How Sponsored Entertainment Solves Philanthropic Marketing for Brands
Millennial: the demographic on every marketer's mind. Millennials are continuing to bulk up their spending power and brands are scrambling for fresh and innovative ways to engage the millennial consumer to establish lifelong brand loyalty. The truth is, winning over the millennial demographic means that a brand must adhere to what drives their morale: authenticity, philanthropy and making a positive social and environmental impact.
We currently live in a consumer-driven world and millennial consumers especially want to feel good about their purchases and also want to make use of social media to share the story behind the purchase. Brands are being held to the highest standards and thus cause marketing has tremendously grown from being a $120 million industry in 1990 to an industry of more than $2 billion in 2017.
Studies show that more than 9-in-10 millennials will switch brands to one associated with a cause, and brands are responding by joining the corporate social responsibility movement and shifting from traditional advertising to branded content that embraces good citizenship. However, branded content isn’t a guaranteed advertising success. Studies show millennials are sceptical toward marketing and will immediately detect a cheap attempt to capitalise on social issues. Having grown up in a digital age and being over-exposed to advertising, the media-savvy generation is quick to flag inauthenticity and branded content that's a thinly disguised ad. This demographic isn’t forgiving when a brand misses the mark.
In order for a brand to successfully align itself with a cause or support an issue, there has to be a sincere connection with the social cause and most importantly, it must deliver a well-told authentic story. As with anything, especially storytelling, execution is very important and can determine whether a brand’s philanthropic message lands successfully or turns into a PR disaster like Pepsi's recent ad debacle.
A far better option for brands looking to reach consumers with socially responsible messages is to team with accomplished filmmakers to make sponsored entertainment - authentic feature and television-length projects that film and TV distributors will want to buy. Unlike traditional advertising, sponsored entertainment gives brands a chance to put their name on something that holds a longer lifeline and is more likely to grab the attention of consumers, such as documentaries or feature films. Streaming platform giants like Netflix are quick to snag the latest issue-driven or provocative documentary because their key audience demographic (millennials) are intrigued by authentic storytelling that educates and entertains. Getting involved with content that connects with an audience and provokes social awareness will allow for advertisers to convey their brand messaging in such a subtle way that it won’t be flagged as inauthentic, because it’s not.
Brands can find success through sponsored entertainment and a director with a filmmaking repertoire and passion for social impact can deliver a great 'socially conscious' project that will not only satisfy millennials, but also obtain proper distribution, which should be a top priority for brands.
Most recently, we produced the Werner Herzog documentary about internet, "Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World” which was recently awarded with an AICP NEXT award for NEXT Branded Content as well as two Gold Lions and a Silver Lion at the 2017 Cannes Lion Entertainment Festival. The film was sponsored by the network solutions company NetScout and premiered at Sundance, where it was purchased by Magnolia Pictures.
Oscar-winning filmmakers who are involved first-hand with nonprofit organisations and are passionate about creating content that actually inspires social good are key for these types of projects. Brands who are looking to get involved with socially responsible marketing through passionate filmmakers and sponsored content need to source the right type of talent that can funnel true passion and authenticity into their work for a successful end result.
Once brands have mastered corporate social responsibility, they have to go one step further and select a proper distribution method for that content. Younger generations are making it very clear that they do not want to be interrupted with traditional TV commercials or radio ads while immersed into a binge series or podcast. The key is to fuse genuine philanthropic content with entertainment. And we, as content creators, need to stop disrupting their entertainment with overt advertising and instead become the entertainment.
When dealing with a documentary or engaging narrative film, there is the unique opportunity to extensively expand its audience reach by conducting a festival run, which can then lead to the film being purchased and having a theatrical release and/or picked up by a streaming service like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, etc.
Rupert Maconick, Executive Producer and Founder of Saville Productions