Succeeding as a hyperlocal publisher is all about identifying strengths and minimizing weaknesses. Perhaps nowhere is the small publisher’s ability to capitalize on a strength more apparent than in the rise of section sponsorships. Section sponsorships give advertisers incredible prominence, quickly becoming a form of exclusive premium advertising that cannot be bought elsewhere on the web.
Before we dig into how local publishers can use section sponsorships to attract advertisers, let’s take a step back and look at what section sponsorships actually are.
When they sell section sponsorships, publishers earmark entire pages or sections of their websites for specific advertisers. The exclusive placement of ads can be incredibly lucrative for businesses looking to connect with a certain segment of the publisher’s readership.
Section sponsorship has gotten so popular in recent years that it became the No. 1 request among Broadstreet customers in 2017. Section sponsorships also earned a prominent place as one of the most important advantages offered to small publishers in our new eBook, Ten Advantages: How Magazine and Hyperlocal News Publishers Will Win In the Era of Facebook and Google.
Although most section sponsorship packages offer an advertiser exclusive placement across an entire page or section on a publisher’s website, section sponsorships don’t have to be limited to a single advertiser. Thirty-three percent or 25% share of voice is still considered a great value for local businesses, particularly when strategy is involved in selecting the timing of the campaign.
A few examples of effective section sponsorships include:
• A real estate agency sponsors the Real Estate section of a publisher’s site in the weeks leading up to the busy spring home buying season
• A sporting goods retailer sponsors the Sports section during the local high school’s Homecoming week
• A hip restaurant uses a section sponsorship to announce the debut of a new menu or chef
• A hospital uses its 25% share of voice in a Health section to congratulate its doctors for ranking first in a “Best of the City” contest
“Best of” awards are particularly lucrative for local publishers. Being connected to these community awards through the use of page sponsorships or section sponsorships can elevate businesses in the eyes of readers. Savvy local publishers have been able to break up their “Best of” awards, with results displayed on individual pages for each category, providing extra sponsorship opportunities for businesses.
Section sponsorships offer a way for advertisers to reach targeted audiences at a premium price. For example, restaurants are willing to pay more to have their ads placed next to restaurant reviews or movie theater listings, just as sporting goods stores are willing to pay more to have their ads run next to sports scores and recaps of local high school games.
Professionals who want to solidify their positions as leaders in their communities, retailers looking for increased visibility, entrepreneurs looking to build buzz around new business openings — the reasons why business advertisers sponsor entire sections of website are endless. This makes selling these sponsorships an easy proposition for local sales teams. When advertisers immediately see the value in a product, selling that product becomes easy.
The value in section sponsorships is in the exclusivity, and in the fact that it’s the type of package that can’t be replaced through an online ad network.
Consider how easy it is to look past a traditional 300×600 sidebar ad or a 300×250 ad. Now consider what it looks like when every ad on an entire page is promoting the same business. Not quite as easy to look past, right?
With a little creativity, businesses can maximize their section sponsorships. Rather than running the same display ad in every slot on a page, the advertiser can use a series of ads that work together to tell a cohesive story. A business can also use the additional space and flexibility in a section sponsorship package to tell its brand story and give readers a clearer picture of what the company stands for.
Section sponsorships also provide advertisers with the opportunity to use uniquely sized or dynamic ad units. Advertisers who are traditionally underserved by display advertising have the most to gain here, as the unique imagery in a section sponsorship can provoke a visceral response.
As important as section sponsorships have become to local publishers, they’re just one of a handful of premium packages being used to attract business advertisers.