Understanding #AD - Sponsored Content Rules 101

Feb 6, 2024
February 6, 2024
Khalia Paige

Let’s go over some rules for creating sponsored content! Below, we’ll discuss when, how, & why content creators should use #AD to disclose sponsored content to their audience! 🙌

We’ve teamed up with games industry lawyer @dontfeartherepa for a legal education series to help you navigate the legal ins-and-outs of content creator sponsorships!

This blog is for education & guidance only, laws may vary by country. Let's dive right into it 👇

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First up, what is sponsored content?

As a content creator, when receiving a product for free or at a discount (including a game key or getting paid to review something), whatever content you create featuring that product is most likely considered advertising or sponsored content!

When you create sponsored content, you are LEGALLY REQUIRED to disclose this to your audience! 👏

A scene from the tv show, South Park. A brunette boy is sitting on a green couch, dressed with yellow pillows. He is wearing a highlighter yellow shirt & blue jeans. The text below him reads, “That’s called “sponsored content.””.

Content is considered sponsored if:

👉 You have been paid cash or received other payment-in-kind (like a free copy of a game). &/or
👉 You have any kind of commercial relationship with a brand (for example, you are a brand ambassador, shareholder or a director in the brand’s company).

Even if the brand doesn’t have any approval or control over the content, it is still subject to regulations if you’ve received any "payment in kind". (“Payment in kind” is where a content creator receives an exchange for their content, such as receiving a copy of the game for free or at a discount.)

If you are promoting any brand that you own, or is connected to your friends or family, then you need to disclose that content, too. This also needs to be disclosed to your audience in an obvious & non-misleading way!

Why is sponsored content disclosure important? 🤷‍♀️

Not being transparent with your community about "incentivised" content could mislead your audience to purchase a game they may not have otherwise bought & regulators do not like this! 🙅‍♀️ 

This is the case even if you believe you have provided an unbiased review of the game or product in question.

GIF image of Sonic the Hedgehog standing in front of a yellow background. He is shaking his head no at the camera. The text below him reads, “That’s no good"

Explicit disclosure creates trust between all parties & allows your audience to decide on the product being presented through paid promotion. 

You can’t assume your audience knows your existing brand relationships or partnerships.

it’s also a LEGAL REQUIREMENT! 👏

Sponsored content is known legally as a “marketing communication”, & is regulated by various organisations around the world. 

e.g. In the UK, non-broadcast marketing content is regulated by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), & in the USA by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

So, what is an #AD? 🤔

#AD is how a lot of content creators typically flag content as sponsored content. When using #AD you are required to make sure it’s CLEARLY visible for your audience to distinguish your content! E.g. making sure it appears before the “see more” in your content’s caption. So adjust your content accordingly 👏

What about events? 👀

If you are being paid to attend an event or receive tickets for free by a publisher, this is still considered “sponsored content”! You would need to use #AD in all social posts as appropriate!

Invitations & free goodies are viewed by the regulators as “payment in kind”, just like receiving a free game!

GIF image from a scene from the tv show, The Simpsons.Bart is watching from afar as Lenny speaks to Marge & Homer. The cast is in a green dining hall with. Bart is wearing his usual orange shirt, while Lenny, Marge, & Homer are dressed in formal wear.

Affiliate Marketing

If your content promotes a particular game or product & contains or directs your audience to a link or discount code where you get paid for clickthroughs or sales, then this also needs to be disclosed using #AD.

This is known as Affiliate Marketing.

Where part of your content contains affiliate links or codes, you need to clarify which part of your content relates to the affiliate-linked games or products.  The best way to do this is to include #AD clearly & obviously before any relevant content.

OH F*CK! I haven’t done any of these things! 😭

If you have not satisfied these obligations for past projects, you are required by the regulators to disclose any content that relates to the brand/product/service within the last 12 months!

You may need to revisit older content to disclose that you were compensated to create said content! This can be done by editing the caption to include #AD, replying with a comment (& pin it where you can), or re-sharing the original post! 

Repeated failure to properly disclose your sponsored content could see you land on the ASA’s non-compliant social media influencers list ☹️  

Let’s recap!

👉 ALWAYS disclose sponsored content & affiliate marketing to your audience to avoid misleading your community!
👉 #AD content is any content created in exchange for compensation or payment-in-kind from a publisher/brand
👉 It is a LEGAL requirement to distinguish your sponsored & affiliate marketing content!
👉 Use #AD or disclose your brand relationships in a manner that is obvious & hard to miss! 

That wraps up our #ad blog!! 🎉

What other legal topics do you have questions about & want us to cover? Hit us up & share your suggestions! 🤙

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Disobey is a games marketing agency specialising in game launches, social media strategy & influencer campaigns within the gaming industry! We pride ourselves on our personal approach & good connections within the gaming influencer world. We love to help indies with community growth, game launches & understand how to strategise on a budget.