Sponsorships Versus Advertising. What's the Difference?

An advertisement directly promotes a brand while a sponsorship implies a deeper relationship between a brand and a creator, publisher, etc.

An AI-generated image of a smartphone.
Folks use the terms advertising and sponsorships interchangeable.

Have you ever wondered about the difference between sponsorships and advertising? Although these terms are often used interchangeably in digital marketing, they have distinct meanings.

In fact, many content creators (publishers) and brands bandy about the terms without really knowing what they imply. So, let's give a crisp definition of each.

Advertising Definition

An ad is a public announcement promoting a product, service, event, or offer.

Advertising is a transactional way to deliver a promotional message to an audience the advertiser does not own. We are all accustomed to seeing ads on websites, social media platforms, and in email newsletters.

Sponsorship Definition

A promotional sponsorship is a relationship between a brand and a content creator, influencer, celebrity, or another business meant to associate the parties and endorse the brand.

A sponsorship implies a strong relationship between the sponsoring brand and the sponsored party. In a sponsorship, the sponsored party —content creators, influencers, etc.— holds sway over some audience and provides the sponsor with association, goodwill, and positive exposure.

Ads vs. Sponsorships

In comparison, we think of an advertisement as a transaction message,  while a sponsorship implies a deeper relationship.