Publishers are seeing increases in advertiser requests around climate and sustainability coverage

For BBC, Bloomberg, Financial Times, Group Nine Media and The Economist, the answer is yes — with most saying advertisers are sending out more requests for publishers to pitch campaign or sponsorship opportunities around their solutions-based journalism, showing a growing interest this year in publishers’ coverage of climate and sustainability.

The key details:

  • For BBC, between half and two-thirds of advertiser briefs “contain a sustainability element,” said Lori Suchcicki, svp ad sales for Europe, Middle East and Africa at BBC Global News.
  • Out of Bloomberg’s top 50 biggest proposal budgets, about 20% are around sustainability, according to a spokesperson. Ad revenue from Bloomberg’s climate-focused property Bloomberg Green increased 144% from January 2020 to January 2021.
  • The FT has seen a tenfold increase in request in proposals (RFPs) year over year from advertisers seeking to align themselves with the FT’s climate, sustainability and ESG content, according to Brendan Spain, vp of advertising for the Americas at the FT. Of the advertising RFPs the FT has received, about 40% to 50% mentioned climate or sustainability as a contextual alignment request, Spain said. 
  • Sponsorships around Group Nine’s climate and sustainability content in Q3 and Q4 has brought in revenue in the eight-figure range, according to a spokesperson.
  • The Economist Group is landing six- or seven- figure, multi-year deals around its Sustainability Project, an initiative that launched Sept. 29 from the company’s business unit Economist Impact, according to Claudia Malley, president/managing director partnerships at Economist Impact.

BBC

BBC’s Suchcicki declined to share specifically how much briefs from advertisers mentioning climate has gone up in the past few months, but called it a “huge increase.” Future Planet, BBC’s climate change and sustainability vertical launched last year, is currently running “Carbon Cost,” a special series sponsored by Scottish Development International on some of the biggest issues to be negotiated at next month’s United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland. On the BBC Future vertical, Walmart is sponsoring “Towards Net Zero,” a sustainability series looking at nine countries’ progress on climate since signing the Paris Agreement. “Follow the Food: The Carbon Challenge” will air on BBC.com and BBC World News on Oct. 30, one of two special episodes around food security sponsored by Corteva Agriscience.

Bloomberg

Brands like Tiffany, Ralph Lauren and General Motors “wouldn’t typically” be a client of Bloomberg’s but are coming to the publisher for work in thought leadership around climate and sustainability, said Anne Kawalerski, global chief marketing officer at Bloomberg Media. Bloomberg Green “becomes the tip of the spear” for more partnership opportunities across Bloomberg Media, she said. For example, GM is a “premier partner” for Bloomberg Green (one of the sponsorship tier packages Bloomberg sells to advertisers; Bloomberg did not reveal pricing for these packages), and is now expanding to sponsor upcoming activations around COP26. Other Green campaigns and partners have extended to other Bloomberg verticals like Bloomberg CityLab, Bloomberg Wealth and Bloomberg Equality.

And climate content is one of Bloomberg’s highest converting coverage categories for subscribers, according to Kawalerski — people reading climate coverage are more likely to convert to become paying Bloomberg subscribers compared to other sections on the site. Bloomberg’s active subscriber base grew by 34% in the first half of 2021, reaching more than 325,000.

Financial Times

The RFPs coming to the FT are for editorial sponsorships of verticals like Climate Capital and Moral Money, as well as branded content in sectors like luxury and finance, Spain said. The FT is publishing a 24-page special report on “Managing Climate Change” on Nov. 1, which is “on course to be our largest pink paper report in decades in terms of advertising revenue,” he said. The FT declined to say how much revenue it was bringing in.

“Marketers are trying to appeal to more environmentally conscious consumers,” Spain said. “Signalling these priorities to employees, partners and shareholders has become as important as marketing to consumers.”

Group Nine

At Group Nine, sustainability content will be “the number one area of focus” for the sales and marketing teams for most of its brands, as it “relates to corporate responsibility,” said Geoff Schiller, chief revenue officer of Group Nine Media. A spokesperson called it a “huge driver of revenue” for Group Nine, but declined to give specific revenue figures.

“The majority of conversations I’ve had with senior marketers is on sustainability,” Schiller said. This content category is “what we are most bullish about that will fuel growth for NowThis in ‘22.” NowThis is Group Nine’s digital news property.

Advertisers interested in climate and sustainability content have primarily requested editorial sponsorship opportunities for NowThis, Schiller said, ranging from “brought to you by…” sponsorships in video episodes, as well as logo placements. Most of the brands are in the consumer packaged-goods, such as beer brand Corona as well players in the finance and telecom categories

The Economist

The Economist Impact’s Sustainability Project has produced large deals with oil and gas company BP, IT services company Infosys, agricultural chemical company Corteva and maritime and shipping non-profit organization The Nippon Foundation. Brands can fund independent research from the Sustainability Project’s team of about 100 global analysts, researchers and economists, then apply the findings to other sponsorship opportunities across The Economist Group’s network, such as branded content, data visualization and events.

“Instead of having a partner sponsor an event or work with us on a piece of research, or run ads in the newspaper, we are bringing that work together and designing it for the long term… It’s not on a one-off here or a separate project there,” Malley said. “We’ve created a platform to raise the exposure and raise the level of engagement around this work,” she added.

The buy-side perspective

Michelle Chong, group director, planning at ad agency Fitzco, has seen “a noticeable increase in the quantity of media opportunities related to sustainability and climate change.” 

However, Fitzco is not making more RFP requests across its total client roster on these topics, but “for those who align with this type of content, we certainly have a lot more opportunities for sponsorship and contextual alignment to choose from,” she said.

Mindshare global chief transformation officer Oliver Joyce is seeing “a significant increase in client demand” for sustainable “credentials” in three main areas: businesses committing to net zero goals, reducing carbon across the marketing and media supply chain and “communicating viable propositions” to meet a growing demand from audiences for sustainability. Joyce said over 90% of their new business requests for information (RFIs) are asking for sustainability information.

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