Whether you call it native advertising, sponsored content, branded editorial or any of the other new terms recently popping up at digital conferences, in the end it’s really about perfecting the alignment of great storytelling and a relevant brand in a way that makes people want to read, share and act.
We wanted to provide some much needed context to the conversation by highlighting some of the best content partnerships in Canada. While not an exhaustive list, these brand/publisher collaborations demonstrate the synergies that can be achieved when credible influencers and the right brand work together.
This wouldn’t be a piece about partnerships if we didn’t have some great collaborators to help us put this article together ourselves. We were fortunate enough to speak with some of the top publishers, brand managers and agencies in the business to provide some deeper insight into the campaigns.
Vice + Bud Light
To solidify Bud Light as the leading purveyor of Canada’s electronic dance music (EDM) culture, the brand partnered with Vice/Thump, the leading authority on EDM culture in Canada, to create the Bud Light Living Room.
Thump produces all of the content in collaboration with the Bud Light Brand Team. Editorial consists of year-round exclusive EDM coverage and special features on the state of Electronic Dance Music. The content covers the spectrum from massive festival stages to renegade warehouse parties, from platinum-selling artists to DIY bedroom wunderkinds. A key pillar to the partnership features exclusive Bud Light EDM events, like Bud Light Digital Dreams and Bud Light Sensation. A recent video feature in The Bud Light Living room captures an all-night house party in London, Ontario with Steve Aoki.
Publisher: Vice Thump
Brand: Bud Light
Content: Special Thump section named The Bud Light Living Room, editorial, videos and events
The Bud Light Living Room
Steve Aoki House Party
A Quick History of Electronic Music With Art Department
Unbox Therapy + Sport Chek
In February 2014, Sport Chek opened up a new store in West Edmonton Mall. Over 77,000 square feet of retail space, the store features 470 screens and 45 interactive video cameras meant to personalize the shopping experience for each customer. It’s been branded as the most technically advanced sports store anywhere.
With an unveiling this big, Sport Chek decided to partner with Unbox Therapy for the “World’s Largest Unboxing Video”. Sport Chek opened up the store before staff or customers were on site to give Unbox therapy’s Lewis Hilsenteger free reign. The video follows Lewis as he rides bikes around the aisles, tests out the virtual reality sports (cycling and golf) and has his skis tuned up in the Wintersteiger Mercury machine.
Unbox Therapy has an enormous following on YouTube, with over 850,000 subscribers and nearly 100 Million views on their product unboxing videos The Sport Chek video is currently in Unbox Therapy’s top 30 videos of all time, clocking in over 500,000 views.
Publisher: Unbox Therapy
Brand: Sport Chek
Content: exclusive store unboxing video, social media posts
The World’s Largest Unboxing Video
VancityBuzz + Best Buy Mobile
Smartphones are about more than tech specs and data. The massive adoption of mobile has been spearheaded by the plethora of apps that are available, making the phone in your pocket a camera, compass, computer and once in a while it’s even used for phone calls.
Best Buy Mobile partnered with VancityBuzz, Vancouver’s fast growing blog-turned-newssite to showcase the benefits of owning a great smartphone. The series of sponsored posts included a very popular post in which VancityBuzz curated the Tope 10 Instagrammers to follow in Vancouver. Other posts included smartphone shopping guides and a crowdsourced list of Bad Christmas Presents that people have received, polled from VancityBuzz’s Twitter following.
The Grid + Muskoka Breweries
With so many bars and pubs in Toronto, it can be a challenge to find your favorite happy hour spot. The Grid TO and Muskoka Breweries partnered up to put together “highly subjective guides” of bar crawls for the novice, intermediate or elite bar crawler. Each bar crawl features a map of the selected bars as well as cool nearby shops to stop at while en route. The Grid fills you in on some of their own insider tips, for example the descriptor for Churchill Lounge & Bar is “Old-school dance music, hot bartenders, and one of the only patios in the area”. The Muskoka brand is nicely integrated through the suggestion of beer and food pairings to enjoy.
Collaborations like this are one of the many reasons we are sad to see The Grid clsoing up shop.
Publisher: The Grid TO (a division of Toronto Star Newspapers Limited)
Brand: Muskoka Breweries
Content: Three curated pub crawls, editorial reviews for featured restaurants, featured beer and food pairings
The Dundas West Crawl
The Leslieville Crawl
The NoBlo Crawl
National Geographic + Canadian Tourism Commission
National Geographic and the Canadian Tourism Commission partnered to create more than just a travel story. The “Canada’s 50 Places of a Lifetime” feature has been called the world’s first digital super mag and included highlights of favorite Canadian destinations from the viewpoint of Nat Geo’s Editor-in-Chief, Keith Bellows (a Canuck himself), from a Nat Geo photographer and even from Nat Geo’s explorer-in-residence and Canadian anthropologist and ethnobotanist, Wade Davis. After the initial feature ran, National Geographic asked readers if they had missed any spots. Hundreds of responses poured in and a crowdsourced favorite places post was added to fill in where Nat Geo had missed out.
Beyond the spectacular photography National Geographic is known for, the online mag’s content includes practical travel information on when to go, where to stay, how to get around, what to eat or drink, and what to read or watch before you go.
Publisher: National Geographic
Brand: Canadian Tourism Commission
Content: Editorial content, photo galleries
Canada’s 50 Places of a Lifetime
Editor in Chief’s Favorite places
A Nat Geo Photographer’s Favorite Canadian Places
Financial Post + GE
GE has been setting the high water mark for sponsored content across the world, further evidenced by their recent Best of Show Win at the DigiDay Content Marketing Awards in New York. Their Canadian collaborations are no exception and the 3 year partnership with Postmedia’s Financial Post is a prime example.
Smart Shift, in association with GE, is a section within FP’s Executive editorial banner that highlights forward looking innovations across various industries, including energy, robotics and 3D printing. Articles, infographics and videos explore the inventions and technology developments that are changing the way we build, operate and power everything from agriculture to manufacturing. Sponsored content, created in collaboration with GE, sits alongside daily editorial content from the Financial Post newsroom. 3i, a division of Postmedia, is also involved in the social amplification of the stories and optimizing content for various channels from print, to web, to apps to newsletters. Key Performance Indicators for the program are focused on GE content discovery and thought leadership across multiple industries, strongly positioning GE well beyond consumer washing machines and lightbulbs.
Publisher: Financial Post and 3i (a division of Postmedia)
Brand: General Electric Canada
Content: Exclusive sponsorship of Smart Shift (a section within the Financial Post Executive editorial brand), sponsored content provided by GE, editorial content created by Postmedia commercial content department, infographics, social media and social optimization
Financial Post – Smart Shift
You could literally make your own candy: Why 3D printers aren’t just for medics or manufacturers anymore
Jet engine testing facility a catalyst for innovation
Canadian Family + Aveeno Baby
Becoming a new parent is one of the most rewarding, and sometimes stressful times in a person’s life. The joy of holding your little one in your arms also brings with it the constant stress of wondering if everything is ok, if you’re doing a good job or if that rash is something to be concerned about. Google becomes your best friend as you frantically search for tips from anyone who’s been through it before.
In comes Canadian Family and Aveeno, offering a series of helpful articles that educate new parents on everything from how to give your baby a massage, to establishing a routine, to causes and cures for the common diaper rash. Over the course of 6 months, the marketing and editorial teams at CanadianFamily.ca and Aveeno Baby co-produced a dozen pieces of content under the sponsorship program. All posts were clearly labeled as sponsored and provided valuable information for parents, when they need it most.
Publisher: CanadianFamily.ca (St. Joseph Media)
Brand: Aveeno baby (Johnson & Johnson)
Content: Editorial posts on CanadianFamily.ca, e-newsletters, social media posts
Your Guide to Baby Massage
5 Tips for Establishing a Routine With Your Baby
Causes and Cures for Common Diaper Rash
Canadian Living + IÖGO
Greek yogurt is definitely having its shining moment in the spotlight. It’s a low fat, high protein and calcium option with one obvious problem: How to increase its use in the kitchen beyond a morning yogurt and fruit mix? Canadian Living and IÖGO came together to challenge and inspire meal ideas, ranging from Avacado Lobster Rolls to a Chestnut and Parnsip Soup.
The Canadian Living and IÖGO collaboration offers monthly recipes using Greek yogurt. Each fresh recipe has clear instructions and nutritional information about the dish. Additionally, each recipe has been tested to perfection in the Canadian Living test kitchen. These recipes do not specifically call for IÖGO brand Greek yogurt. Instead, these recipes are meant to inspire readers to introduce the unexpected ingredient beyond the breakfast tradition.
Publisher: Canadian Living (Transcontinental Media)
Brand: IÖGO (Ultima Foods)
Content: How-to videos, recipes, social media posts
Avocado Lobster Rolls Recipe
Frozen Yogurt Pie with Strawberry Mango Salsa
Panko-Crusted Salmon with Curried Yogurt Sauce Recipe
Buzzfeed + Tic Tac Canada
As part of Tic Tac’s Vote for the next Flavour campaign the brand partnered with BuzzFeed in Canada to get people smiling, the same way that Tic Tac’s make your tongue smile. The posts, in true BuzzFeed style, featured listicles such as “11 Reasons Why The Year 2000 Was The Best” (spoiler alert: NSYNC, Britney and Destiny’s Child all make an appearance) and “Can You Make it Through This Post Without Smiling”. Each post ended with an interactive voting game where readers could vote to choose the next Tic Tac flavor.
The lighthearted articles are a fun way to leverage BuzzFeed’s highly shareable humour and massive audience on behalf of Tic Tac. The BuzzFeed partnership helped tic Tac achieve more than 40,000 unique contest entries.
Brand: Tic Tac Canada
Content: Sponsored posts, embedded Tic Tac game app
11 Reasons Why The Year 2000 Was The Best
Can You Make It Through This Post With Out Smiling
BCLiving + FortisBC
It isn’t always easy to advertise a product or service such as natural gas. For most people it’s not usually water cooler talk or headline grabbing news. FortisBC’s approach with this collaboration is to instead focus on how natural gas can make entertaining even better, patio heaters to keep guests warm, barbeques that never run out of propane, fireplaces that friends and family can gather around. The message encourages British Columbians to get out and enjoy the beautiful weather this summer on their patio.
For this partnership BCLiving produced a curated list of nine must-have patio products with helpful tips and advice on getting your patio ready for summer. The slideshow highlights many BC-made products such as Kerrisdale Lumber, which demonstrates the magazine’s mission of producing localized content.
The slideshow is clearly marked as presented by FortisBC and was timed for release in conjunction with the warmer weather of spring.
Publisher: BCLiving (Canada Wide Media)
Content: Editorial content prepared by BCLiving staff, company profile page on BCLiving.ca, summer contest promotion, social media posts
Get Your Patio Ready Slideshow
Jerrid Grimm is the co-founder of Pressboard, which works as a matchmaker for brands and publishers