Magazine article Marketing

Media: A Word from Our Sponsors ... Again

Magazine article Marketing

Media: A Word from Our Sponsors ... Again

Article excerpt

As brands flock to sponsor TV shows, Meg Carter asks whether they are creating more of the clutter they are so eager to escape

Spend a night channel-surfing and you could be forgiven for thinking sponsorship has become the latest marketing must-do. Anadin Ultra, Talk Talk, Fruitella, Ladbrokes, Cif, Emporio Armani, Schwarzkopf and Carling are just a few of the brands to have announced television partnerships in recent weeks.

Latest estimates from Carat show total UK sponsorship expenditure rose 4% to pounds 828m in 2003, with television accounting for pounds 105m. 'There's certainly more activity now in TV sponsorship than there has ever been, as more clients see the value of it and decide to jump onto the bandwagon,' observes David Peters, head of sponsorship at Carat and chair of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising's sponsorship group.

A particularly compelling reason to sponsor a TV show is to cut through the clutter of an average commercial break. Ads and the growing number of broadcaster promotions can run to anywhere between seven and 15 messages a break, depending on the channel, according to research carried out by Billetts in 2001. It also found that ads in the middle of a break were recalled up to 10% less than those at either end.

Another factor is the relaxation of sponsorship rules by the Independent Television Commission three years ago. 'Restrictions on what you could do with a sponsorship credit were quite Draconian,' explains Peters. 'But what you can do now, in terms of what can be said in a sponsorship credit and how that credit can look, is far closer to what you can do in TV advertising.'

Sponsoring a TV show is widely considered to be an effective way of driving brand awareness and reinforce - or even alter - consumer perceptions of a brand. It can maximise the impact of existing advertising by increasing brand presence. In some cases, it can be used to drive sales. It can shore up distribution when the broadcast sponsorship is extended at point of sale. And it's now a marketing activity whose impact and effectiveness is supported by a significant body of industry research.

'Television sponsorship fundamentally shifts brand perception in a way conventional TV advertising doesn't,' says Peters. 'Off-air activities remind people of the connection between a brand and the programme it is sponsoring at point of purchase, which is a pretty powerful proposition.'

Supply and demand

What will happen, though, if the growing use of TV sponsorship by UK brand owners transforms it from a premium media opportunity into an everyday buy? There is a danger that familiarity will breed contempt among consumers.

Broadcasters remain unworried. Gary Knight, head of sponsorship and brand content for ITV, argues that misunderstanding TV sponsorship is more damaging than over-use. 'Some brands sponsor programmes because they believe it is an efficient media buy without properly considering fit,' he explains. 'This is not something we would encourage, although some media agencies appear to be going that way.'

According to Guy Martin, joint head of commercial development at Flextech TV and UKTV sales house IDS, the market is nowhere near saturation. 'Sponsorship revenue is still less than 5% of UK spot advertising,' he says. And Carat's Peters agrees that more television sponsorship will not necessarily diminish effectiveness. 'It may be becoming more commonplace, but there is still only a limited number of programmes available at any particular time,' he points out.

Peters admits that growing demand for television sponsorship has increased competition, and, for a small number of high-profile shows, driven up the cost of sponsorship 'far in excess of the programme's actual sponsorship value'. But he adds: 'There's a constant fresh supply of shows and formats for brands to back'.

For sponsorship consultants, the growing use of TV partnerships poses other challenges. …

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