The Best Sponsored Content Of 2013

Sponsored content was one of the most dominating marketing trends of 2013 –it was the twerking of the marketing world, except that it appears to have a lot more staying power. Publishers discovered it as a valuable revenue stream, and brands realized that it could be a great way to connect with consumers and drive ROI. Ninety percent of publishers are now offering native ad offerings, including Forbes, The Associated Press, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, Mashable, The Huffington Post, Gawker, Buzzfeed, Business Insider, and many more.

For brands, the benefits of sponsored content is already becoming clear. An independent study commissioned by Forbes found that sponsored content delivered a 41 percent brand lift for brands; Buzzfeed’s case studies tell a similar story. Mashable and Buzzfeed have both reported that readers share their sponsored content more than regular editorials.

Sponsored content isn’t going anywhere; in fact, as readers increasingly shift to mobile, it’s probably publishers’ only hope for real revenue.

Gawker & Cottonelle: Butt wipes… really?


Let’s start with one of the weirder pieces of sponsored content in 2013.

A hilarious rant written by John Cook of Gawker was so ingenious Cottonelle decided to sponsor the post five days after it was published. The article “Do You Use Butt Wipes, and if so, What’s Wrong with You?,” poked fun at a marketing campaign attempting to sell butt wipes to adults. Even though he takes a humorous approach, Cook does raise a very valid question: Why would anyone other than a child need a butt wipe? What’s wrong with toilet paper?

In what we dubbed as “content marketing’s royal flush,” Cottonelle approached Gawker about the article and asked to sponsor it…after it was already published. Gawker decided to roll with the idea–and re-ran it on their homepage as a sponsored post. In 2014, don’t be surprised to see more brands sponsor content after it’s already been published.

Mashable and AIO Wireless: 12 Reasons to Stay Home on Black Friday

There’s been a lot of pushback against the listicle of late, but when it’s done right, it can be a thing of beauty. Mashable and AIO Wireless nailed Black Friday in all its GIF glory with this post. Readers agreed, sharing it 37,000 times.

Slate and GE Capital: Roadshow For Growth


As part of their “Roadshow for Growth” campaign, Slate magazine and GE Capital did some thinking outside the box and decided to write about the Flying Food Group, a company behind the delicacies served in airplanes.

The piece investigated a topic that people love to talk about — airline food — that’s also relevant to GE Capital, since Flying Food Group is a middle-market business. And unlike some of the airline food you might have tried lately, the piece was far from dry.

The Atlantic & IBM: Power In Data


The use of infographics was on the rise in 2013, and one of the best was “Power in Data: Turning Facts into Discoveries,” published in The Atlantic and sponsored by IBM.

It’s successful because it’s able to provide a boatload of information that Atlantic readers would dig in a very simplistic and easy-to-process format, exemplifying the kind of data analysis that IBM provides.

Forbes Brandvoice & Gyro: Why We All Need To Become Better Writers


Kenneth Hein, the global marketing director for Gyro, wrote “Why We all Need to Become Better Writers Right Now,” and reflected upon why writing is so important in today’s world. Simply put, it was a great piece of thought leadership.

Obviously this is right up our alley. But it was also a hit, getting over 6,000 shares times. The premise of the post is that we can look back on what past authors and use it to learn how to improve our writing today.

Buzzfeed & Mini: Not Normal

The series, which included posts like “10 Not Normal Phenomena That Actually Exist“, was an instant hit. You probably saw it shared on your Facebook feed a few hundred times.

The campaign resulted in a million engagements, two-thirds of which were from social shares — a big marketing success for such a small car. Buzzfeed’s case study of the campaign boasts of a brand lift in the triple digits. That’s the ROI of marketers’ dreams.

The Content Strategist is our brand’s story. What’s yours? Let us help you find the answer.

Image by @EffStopp /

Get better at your job right now.

Read our monthly newsletter to master content marketing. It’s made for marketers, creators, and everyone in between.

Trending stories