One of the first steps in ramping up your online sponsorship efforts is identifying which assets you have to sell, how marketable they are, and which additional assets might be within your reach over time. More “traditional” online sponsorship assets include web banners (also known as display ads) on your website and e-newsletters, while evolving ad units are those associated with mobile web sites, streaming audio/video and mobile apps.
Social sharing is increasingly key to online sponsorship. That said, advertising on social media platforms is very delicate. It’s tough to integrate a sponsor into your social footprint without looking and sounding commercial in your fan environment, both with the messages themselves and how frequently the platform is used for it. But it can be done. PBS has had some success here, carefully, and by considering social media as package element only for larger deals. The bigger opportunity is leveraging social media to bring your content to your existing audience and new audiences. If your site is not getting 10% of its traffic from social media outlets this year, you are behind the curve and missing an opportunity to build your brand digitally. Finally, there are additional opportunities associated with “native advertising” environments, where clearly-labeled sponsor content lives alongside your digital station content.
Don’t feel like you have to have all the latest bells and whistles or a huge amount of traffic to develop online sponsorship opportunities; sponsors want and expect to connect with your valued audience across all platforms. Indeed, just like any value proposition, you want to consider the best fit for the needs of your clients. While highly-trafficked pages (above the fold and adhering to viewability standards) are a good place to start, like with on-air sales, you’ll find that some clients may care less about reach and more about the quality of the eyeballs they are reaching. In these cases, you may want to consider offering content areas that get less traffic but that are highly targeted to special groups (i.e. TV: teachers, parents; Radio: arts, environment; Other: user-generated content etc.), and for which you can charge a higher rate. Regardless, consider starting small and taking advantage of existing public media tools and services to help you optimize your existing opportunities as you grow:
At the very least, experiment with offering an IAB-compliant ad unit that is optimized for viewability, on your most highly-trafficked web pages and/or within your regular e-newsletters. The 300x250 ad unit is among the most prevalent and best-performing ad units in public broadcasting and is part of the IAB’s Universal Ad Package, which indicates it’s one of the most widely-used ad sizes on the Internet today. There are other sizes that can be considered, but the 300x250 also provides you with more access to national campaigns. Experienced stations might want to consider some of the more sophisticated and immersive units are beginning to gain traction in the marketplace. Take advantage of existing tools and services—like NPM’s PMI Network for instance—to give you the turnkey support you may need to jump-start your efforts while you take the time to strategize about how to grow.
Contextual links (i.e. Google’s Ad Sense, Outbrain) are another automated and fairly turnkey way to earn passive revenue or to supplement your other online sponsorship efforts. Most services allow publishers to identify advertising categories or specific advertisers that would not be permitted to appear in these spaces, but it’s incumbent on you to do the policing. As a result, these links, unlike NPM ad units, may not always adhere to public broadcasting guidelines and therefore may subject your station to unrelated business income tax (UBIT). Additionally, since you may not have the same control over content messaging with this type of unit, or your station is more sensitive to perceptions of commercialism, then this may not be a viable option for you.
Taking It Further
Already have the 300x250 and/or other ad units in place? Use one of our worksheets to assess the value of the inventory you already have at your disposal and to plan for future growth: