Confusing TV sponsorship

A high turnover of TV programme sponsors all too easily confuses the intended target audience.

Since its introduction to the UK over a decade ago, TV sponsorship has become an accepted part of the media mix. The TV sponsorship market is now worth about &£90m to &£95m a year.

An interesting sponsorship relationship has been created between Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and its fourth sponsor, Alliance & Leicester. Only 17 per cent of respondents were able to recall, after prompting, that A&L sponsors the programme. Some 13 per cent of respondents thought it was the previous sponsor, NTL, while seven per cent thought it was still sponsored by Jacob’s Cream Crackers, the second sponsor.

This illustrates the clutter caused when programmes have a high turnover of sponsors. The fact the A&L brand has no clear connection with the programme works against achieving a higher recall. An advertiser taking over a sponsorship must work to remove all prior brand association. A&L has the task of removing the three previous brand’s links from the minds of its audience.

The second programme researched was the ITV Movie Premier. This is an interesting programme as it is not aired regularly and so the sponsor needs to work harder to achieve a strong link.

Only one per cent of respondents identified Direct Line as the sponsor of the ITV Movie Premier, while 28 per cent thought it was sponsored by HSBC, the sponsor of ITV Drama. Viewers appear to be confusing the ITV Movie Premier with ITV Drama. The question is, given the infrequency of the ITV Movie Premier, is it an effective sponsorship package?

A high profile sponsorship deal last year was the Southern Comfort partnership with Channel 4’s Big Brother. At the time much was written about the absence of a creative connection between the programme and the bumper breaks. Given these issues, it is interesting to see that 14 per cent of the panel correctly recalled that Southern Comfort was the programme sponsor. This may be because of the high frequency of the programme as well as the exposure generated by the programme’s novelty. It will be interesting to see what direction the next sponsor of Big Brother takes to make the deal work.

This research illustrates the need for media owners, clients and sponsorship specialists to carefully consider the appropriateness of sponsorships. Relevance, cut-through, longevity and through-the-line exploitation will help ensure that, as a communication tool, the efficiency of TV sponsorship is not diluted.

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