Branded Content Pays Off For The Players’ Tribune


AdAge recently featured The Players’ Tribune because “its success is due in large part to a forward-thinking business model focused on high-quality branded content.” In the same post, however, AdAge appears to contradict its own narrative. As the post states, “According to ComScore, The Players' Tribune site gets 3.4 million unique views a month, a respectable number but nowhere near the clicks of an entrenched institution like ESPN, which recently attracted 75 million visitors in that same amount of time.”

How could The Players’ Tribune be achieving “success” when its competitors are generating significantly higher levels of traffic? Quantity is definitely an important metric when looking at how content resonates with an audience, however, it should not be considered the only metric. As we have documented in several previous posts, Block Six Analytics (B6A) looks at quantity, quality, and engagement when it comes to determining content’s value.

The Players’ Tribune is “a website devoted to allowing athletes to tell their own stories on whatever topics they wanted”. It currently focuses on branded content as its primary revenue source. According to Ad Age, Branded content is “an advertising platform… [involving] companies underwriting stories as a means of marketing. [It] has been around since the 1940s, back when businesses like Texaco and Lucky Strike cigarettes sponsored TV and radio programs.”

 The primary goal of branded content is that advertisements seamlessly integrate with the media platform to increase audience engagement. Branded content on The Players’ Tribune has incorporated companies including P&G and Samsung in athletes’ stories that are the core feature of the site.

Saying that branded content increases engagement is one thing. Using a tangible metric to define increased engagement is another. The Players’ Tribune states that its pieces receive average engagement time of seven minutes and 45 seconds. As a point of comparison, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram counted watching a video for three seconds as a video view in 2017. This is a clear demonstration of the degree of engagement that The Players’ Tribune is delivering to advertisers with its branded content.

Companies have taken notice of this type of success with branded content. Organizations ranging from Bleacher Report to The New York Times have already successfully utilized branded content as a way to deliver value to their advertising partners. The reason is that branded content consistently delivers higher levels of performance on metrics important to companies. As senior VP with sports consulting business GMR Marketing Todd Fischer states, "It's quality over quantity, and I think that's appealing to brands.”

The Players’ Tribune has also achieved success for another important reason – it features athletes. B6A has consistently seen that athletes have the highest levels of sentiment, engagement, and value in their social media posts by using our Social Sentiment Analysis Platform. Leveraging athletes for branded content campaigns maximizes the probability that The Players’ Tribune can provide engaging content for its advertisers.

Content rights holders should take notice of branded content’s impact and how both companies and agencies are viewing its success. Branded content is certainly not the only way to deliver higher levels of engagement. However, quality and engagement is an increasingly important factor when buyers are making purchasing decisions about advertising and sponsorship.