More local media organizations are finding success with branded content on social media as advertisers look to leverage the deep connections news outlets have created with their social audiences.

Earlier this year, CrowdTangle made significant updates to its branded content capabilities. One of the core features the tool offers to track branded content is a dashboard filter that enables local media organizations to discover the most engaging sponsored content, identify advertisers that are spending on social, and collect insights for clients about collaborative campaigns.

We used CrowdTangle’s filter to surface overperforming branded content posts on Facebook, showcasing some of the recent ways local news organizations have leveraged Facebook to earn revenue. On CrowdTangle, when a post “overperforms,” it means that it’s getting more on-post interactions from the page’s audience than average (comments, shares, likes, et al.).

From January, 1 2019 through mid-April there have already been 26,400 branded content posts with a total of 2,246,851 engagements, across the 6,500 US local news Facebook pages we studied. We studied a sample of posts that overperformed with the page’s audiences and show an array of opportunities for leveraging branded content — from sponsored sports coverage to logo-branded live broadcasts. 

Here are three things we discovered:

  • Across overperforming branded content through mid-April 2019, videos, including Facebook Live broadcasts of breaking news, were by far the most popular post type, followed by images.
  • Branded content topics varied, but overperforming paid partnership posts were often paired with sports coverage, such as replays of highlights or snapshots of scores as sponsored images.
  • Local news outlets are frequently using branded content to promote specific events, contests, campaigns or destinations. Pairing these themes with comprehensive, understandable, complete social messaging consistently overperform.

1. NBC Sports Boston, MA – paid partnership with AAA Northeast

This Celtics Rewind video was presented by AAA, which also sponsors other video content on the NBC Sports Boston Facebook page. It performed 52x better than average, with 65 percent of views on the original post and 35 percent of video views from shares.


2. CBS 4 News Rio Grande Valley, Harlingen, TX – paid partnership with J. Gonzalez Injury Attorneys

This Facebook Live video is from the scene of the aftermath of a high-speed chase involving several law enforcement agencies. The logo for the advertiser is visible during the second half of the broadcast. The post performed 21x better than an average post and was viewed more than 64,000 times.


3. NBC25 News, Flint, MI – paid partnership with Tri County Equipment

This broadcaster also used a sponsor’s logo in the top corner during the duration of the Facebook Live video, which shows a police scene following a shooting. The post performed 14x better than average, with 58,000 video views and 66 percent of those views from post shares.


4. The Victoria Advocate, Victoria, TX – paid partnership with Presidio La Bahia

To promote an upcoming historical re-enactment event, the newspaper publisher partnered with a local landmark and invited followers through simple photographic imagery. Rather than a website link, users are directed to the advertiser’s Facebook page. The post performed 14x better than average and was shared 94 times.


5. Denver 7, Denver, CO – paid partnership with 5280 Magazine

As part of its “Mile High Musts” series, a local TV station and magazine publisher produced multiplatform features on local businesses including the Mexican restaurant Casa Bonita. The video post also promoted its OTT offering. The post performed 14 times better than average, and the video was viewed nearly 134,000 times including 59 percent from the post and 41 percent from shares.


A deeper look: How Sinclair Broadcast Group did it  

The two broadcasters using logos during Facebook Lives—NBC25 News and CBS 4 News Rio Grande Valley—are both owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group.

Samantha Brady, director of yield and sales operations at Sinclair Broadcast Group, said the branded content format for Facebook Live arose from a desire to offer a new digital-specific advertising opportunity. After initially offering logoed Facebook posts about 18 months ago, she said the company worked to automate the ad placement using technology, which made it an overall better opportunity for the newsroom producing the Facebook Live content as well as the advertiser.

“Once that particular reporter publishes that video to Facebook through our [content management system], it then triggers an ad call directly in our [demand-side platform] and then it does the overlay and sponsor attribution automatically,” she said. “… The sponsors are getting more likes and they’re loving the brand association and also the overlay, that’s not only in the Live form, but once it turns to VOD, both the attribution and the logo placement stays, which just increases the reach opportunity. So once stations were seeing the performance and value out of it, they started selling it a lot more. Now about 20 percent [of Sinclair stations] sell it and it’s mostly the larger ones.”

The placements are sold for specific days, dates or times, not contextual relevancy, she said, and they use client feedback and KPIs to measure success on the Facebook Live logo campaigns. On the news side, John Colucci, senior director of social media at Sinclair Broadcast Group, said that he and his team use CrowdTangle to understand and share relevant information they learn with the sales team.

“In CrowdTangle, we are trying to look at which Facebook Lives, in general, do well regardless of whether there’s a branded content piece on it or not. We will often share those findings between our two worlds, and sometimes that will be used to help inform decisions on what pieces of content they choose to go live with and apply it,” he said. “We’ve kept an eye on … the comments, and we haven’t seen any negative backlash of any kind from viewers.”

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