Why Local News Sponsorships Are More Relevant than Ever

The past year has left an indelible mark on the TV advertising landscape. The pandemic prompted sudden and seismic changes in viewer behavior. We’ve also seen the culmination of other ongoing shifts within the TV landscape pertaining to consumer attention and brand relationships. 

Taken together, current events have resulted in a heightened opportunity for brand sponsorships of local news organizations and broadcasts. Let’s examine why these sponsorships are receiving increased attention from advertisers, and the various forms the sponsorships can take.

The Rise of Daytime News Viewership

The pandemic has debunked a number of previously taken-for-granted assumptions in the advertising industry. In TV, viewing patterns were suddenly upended when much of the office-dwelling world suddenly found itself staying home. Yes, work has continued—but the habits and environment that surround it look different. One of the areas where this is most evident is in how people consume TV content throughout the day.

Once upon a time (i.e., just 12 short months ago), daytime TV was a largely overlooked part of many advertisers’ media plans, given that a large portion of their target audiences tended to spend their 9-5 hours in the office. Fast-forward just a few months into the pandemic, and Nielsen found that nearly a third (29%) of employees says they’re watching TV—with sound—while they work from home during the day. What type of content is dominating these new daytime viewing windows? According to Nielsen, local news is at the top of the list, a trend we’re seeing reflected in regional market viewership stats as well.  

At the same time, we’re seeing a major shift in the way that consumers relate to the brands in their world. Traditional advertising continues to drive immediate awareness and sales as it always has, but long-term metrics like brand affinity and loyalty have never been as important to success as they are in today’s cluttered and volatile consumer landscape. To foster deeper connections with customers and prospects, emerging and established brands alike are looking for unique, stand-out ways to align with the causes and communities that matter most to their audiences. Bespoke sponsorships and integrations are proving essential to these efforts. 

The Evolution of Local News Sponsorships

Sitting at the nexus of shifting viewer patterns and consumer desires for deeper brand connections is the well-established yet infinitely flexible opportunity that exists within local news sponsorships. When devising a local news sponsorship in a region (or regions) of key interest to a brand, the advertiser and publisher should work together to closely craft a program designed to meet the goals and objectives of both parties. Above all, local news sponsorships must be designed in a way that preserves the journalistic integrity and independence of the news organization that it supports. After all, the halo that a brand hopes to gain through such a sponsorship has everything to do with the credibility of the news organization with which it aligns. 

As marketers consider their options, there are a few high-level models to keep in mind:

Product integrations: Product integrations are as old as advertising itself, but the local news offers options atypical to other types of programming, given the community-driven, boots-on-the-ground aspect of the coverage. The right product tie-in can garner not only significant impressions among at-home broadcast viewers, but also plenty of real-world exposure as the product supports the news team in their day-to-day jobs. For example, auto brands can find a natural alignment with local news teams by sponsoring and providing vehicles for a local news station’s weather team, thereby becoming an integral part of the regular broadcast cycle as well as the on-site coverage of local weather conditions. 

Content integrations: Of course, not every brand is a perfect fit for day-to-day product integrations, but nearly every brand has a message or purpose that can translate well to a carefully conceived content integration or segment sponsorship. For example, in the pandemic, we’ve seen brands step forward to support and sponsor new content concepts designed to meet the needs of the new viewer reality, be it COVID-19 news and vaccination updates, social distancing-friendly road trip ideas, or other lighter-side programming dedicated to highlighting the good news of the day. 

Event integrations: Beyond product- and content-driven sponsorships, brands can also consider supporting shorter-term campaigns through well-crafted, newsworthy event integrations with local news stations. For example, if a brand is producing a highly visible event or product launch within the community, it could consider a sponsorship with a local news station that gives the station’s correspondents or weather team a dynamic background against which to broadcast for the day. 

Local news sponsorships aren’t a new concept, but the ways in which brands are leveraging them to extend, augment, deepen, and unite their ad campaigns across traditional and digital channels have become far more nuanced in recent years. With editorial integrity as your sponsorship’s guiding star, there’s no end to the ways in which a local news integration or sponsorship can come together.

Michael Felicetti is Vice President, News, at New York Interconnect.

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