Channel 4 signs up first Paralympics sponsor as it aims to make Rio ‘even bigger’ than London 2012

Broadcaster Channel 4 believes brands have “finally woken up” to the storytelling potential of the Paralympic Games ahead of Rio this summer as it signs up Allianz as its first sponsor.

The deal, brokered by Mediacom, is believed to be the first of two that Channel 4 hopes to complete. It ran a similar strategy back in 2012, when BT and Sainsbury’s sponsored its coverage of the Paralympics (pictured).

Its live coverage, which airs from 7 September, will be hosted by Clare Balding and Breaking Bad actor RJ Mitte, who played Walter White’s disabled son Walt Jr.

Rob Ramsey, partnerships leader at Channel 4, says brands are now getting “braver” in putting more ad spend behind the Paralympics.

He told Marketing Week: “We can make Rio bigger than London was, I’d certainly anticipate ad spend to be much higher. You’ve seen the likes of Guinness and Mitsubishi use Paralympic athletes in their advertising recently and it shows that as a subject area, brands are getting much braver.

“The Paralympics is now absolutely integral to our public broadcasting remit and our brand values at Channel 4 as well.”

Bouncing back from scandal

The London 2012 Games were a huge success for Channel 4 with a peak audience of almost seven million viewers, while organisers sold nearly three million tickets. Channel 4 was also praised for its use of Public Enemy’s Harder Than You Think, which became the event’s unofficial anthem after being used in the broadcaster’s advertising around the games.

However, four years on and the world of athletics has been rocked by scandal.

Doping allegations currently loom large over the IAAF as sponsors such as Adidas look to cut their ties with athletics altogether. The Paralympics, meanwhile, has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons due to former poster boy Oscar Pistorious’ high-profile murder case.

“I don’t think we’ve been harmed by that. There’s a clear difference with the situation at the IAAF,” responds a defiant Ramsey. “Paralympic athletes have challenges with their own lives before they even get to the starting line. These guys are not paid superstar wages and the public realises that.

“Obviously what’s happened with Oscar was a huge human disappointment story. Going into 2012, he was the only poster boy but going into Rio we have world-class British athletes such as Hannah Cockroft and David Weir. There’s now more than one poster child.”

Allianz sponsorship

Allianz will fund a new series of original short films for Channel 4’s All 4 on demand service leading up to the Games.

It’s been a partner of the International Paralympic Committee since 2006 but its head of brand management Nick Dudman says the current momentum behind disability sport is at an all-time high.

He told Marketing Week: “It’s completely come out of the shadows and allows Allianz to really differentiate and stand for something pure to build trust in a competitive market.

“I’d say London 2012 was a real game changer and it allowed not only the public but also brands to look at the Paralympics in a different way. It isn’t niche anymore, it’s sitting at the top table when it comes to branded sponsorship.”

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