Speaking to a crowded room at MediaPost's Publishing Insider Summit on Tuesday, National Geographic’s vice president of corporate sponsorships Tammy Abraham said: “We like to say we’re moving from reverence — which we’ve always had, to relevance, which is much more important in today’s age.”
Her presentation “Advertising with a Cause,” came as National Geographic celebrates a fourth year as the top brand on social media. In 2017, National Geographic clocked more than 1.6 billion actions across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and counts more than 420 millions followers globally.
“Nine times out 10, when I’m talking about the brand people say, ‘I follow you on Instagram,’” Abraham told the crowd.
National Geographic’s brand strategy is built to support its entire network of content, from its nonprofit foundation, which publishes National Geographic magazine and supports research worldwide, to its marketing and sales side.
National Geographic even continues to invest in its print product, having just relaunched the magazine on new paper stock with fresh sections and design.
“Our business structure is that we have a for-profit and nonprofit entity, and 27% of our net proceeds go back to funding the nonprofit,” Abraham said. “And then that funds all the great explorers and scientists, and they become the storytellers that go out for our media.”
“It creates this amazing virtuous cycle.”
Over the past few years, clients have begun approaching Abraham about connecting with National Geographic, since it has turned out successful content for nationally recognizable companies, including Nike, Stella and Microsoft.
There is a lot of buying power behind 760 million monthly consumers, which is what NatGeo counts across all platforms.
“Why is National Geographic resonating?” Abraham asked. “Because it resonates in purpose.” While people used to collect things, they then began to collect experiences. They now collect personal growth from brands, according to Abraham.
In fact, 61% of centennials and millennials expect a brand to have a viewpoint and stand for something, and 80% of those polled in Abraham’s data expect companies to improve the economic and social aspects of their communities.
Some 73% of millennials are willing to pay more for products from socially responsible brands. Those brands partnering with NatGeo are responding to this desire.
The publication works with brands to create campaigns in three ways: brand defining, when a company wants to use NatGeo’s platform to elevate its own reputation; purpose and impact, which features a cause at the forefront; and enterprise, which involves a brand sponsoring the nonprofit side and but also wants to engage consumers.
Some examples provided by Abraham included a human ingenuity story from Nike that fell into the brand-defining category. Nike wanted to see if humans could break the two-hour marathon and used a team of doctors, trainers and athletes to accomplish this.
Soon after, Nike wanted to document the project and worked with created a short film and a two-hour documentary. The campaign reached 230 million consumers across all platforms.
Recently, the company developed a team of high-level project managers to move the campaigns along and dedicate themselves to growth.
National Geographic’s for-profit entity is now working on ways to deliver brand metrics beyond impressions, including brand lift measurements and intent to buy. Abraham reports the company is receiving many renewals following successful campaigns.