It's no secret that publishers and brands have discovered the power of content marketing en masse. While the quantity of content is continually increasing, the quality of branded content partnerships also rose to new levels as publishers and brands experimented with emerging mediums and used real data to measure success. Here are the branded content partnerships that stood out over the past year.
1. The Renewal Project -- The Atlantic
Allstate and The Atlantic have jumped well beyond the typical branded content campaign to launch a new website and newsroom tasked with covering people and organizations "advancing social good and contributing to civic innovation in America." The ambitious project also includes a series of local events around the country, an awards show and a sponsored editorial series on TheAtlantic.com.
2. Been There, Made That. -- Vox Creative + Visit Seattle
Vox Creative and Visit Seattle used music and audio to tell the story of how Grammy-nominated musician Emily King was inspired to channel everything she learned and loved from a visit to the city into a new song. The song produced by Emily is beautiful, but what really stands out is the audiovisual journey Vox takes you on as you discover the inspiration behind it.
3. Defy Hunger Together -- The Wall Street Journal + Mini
Faced with the reality that millions of Americans face hunger or food insecurity each year, Mini teamed with Feeding America and The Wall Street Journal's Custom Studios to tour the country and feature the people and programs combatting the issue. Fifteen days and over 4,000 miles later, the end result is a compelling series of stories, statistics and videos that humanized the problem and helped raise donations for the cause.
4. Hard Won --
Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest. In a "Jackass"-esque video that lines up perfectly with the cider brand's "Made Strong" tagline, Thrillist disguised competitive athlete Kenneth Leverich as a senior citizen and had him visit the world-famous Muscle Beach to challenge bodybuilders. To date, the hilarious video has attracted more than 95 million views on Facebook alone.
5. The Water Diviner -- Complex + Under Armour
This phenomenal piece of custom content profiles a typical day in the life of the world's most-decorated Olympian in history, Michael Phelps. The stunning low-light visuals and top-notch writing about Phelp's daily routine make this piece a must-see.
6. How to Solve
Playing off the popularity of true crime series like Serial and Making A Murderer, Amazon teamed up with The Guardian Labs to create its own true crime podcast series to promote their new criminal investigation show, Bosch. The podcast follows LAPD detective Tim Marcia's determination to solve the 1980 murder of Kari Lenander before he retires. It's an intriguing and very human story, and like its spiritual predecessor, Serial, it's highly addictive.
7. Journey of the Hop -- The Weather Channel + Goose Island
If you're surprised to learn that The Weather Channel creates branded content, you're in for another treat when you see how good it can be. Journey of the Hop with Chicago-based brewery Goose Island was created by the publisher's branded content team, Icebreaker Studios, which did a great job telling the story of one of beer's most important ingredients: the hop.
8. Back To The Block -- Billboard + 1800 Tequila
This is one of those content partnerships that truly has it all. Celebrity influencers? Check. Original video? Check. Interactive experience? Check. Add those elements together with compelling subject matter and you have a content piece that celebrates Houston, the Bay Area, D.C. and Atlanta's distinctly different hip-hop cultures through the lens of each region's most prominent rising stars.
Gawker teamed up with anti-smoking activists, Truth, to spread the message that cats are twice as likely to get cancer if their owner smokes. Playing off of the funny viral video campaign that Truth created to communicate this somber statistic, the Studio@Gawker team (now renamed Studio@Gizmodo -- RIP Gawker) created a fun video game where the mission was to save our furry friends from a smoke filled "Catmageddon."
10. Roots: A Cultural Force That Changed the Nation -- The New York Times + History
In a successful effort to promote History Channel's remake of "Roots" as a new miniseries, The New York Times' T Brand Studio produced a compelling interactive piece focused on the lasting cultural impact of the original 1977 TV series. The clear and concise writing and beautiful illustrations combined with supplementary audio clips and articles makes this easily digestible, yet deep enough for readers looking to further explore the topic.