I'm looking for examples of forums which may be based on a product/service which is the same as the forum owners/admins yet the owner doesn't directly promote their sponsorship of that forum except through some ads.
For example, a forum arises on the topic of "athletic shoes" which is owned by Nike who advertises on it but doesn't tie it into their branding so that enthusiast of other shoe companies feel welcome to join and can discuss Addidas, New Balance, Puma, etc. On the surface, it appears unknown if a show company owns it or it's just someone interested in creating a community to discuss athletic shoes, performance, etc.
Reason I ask is I have a start-up business who is wanting to establish themselves. There is currently no message boards on the subject matter this business is involved. They think an online community is a good idea but, because they are unknown, feel people would think the information they'd receive would naturally be biased towards them. Who wants to join a forum just to get a sale's pitch? Their goal is to build credibility by gaining the trust of community members by being helpful in answering questions, giving info, etc.
A very soft-sell approach.
My concern is that transparency needs to be a part of building trust and, if it appears they are being sneaky, the opposite will happen.