A spokesman for William Hill, which sponsors both News of the World and The Sun says: “We’re reviewing any commercial arrangements we may in place with the News of the World.”
As launch sponsor for News of the World’s iPad app, a key advertiser online and a sponsor of The Sun, any decision by William Hill to review ad spend would have a serious impact on News of the World’s digital channels, and could see wider effects across News International.
The News of the World website has limited display inventory since introducing a paywall last October. According to figures from Nielsen last month, the title saw a 48% drop in its audience from May 2010. As a result, it has been focusing on single site sponsorships. These are sold on the premise of brands having a stronger presence online.
Last October, William Hill received a majority inventory share and strong brand exposure on the News of the World iPad app through creative ad formats and messaging. According to William Hill Online CEO Henry Birch, the deal gave the betting firm a chance to reach and communicate with the News of the World online audience.
A source close to News of the World yesterday said it was still too early to know all the facts but that the commercial situation was “a huge deal” for the title.
William Hill joins a growing number of brands reviewing their commercial support for News of the World. Yesterday, Ford announced it was pulling advertising from the title, with Halifax and Npower also reviewing the situation. Social media platforms Twitter and Facebook have been experiencing a deluge of calls that advertisers including Comet, The Cooperative, Gigs And Tours, Renault, Virgin Media and WH Smith follow their lead and withdraw commercial support.
News of the World began charging for content on digital platforms last October.
Last July, William Hill renewed its sponsorship of The Sun’s Dream Team fantasy football competition. News International Commercial was looking to ramp up participation and engagement for the £1m cash prize under the year-long deal, spanning News International’s digital, mobile and print platforms.
News of the World, with its strict paywall, is commercially in a weak position as it relies on sponsorships. Given the commercial crossover between it and The Sun, it’s an absolutely crucial time for News of the World and News International to separate its titles as it tries to salvage its commercial relationships. By Gina Lovett
This story first appeared on New Media Age. For more digital stories and analysis from NMA click here now