TV sponsorship is not enough to boost brand

TV sponsorship alone will not achieve brand awareness and credibility. Clients must use full through-the-line support to secure success.

Since it was first allowed on UK screens in 1990, TV sponsorship has achieved remarkable year-on-year growth and an impressive portfolio of sponsors. Its revenue is estimated to have reached £60m in 1999, including new investment from Guinness, Jacobs and Procter & Gamble.

There’s no doubt that on screen, sponsorship is maturing. However, few advertisers leverage the discipline’s value off the air.

As demand increases and more brands compete, linking with a programme is becoming less of a novelty. It therefore makes sense to develop an on-screen sponsorship into a wider ranging strategy. The association with a programme is a valuable marketing asset and must be exploited to secure return on investment.

For example, to support its sponsorship of the Rugby World Cup (RWC) last October, Guinness also sponsored ITV’s exclusive broadcast coverage. Whether they watched it at home, at the stadium, in the pub or not at all, consumers knew Guinness sponsored the RWC. There was 76 per cent total awareness among 18- to 34-year-old men. This was achieved by Guinness putting full through-the-line support behind the activity and maintaining a consistency of message/artwork at all levels. An on-can promotion (linked to the TV credits and supported by conventional advertising), on-trade promotions, sampling hit squads, direct-mail activity, press supplements, web and PR activity all leveraged the sponsorship. Sponsor credits captured the emotion, humour and antics of the game at the time of transmission, and Guinness’s through-the-line support plan helped maintain a sense of excitement, stimulating purchase.

For Sega, which sponsors MTV’s The Lick, the monthly regional parties are key to its Dreamcast console. The on-screen association with DJ Trevor Nelson and with MTV gives Dreamcast the credibility and awareness the brand needs. Off-air, complex activity allows the brand to integrate itself into the 16- to 34-year-old lifestyle. The parties are supported by extensive local PR and cross-promotions with HMV.

At every party, clubbers can try out the Dreamcast consoles. An integrated logo has been designed to further wed the programme and sponsor and, to complete the multimedia integration, reciprocal web activity is in the pipeline. Sega has also formed third-party ties with BT, ICL, Excite and Sky. More than 50 per cent of Dreamcast owners regularly interact online, many of whom check out the latest Lick details on the site. Sega has achieved both awareness and credibility and has built lasting relationships.

These two examples highlight the value of a fully integrated TV sponsorship. Yet, a sponsorship proposal must have off-air potential to unlock this asset. Broadcasters must be more creative, and clients and agencies must think laterally and be prepared to put in the extra time and money.

Successful TV sponsorship is no longer simply buying the airtime. Invest through the line and reap the benefits.

Sarah Armitage is sponsorship manager of Carat

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