FUSE FRIDAYS: The rise of the unbranded branded content


As self-bestowed content creators in team Fuse we’re constantly looking for ways to push brands into places they’d never dare.

We don’t do this because we enjoy rustling the feathers of clients, we do this because every day we see brands taking risks in the branded content space and those risks are paying off.

With the rise of branded content increasing faster than you can say ‘our logo isn’t big enough’, clients are often hesitant to take the risk into ‘unbranded branded content’ because the return of investment isn’t as easy to quantify and the logo goes on the back burner.

One brand that constantly pushing the boundaries is the almighty beast that is Nike. Despite my personal objections to their labour policies, they are masters of making us sit and go ‘damn that’s a great campaign. I wish I had thought of that’.

Nike launched its very own YouTube mini-series ‘Margot & Lily’ this week, which if you haven’t seen is a shining example of getting branded content so right  by using native advertising with little product placement. Don’t take my word for it I’m just one of one million people who’ve viewed the first episode in the three days since it launched.

It tells the story of two sisters – one who’s an Instagram fitspo success story and one who would wear yoga pants for the stretching capabilities experienced during a hangover feast rather than their intended purpose.



The series is an addition to Nike’s ‘Better For it’ campaign, which launched last year aiming to encourage non-fitspo women that they shouldn’t feel insecure about hitting the gym and not knowing the difference between burpees and Slurpee’s. It was about giving women the courage to say ‘yeah I’ve got no idea but I’ll give it a go’. And at least I’ll look the part in my newly purchased Nike active wear.

At the Cannes International Festival of Creativity last year there was no Grand Prix winner in branded content and entertainment category.  There were 1,394 entries and not one of them was given a first place.

Some say it was because none of the 1,394 entries would have been able to hold their own in a prime time television slot and not look like paid advertising. That, they say is the pinnacle of what branded content aspires to achieve.

I’m definitely not an award decider but for me personally I’m going to be tuning into next week’s episode of Margot & Lily not because I’m keen to check out the latest Nike women’s wear, I’m tuning in because it’s really entertaining.


I think as more campaigns like this start to hit the mainstream, brands aren’t going to be able to rely on their standard TVCs to engage their audiences and communicate their brand story. Yes TV is a fantastic awareness and reach driver like no other but a 30” spot can only give audiences so much.

Viewers are demanding engaging content. But beware! More and more savvy young consumers are on the lookout for thinly disguised advertising ploys hidden in native advertising. So if brands are willing to take a risk, ignore the PMS colour, put down the logo guidelines and dive into the world of ‘unbranded branded content’. They might be pleasantly surprised with the outcome.

And if the quality of the Margot & Lily isn’t enough to persuade your clients, Nike expects its women’s business to reach $11 billion in revenue by the end of 2020, compared to $5.7 billion in 2015. So they must be doing something right!



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