ITV tries to spot the difference

ITV research compares sponsorship deals with spot ad campaigns. Paul McCann finds it is far from straightforward

Confirmation that an advertising vehicle is in demand comes when the media owner selling it starts to invest heavily in research to prove that it works.

For TV sponsorship, that confirmation came in April, when ITV announced it had commissioned Millward Brown to conduct a 200,000 tracking study of the effectiveness of TV sponsorships.

The study has looked at the 21 ITV sponsorships on air between April and October and will carry on through next year. Millward Brown conducts 300 telephone interviews each week. Respondents are quizzed on their awareness of the sponsorship, their association of the brand with the programme and how appropriate they feel the link to be.

“The research confirms what you would logically feel to be true,” says Andy Roberts, director of buying at Motive. It showed that awareness increased where the sponsor was involved for the long term with the programme, where the creativity of the sponsor’s credits was enjoyable and where the association between product and programme was high.

The most successful sponsorship in awareness terms was Grand Metropolitan Foods’ sponsorship of the day-time studio debate show Vanessa for its brand Death By Chocolate. A deal that has been running since September last year, it achieved 74 per cent awareness among its target market of ABC1 women.

The lowest awareness, at 13 per cent, was the Wella Shockwaves sponsorship of Baywatch which started only in September. The average awareness of any sponsorship was 39 per cent of respondents.

Millward Brown has many years’ experience tracking the awareness of traditional ad campaigns. It used this to translate some of the sponsorship deals’ awareness levels into the estimated Gross Ratings Points (GRPs) that a spot ad campaign would have needed to achieve the same result.

Heineken Export’s sponsorship of the Rugby World Cup was estimated to be equivalent to 725 GRPs, Lynx’s sponsorship of ITV’s action movies achieved 473 GRPs,and Midland’s sponsorship of the drama, Moving Story, achieved 406 GRPs.

ITV declines to say whether these GRP equivalents mean they are pricing sponsorships too low or too high compared with conventional spot ads. “We may use it to change some of our pricing as clearly sponsorship is very good value,” says David Prosser, head of Carlton Sales’ sponsorship unit. “But the key is that you need demand. The market sets the price and hopefully this will stimulate demand.”

Agencies see the pricing of sponsorship deals as an inexact science. “They seem to go on what they have achieved in the past,” says Graham Appleby, marketing director of Initiative Media.

Agencies work to a system of factoring the value of the airtime the sponsors’ credits take. This includes the day part and audience delivery, They then factor out the creative limitations of sponsorship versus the equivalent spot airtime but factor in the value of the association with the programme.

This varies so that the client’s need determines how much you factor in or out the value of creativity against name recognition or the need to communicate brand values. The UK’s first TV sponsorship – Power-Gen’s of the weather – was intended to communicate simply the name of a new company. Brand values and creativity were of secondary importance.

The difficulty in comparing the price of a sponsorship deal with spot advertising is underlined by the man whose job it is to do so. “Really we’re trying to compare the incomparable,” says Paul Chard Laser Sales’ head of sponsorship.

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