Why Your Association Should Sell Native Sponsored Content in Your Media Programs

By • May 24, 2019

Your business members look to your association as a way to network with peers and potential customers, and share ideas. But what can you do for them when their ideas have outgrown your website or newsletter ads? Offer native sponsored content.

What it is

Native sponsored content looks just like content from your association, but is provided by a supplier. Except for a small label that marks it as an advertisement, this business-forward content is formatted exactly the same as other editorial in your newsletter, magazine, or on your website.

In this newsletter from the Association of Old Crows’, native sponsored content is highlighted by a colored background but formatted in the same font and style as other content. (Orange box added to highlight the ad for the purposes of this post.) 


The American Public Power Association blends their sponsored content seamlessly into their daily eNewsletter. Besides the “Advertisement” header, which is formatted the same as other article headers, these sponsored articles appear exactly the same as other newsletter articles. (Orange boxes added here to point out the articles.)

Businesses seek out native sponsored content placements because the format allows them tell their story in much more detail than your typical 300 x 250 pixel display ad. The business’ ad explains how a new product or service works. They can talk through their experiences navigating a new regulation. They can share client testimonials, photos, videos, or even audio (on online platforms) to convey an idea. The focus is not so much on length or type of content, but on telling the right story in the right amount of space. Native content also circumvents ad blockers.

Depending on frequency of the host publication, your association can offer native sponsored content in installments. A daily newsletter or a monthly magazine is a prime way for a business to maintain a continually fresh conversation with industry peers and potential customers.

How it works

How your association accepts and manages sponsored native content will depend on your staff’s capabilities. Some associations have staff that can create native sponsored content for an interested business – whether that means writing copy, creating visuals, filming and editing video, or all of the above. Others hire freelance writers to work with an advertiser to collect ideas, interview key people and draft the content. Smaller-staffed associations usually require the advertiser to provide camera-ready text and artwork, or outsource all coordination to a third party like Naylor.

Your association should sell native sponsored content space at a high premium. You’re offering big, prime space in your publications through this placement, so charge accordingly. We typically sell native sponsored content on behalf of our association clients at rates 35 to 45 percent higher than traditional display ads. It’s a significant investment on behalf of the advertiser, and sometimes the ultra-high premiums scare off potential advertisers. But the positioning is worth every penny. Make sure your association’s sales staff adequately conveys the value of the format, and consider combining native sponsored content opportunities with integrated media buys if sticker shock keeps happening.

Benefits of Native Sponsored Content

Native sponsored content gives your business members an expanded format to present solutions to problems your industry faces. Sometimes this involves promoting their product or service, but not always. Businesses and individual members alike appreciate the ability to talk about emerging processes, complex regulations or new data that is important to the way they work. When editorial space is limited, this format gives front-line professionals another way to share their important discoveries that is less intrusive than a traditional display ad and more visible than a standard directory listing.

For readers or viewers, native sponsored content provides a better, more seamless content experience. Even though it has the ‘advertisement’ label, because it’s positioned the same as association-originated text and images, it evokes the same level of credibility and trust. In other words, it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck – so to your members, it’s a duck.

To be clear, native sponsored content is not a way for advertisers to sneak in outsized claims, or bait-and-switch tricks under the guise (or to the detriment) of your association’s credible reputation. Smart associations retain the right of final review over all advertising, including native sponsored content, to ensure ads meet the association’s ethical or professional standards.

This right to review, and the expanded format of native sponsored advertising, offers your association the benefit of knowing in more detail your supplier members’ priorities. Our 2018 Association Communications Benchmarking Survey found that only one in five associations feel they have a good understanding of reader, member and advertiser needs. Pay attention to native sponsored content topics, and you’ll quickly get a feel for what concerns your members.

Need one more reason to adopt native sponsored content in your publications? Our survey also found that less than half of associations offer some form of advertising customization, even though businesses want the ability to choose an ad type that works best for their brand. Allowing business members to submit their own content for your publication automatically means you’re offering customization without spending too much time figuring out how to format it.

Native Sponsored Content Delivers Results 

It’s hard to secure or renew an advertiser when the results aren’t there. But native advertising delivers the clicks and connections advertisers want. Click-through metrics for links within native sponsored content are much better than typical display ads. A traditional banner might get 200 to 250 clicks, but I’ve seen native content summaries get as much as 850 clicks in over a month.

The expanded format of native sponsored content means your advertisers can include more than one way for readers/viewers to reach them. They can link to a website, as well as an email address. They can change their calls to action with each installment. They can offer tracked resources that readers are more likely to engage with because native sponsored content gives the advertiser the space to explain what a resource offers and how it will benefit the reader. In our age of phishing attacks and disinformation campaigns, the ability to build trust with potential customers through a single ad is a big deal!

Native sponsored content lets businesses tell their story in a way that traditional display ads or listings simply can’t. The marketing impact is huge, and so is the revenue opportunity for associations. When you can help your business members talk in depth about why their solution is worth customers’ investment, you can change the trajectory of your members’ growth and success. I don’t know a better marketing investment than that!

About The Author

Erik Henson is a media director for Naylor Association Solutions.