Will the Real Brand Please Stand Up – Authenticity and Brand Sponsored Content

The Critical Role of Authenticity in Brand Sponsored Content
Just the other day LA advertising gun Miry Whitehill and I were swapping thoughts on a new content-based social media campaign for Levis.


What a huge project, with a nice, soft brand ownership from Levis, but something just wasn’t quite striking the right note for me.
The Brand Design/Brand Content/Social Interaction space is a really interesting place right now. Vanguard brands looking for ways to integrate their messaging into content that is sought and valued are all over this space at the moment. What I found interesting with the Levis ad was as I was watching the video there was something that wasn’t quite ringing with authenticity – something that felt slightly produced. When I watched the ‘Making-of’ clip it became obvious that the focus of the ad was on the production technique to illustrate a sense of ‘walking across America’ rather than the act itself (the guy didn’t actually walk across America).

And it struck me right there that the thing about brand sponsored content – the main game about for all content, but especially that sponsored by brand – is authenticity.

As a result of so many people around the world doing seriously cool things and putting them into social circulation, the bar has been raised . Our expectation level of ‘cool’ is at a high-point, and viral that doesn’t live-up to that falls kind-of flat – even more-so if it’s brand sponsored. We don’t mind watching something half lame from a guy in Uzbekistan, but tell us that it’s sponsored by a big brand and we become far more critical. Here’s a genuine example of authentic cool:

Even though the guy fails on his challenge he succeeds with bucket-loads of authenticity. What a missed opportunity for a brand like Gillette to jump in for sponsorship and positive brand association.

We just published a blog about a creative collaboration between a shoe brand, shoe designer, shoe retailer and a bunch of influential style and fashion bloggers. This is an example of a brand leveraging both the authenticity of the experience (they didn’t just ship the designers and bloggers to a location for the video and have them put their names to a series of shoes that had already been created) to create some rich brand storytelling.

Ronnie Fieg Presents The Nexus Project Trailer

So the message for brands looking to engage, create or connect with on-line content with brand experiences through social media:
01. Build your social cyclone from a starting point of authenticity – keep it real (Authenticity).
02. Ensure there’s a strong connect of relevance between your brand proposition and the story-telling of the content (Relevance).
03. Stand back and let the content run the show – don’t turn it into an on-line ad campaign (Association).

If you’re keen to create some high value content for your brand, get in touch – we’d love to help you get it right.

Dave Ansett, Brandamentalist
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Designer of Brands with Authenticity


  1. Thanks Margit, glad you enjoyed the post. Amazing how marketing has been so skewed that we’re at the point where being authentic takes courage – sad but true. Here’s to more brands wearing their heart on their sleeve when designing brand communications and brand experiences.

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