We are the generation that commutes to work with our heads bowed down over our mobile phones. We barely allow ourselves a moment to think about nothing, and those who read a book on the train are almost an endangered species. We live in an overstimulated and overinformed state, making it challenging for brands to impact consumers who have seen it all.

If we simply talk about making an impact, the concept is straightforward: some have not hesitated to walk dinosaurs through the streets of Madrid or display giant banners with politically incorrect messages on iconic buildings. And the truth is, they have achieved their goal because we all know which campaigns they are without needing to mention who is behind them. But let’s go a step further. Let’s talk about achieving a genuine connection with brand values, of fully captivating the consumer beyond the product or service. Let’s talk, then, about branded content.

Branded content: what it is and its origins

Branded content is a marketing technique based on creating content that reinforces a brand’s values, aiming to connect with the emotions of the audience and not focusing on a specific product or service. Its ultimate goal is not sales, so relevant stories are crafted, centered around entertaining and where emotions take center stage, with creative and innovative formats. Thanks to branded content, brands differentiate themselves from the competition, enhance engagement, and make their advertising much less intrusive.

What if I told you that Popeye the Sailor was the first branded content in history? In 1929, the United States Spinach Producers Association linked Popeye, the iconic character created by American cartoonist Elzie Crisler Segar, to the consumption of spinach to promote its production and sales during the Great Depression. The result? Spinach sales rapidly increased by 33%.

In Spain, we have excellent examples of branded content, and the Branded Content Marketing Association (BCMA) awards the best ones annually within the framework of Branducers, the reference event in this field. Although there are numerous extraordinary cases to discuss, this time we will focus on the longest-running branded content in Spain: “Bebé a Bordo” by Bezoya, “Yu, no te pierdas nada” by Vodafone Yu, and “Aprendemos Juntos” by BBVA.

“Bebé a Bordo”, from Bezoya

At After, we are celebrating because it’s not every day that we can say one of our most special projects is turning 10 years old. Our agency has trusted this communication format from the very beginning, and proof of that is that both Marc Ros and Risto Mejide, our founders, are some of the main driving forces behind the BCMA and the Branducers forum.

A decade ago, we launched “Bebé a Bordo”, Bezoya’s baby coach, with the aim of accompanying first-time moms and dads during pregnancy and child-rearing up to the age of two. As the birth of a baby leads to an increase in the consumption of bottled water at home, Bezoya wanted to position itself as the best water brand for newborns, both for preparing formula and for the hydration of the mother.

This project was born in 2013 as a television program aired on Divinity, which created an emotional connection with the target audience. It also had a specific landing page where viewers could find previously aired episodes, capsules with tips, and additional relevant information for mothers.

To this day, this branded content is located on Bezoya’s own channels and collaborates with influencers in the world of maternity and pediatrics, such as Mar López, a primary care pediatrician, and Oh Mamá Matrona, a team of maternity experts. At After, we have invested in the presence of this branded content on new digital channels like TikTok to connect with a young audience, where the community has already exceeded 20,000 followers.

“Yu, no te pierdas nada”, from Vodafone Yu

It is impossible to talk about the longest-running branded content in Spain without mentioning “Yu, no te pierdas nada”, from Vodafone Yu. This branded content was born in 2012 with the aim of providing entertainment to the audience and accompanying the offering of products and services targeted at young people through the Vodafone Yu brand. It started as a radio program hosted by comedian Dani Mateo, broadcasted on Los40, and aimed at an audience between 17 and 30 years old. In this space, current events were humorously reviewed, and strategic topics for the audience, such as mental health, inclusion, and diversity, were explored. Well-known figures like Nathy Peluso, Justin Bieber, and Ed Sheeran were some of the guests. In 2019, the program moved to Europa FM, and Ana Morgade became the host from that moment on.

A turning point that marked its definitive success was when the brand decided to stream the program on Youtube, which was unprecedented in the radio landscape at that time but has now become common practice. The program aired until June 2022 and was a pioneering project, a true lesson in branded content and brand building in our country.

“Aprendemos Juntos”, from BBVA

Aprendemos Juntos“, from BBVA, is another renowned case study in branded content. In 2018, the banking institution was in the midst of a digital transformation and redefining its brand purpose. To achieve this, BBVA decided to ask its employees how the company should be for them to feel proud of working there. The consensus was that BBVA should help people seize the opportunities of the new era, giving rise to their new motto, “Creating Opportunities.”

It was at that moment that the bank launched “Aprendemos Juntos”, a branded content platform featuring digital educational content in collaboration with El País. It has positioned itself as a leading thematic channel in society. BBVA’s goal has never been to educate per se, but rather to provide tools for individuals to develop in what they believe in and to drive the conversation about education in the 21st century. From the beginning, this project had a vision for continuity and inspiration, with one of its principles being not to focus on the brand.

Their informative videos feature prominent figures such as philosopher José Antonio Marina, writer Elsa Punset, physician Mario Alonso Puig, anthropologist Juan Luis Arsuaga, and actress Blanca Portillo. In recent months, “Aprendemos Juntos” has focused on the 2030 Agenda, and with “Aprendemos Juntos 2030”, it aims to promote education through sustainability to build a more inclusive future.