasts have been extremely popular since 2014, they’re still growing in popularity, so it’s not a content medium to ignore.

In 2024, it’s forecasted that 59.2% of US digital audio listeners will consume a podcast at least once per month, which totals 135.4 million people. 

Moreover, podcasts are extremely diverse, so it won’t matter your industry or niche focus (chances are there’ll be dozens of popular podcasts in your space already, so you’ll definitely have an audience to work with).

Growing popularity of podcasts among U.S. adults

Sponsoring a podcast or a segment that’s related to your business will help you tap into this massive market to raise brand awareness, drive traffic, and drum up sales.

As an example, AG1 by Athletic Greens sponsors the Joe Rogan Experience (JRE) podcast. 

When polled, a massive portion of Joe Rogan fans claim they aspire to be fit and healthy (92%), so the sponsorship makes perfect sense.  


The examples above are just some content types that you can sponsor. Others include:

  • Infographics. If you want your content to generate lots of shares and backlinks, infographics are an excellent choice, and plenty of publishers and content creators make them. Here’s an example of a co-sponsored infographic from Hunch
  • Whitepapers. You can think of a whitepaper as a highly formal blog post that’s extremely well researched. Whitepapers are popular for professional industries, so sponsoring whitepapers is a good move if your target audience works in information technology (or another field with complicated products). The Water Environment Federation (WEF) has a section on their website dedicated to sponsored whitepapers
  • Newsletters. Instead of flooding your prospects’ inboxes with promotional emails that they’ll never open, you’ll have a lot more success with sponsoring newsletters, which boast 62% read rates. As an example, Morning Brew’s newsletter features a large section of sponsored content. 
  • Webinars. If you have a professional audience, sponsoring a webinar is a great way to promote your business while they’re engrossed in a valuable presentation. 54% of B2B professionals participate in webinars at least once a week. For instance, the National Association for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC) offers sponsorship opportunities for their webinars.

FTC Guidelines for Sponsored Content

As stated before, undisclosed advertising is illegal, so you’ll have to follow the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) guidelines for your sponsored content. 

The idea is to protect audiences from being misled by undisclosed advertising, which is why the rules exist. 

Key Points of FTC Guidelines:

➡️ Clear disclosure: If you receive any compensation (money, free products, or experiences) in exchange for a social media post, you MUST disclose it clearly and conspicuously.

➡️Use transparent language: Using vague terms like “thanks to,” or “#collab” isn’t sufficient. Use straightforward words like “#ad” or “sponsored” at the beginning of your post.

➡️ Placement matters: The disclosure should appear “above the fold” or be clearly visible without clicking “more.” It also needs to be noticeable in videos.

➡️ Own your experience: Even when a brand gives you talking points, you must remain honest about your genuine experience with the product or service.

Why does this matter? 

✔️ Builds trust: Transparency fosters a loyal audience that will trust your recommendations.

✔️ Protects you: Violating FTC guidelines can result in warnings or even fines.

✔️ It’s the right thing: Your audience deserves to know when content is promotional.

ℹ️ Here are some resources to get you started:

Now, let’s look at how you can use sponsored content to connect with your target audience, regardless of their preferred platforms. 

How to get started with sponsored content

When done right, sponsored content drives measurable results for your business, and it can even establish your brand as a household name. 

But, just like any marketing strategy, you’ve got to develop a plan and allocate your resources accordingly if you want to find lasting success.

The following steps will teach you how to promote your brand using sponsored content.

1. Set a goal

Sponsored content is all about placing your branded messages in front of the right people. However, before you get started, you’ll need to decide on A) which branded messages to promote, B) which audience you want to target, and C) what you ultimately hope to achieve with your sponsored content (i.e., more brand awareness, referral traffic, etc.). 

Therefore, the first step is to define a goal (or goals) for your sponsored content campaign. 

Here’s a peek at some common goals:

  • Raise brand awareness. This goal involves reaching a new audience on the platforms that they frequent. 
  • Increase referral traffic. Referral traffic is beneficial because it’s a sign that you’re building brand awareness and loyalty online. There’s also less competition since the traffic isn’t coming from SEO keywords, and your referral traffic won’t be affected by algorithm changes. 
  • Establish thought leadership. Sponsoring informative content will help establish your brand as a thought leader in your field. Other important types of content include whitepapers, webinars, and data-driven industry reports. 
  • Drive more leads and sales. If you partner with trusted creators who share your target audience, you will drive more leads and sales for your most important products and services. 

Why should you create goals for your sponsored content?

It’s because defining your goals will help provide guidance on the type of content you should create.

Let’s say your goal is to raise brand awareness. 

You could sponsor a sleek and well-written listicle entitled ‘10 Things to Consider Before Investing in (your product type).’ 

On the other hand, if thought leadership is your ultimate goal, you could sponsor a comprehensive industry report on a pain point facing your target audience. You could then offer it as a download on a respected website in your field. 

If you’re having a hard time coming up with goals, take a look at your existing sales funnel and ask yourself, “Where does sponsored content have the most potential to make a difference?” Answering this question will help you come up with valuable goals. 

2. Research your target audience

Understanding your target audience is integral to creating effective sponsored content.

Think about the audience that you want to reach. 

What are their demographics? What do they want to learn more about? What problems are they facing?

Research your target audience

Here are some ways to research your audience:

  • Collect and explore demographic data: Google Analytics offers plenty of information about your website visitors, like age, gender, interests, and more. You can also explore this data through Facebook Audience Insights and X Analytics.
  • Conduct customer surveys: One of the best ways to learn about your audience is to ask them directly. Send out email surveys or, if possible, arrange face-to-face meetings with your existing customers.
  • Analyze your competitors: Chances are your competitors are using platforms like Facebook and X. Analyzing their pages can also yield valuable insights into your target audience. Pay attention to the content their followers engage with and take inspiration from it.

Use the information you’ve gathered to create a realistic buyer persona – which is a detailed profile of your target audience. This will come in handy as you start creating sponsored content.

What is a buyer persona?

A buyer persona (also known as a customer avatar) is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer. It’s created based on market research, customer data, and insights into your existing customer base. A buyer persona typically includes:➡️ Demographics: Age, gender, location, job title, income level, etc.➡️ Psychographics: Personality traits, values, interests, lifestyle.➡️ Goals and motivations: What problems do they want to solve? What are their aspirations?

➡️ Pain points: What are their challenges or frustrations?

➡️ Online behavior: Where do they spend time online? What influences their decisions?

3. Decide on a content type

Now that you understand where your audience spends their time online, it’s time to consider the formats that will reach them, like social media posts, blog articles, sponsored videos, etc.

It’s important to select a content type that aligns with the goals you set in step #1. For example, if one of your goals is to drive more organic search traffic, you might consider sponsoring long-form content.

Why is that?

It’s because HubSpot found that articles with longer word counts generate more traffic on average than shorter articles.

Word count length and organic search traffic

Search engines value content that goes into great depth about a topic, something that’s hard to do with short articles. That’s why sponsoring long-form content will likely drive more traffic to your pages.

Of course, don’t just limit yourself to one content type.

If you’re only sponsoring blog posts, you’re missing out on a portion of your audience who may prefer watching videos or listening to podcasts. Once you set up a process for sponsored articles, consider expanding into different formats.

4. Research and choose a publisher

The next step is to choose a company, influencer, or publisher to distribute your sponsored content.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Audience: Choose a publisher with an audience that aligns with yours. For example, if you’re a travel agency, you might contact travel magazines or blogs. Research the platform to learn more about their audience.
  • Traffic: Creating sponsored content takes a lot of time and effort, so you want to make it worthwhile. Use our free website traffic checker tool to estimate how much traffic a publisher receives a month. If they aren’t pulling the type of numbers you want to see, consider looking for another sponsor. 
  • Cost: Find a publisher who fits your budget. The price you pay will depend on factors like demographics, reach, engagement, and content format.

Once you find a promising publisher, contact them and request a media kit – which is a document that contains information about their audience and other details, like engagement metrics.

Of course, don’t forget about influencers on social media. 

61% of consumers trust product recommendations from influencers, so the products and services they recommend hold true power. Use platforms like BuzzSumo, HypeAuditor, or AspireIQ to streamline your search for influencers in your field. To get the best results, set filters for niche, location, engagement metrics, and more.

61% of consumers trust product recommendations from influencers

ℹ️ Additional Tips

Don’t just focus on the big names: Your first move shouldn’t be to reach out to Logan Paul or Addison Rae, as they’re way too big. Micro-influencers often have highly engaged, niche audiences that can be a great fit, especially if you’re just starting out.

Start building relationships early: Engage with potential creators or publishers on social media, comment on their content, and nurture a connection before pitching partnerships.

5. Create your sponsored content

Often, publishers and creators want to create the sponsored content themselves to maintain control over what’s said. For example, T Brand Studio is a branch of The New York Times that works with companies to create branded content.

However, if you need to create your own sponsored content, then keep the following in mind:

  • Provide value: Always focus on providing value no matter what publisher you choose to distribute your content. In other words, avoid hard sell tactics at all costs. If your content is too promotional, readers may simply tune out, or the publisher may reject it.
  • Include multimedia: Nobody likes to read large walls of text. Include multimedia like images and videos in your article to increase engagement and to mix things up. Bloggers who include at least ten images report stronger results than those who use fewer images.
  • Follow editorial guidelines: Many publications have strict guidelines of what they can and can’t accept. Make sure that you stick to these editorial standards to get your content accepted.
  • Optimize for SEO: Don’t forget to optimize your sponsored content to improve its rankings in the search results. Use our free Google Keyword Planner Tool to identify keywords you can target.
Bonus tip: Authenticity always wins

Sponsored content shouldn’t feel like a late-night infomercial. Ensure it aligns with the creator or publisher’s usual style and voice. Sponsored content should build trust and add value to the audience’s experience.  Overly promotional or salesy content risks backfiring.

Also, include relevant calls to action that naturally fit the content. Guide the audience towards visiting your website, learning more about a product, or taking another desired action.

If you’re looking to get professionally written content, then check out HOTH Blogger.

6. Measure your results

If you want your sponsored content efforts to bear fruit, you need to know how to measure your progress. Here’s a list of the most important metrics you’ll want to track:

  • Reach and impressions: This represents how many people laid eyes on your content. 
  • Engagement: Likes, comments, shares, clicks, etc. 
  • Website traffic: The total number of visitors driven to your website from the sponsored content. 
  • Conversions: This refers to the number of leads, sales, or other desired actions taken. 

Timing also matters, as sponsored posts on social platforms often see a quick engagement spike that fades over time. While sponsored blog articles may have a slower start, they provide longer-term benefits for your organic traffic. 

You should also use certain tools to track your performance, which include the following:

  • Google Analytics. This platform provides website traffic stats, traffic numbers, referral sources, and conversion rates. 
  • UTM tags. For granular insights, use these unique links for each campaign (provide your publishers with them). 
  • Social media analytics. As stated before, each social platform has analytics that you can use to gain insights into the success of your sponsored content. 
  • Social media monitoring. Tools like BuzzSumo and Ahrefs Alerts will notify you every time someone mentions your brand or when you pick up a new backlink. 

After that, the next step is to analyze the data to determine what worked and what didn’t. Did you see the most success from certain content formats, publishers, or platforms? Use these findings to guide your future sponsored content efforts. 


Consumers today are bombarded with ads, which has led to an ad fatigue pandemic.

It’s gotten to the point that many internet users ignore ads on web pages or even install software to block them entirely.

Sponsored content offers a solution. 

By providing genuine value and seamlessly blending into trusted platforms, it engages your audience in a way that feels authentic and builds brand credibility.

You’ve learned the steps for a successful sponsored content strategy.  Now, let’s put it into action!

Need help taking your content to the next level?

Schedule a call with our digital marketing experts to learn more. ​​We’ll partner with you to create expertly crafted sponsored content that positions you as an authority and drives results.