V2 Study Reveals Consumer Perception of Sponsored Content Has Shifted

To quote the great Bob Dylan, “the times, they are a-changing” for communications professionals today. Effective communications programs have long been essential for brands to establish recognition and drive customer engagement. However, disjointed consumer attention, smaller editorial staffs and the explosion of channels have made effective communications all that more important and, unfortunately, difficult to achieve if leveraging only a limited set of public relations tools.


To be effective, communications teams must leverage new approaches. Most notably, sponsored content—an article, opinion piece, video, podcast or other multimedia clearly marked as paid for or brought to you by a brand—is emerging as a key complement to traditional PR efforts. Brands have changed their views that sponsored content is taboo or even an intrusive and disingenuous way to engage an audience. But have audiences’ receptiveness and willingness to engage with sponsored content also changed?


To answer that question, V2 conducted an online survey of over 1,400 U.S. consumers. Let’s look at three key findings from the V2 study, Receptive, Responsive & Real: The V2 2023 State of Sponsored Content Report.


Consumers are receptive to sponsored content


Sponsored content is not the deal-breaker brands once feared it to be. Consumers agree they find value in content when:


  • They are interested in learning more about a particular subject, issue or trend (26%)
  • They find the material to be entertaining (26%)
  • A headline or photo piques their curiosity (26%)
  • The material is supported with factual data (26%)


Perhaps most interesting to brands is the most valuable content among audiences is content about a specific product or service a reader is considering purchasing for either personal or professional use (29%). And, individuals looking to learn more about a specific product or service they are considering for professional use are most likely to engage with podcasts (30%) and articles (27%).


Sponsored content provokes audiences to act


Not only are they receptive, they are also—and perhaps more importantly—taking next steps: more than three-quarters of respondents acted in some way on sponsored content they engaged in the past six months. Over a quarter of respondents either researched a type of product further (31%), researched a brand further (30%) or clicked through a link from within the content to learn more (27%). Interestingly, consumers that engaged with sponsored content on their news feed daily were anywhere from 4% to 16% more likely to take further action than other respondents—hinting that the medium and pace of sponsored content programs can influence an audience’s desire to act.


Transparency & experience matter


There’s no way to mistake it: audiences aren’t interested in playing guessing games when it comes to sponsored content. When asked what qualities were most important when a publisher runs sponsored content with traditional editorial coverage, transparency (73%) was by far the most important feature to consumers. Audiences want to know when a piece of content is sponsored and who is sponsoring the content immediately. 


With the tides of perception changing for sponsored content, communications teams now have a formidable tool to add to their media toolkit to help brands stand out in 2023 and beyond. Learn more about the opportunities by downloading the full report: Receptive, Responsive & Real: The V2 2023 State of Sponsored Content Report


Learn more about V2’s suite of sponsored content offerings.


March 16, 2023


By Katelyn Holbrook