Sponsorship is effective way to beat slowdown

Sponsorship can be a valuable component of media campaigns, especially when it builds a two-way relationship with consumers, says Sarah Armitage

The slowdown in the media sector has hit TV particularly hard, with projected revenues for this year down at least ten per cent.

Yet perversely, broadcast sponsorship has seen year-on-year growth of about eight per cent for the year to date. Even when compared with 15 per cent growth for the same period last year, in the current climate it’s pretty impressive.

Sponsorship gives real benefits to integrated media campaigns. It provides the added brand benefits of credibility, stand-out and enhanced brand communication, and leveraging the sponsorship effectively can have a knock-on effect on the whole campaign. A holistic, strategic approach results in a common message and deeper impact – for example, Baileys’ “sensuousness” activity, including Sex and the City sponsorship. To the consumer, the message and tone is consistent and, for the client, the effectiveness of each medium is truly accountable, providing you have sophisticated enough research tools in place.

TV sponsorship has been with us for more than a decade, but it is still rare that a sponsor takes full advantage of the property. Typically, a sponsor is unique to a programme, so this point of difference should be exploited.

Since the ITC revised the Sponsorship Code last October, sponsorship has been permitted to carry phone numbers and Web addresses, opening up valuable possibilities for consumer interaction. Loyal viewers are passionate about their programmes and like to interact and find out more. Archers this year sponsored Single Girls on Sky One, which brings to life the “Come out to Play” strapline. The drinks brand was fully integrated into the Single Girls website, which had interactive information about the girls. Viewers could experiment with Archers-based cocktails, learn more about Archers Aqua and enter a competition: a great two-way relationship with the brand.

Budget cuts are causing a slowdown in sponsorship uptake, but this hasn’t stopped proven vehicles from attracting attention. The trouble that Granada has experienced in trying to find a sponsor for Night and Day, a new unproven property, contrasts strongly with the bidding war that has been taking place for Cold Feet, eventually won by BMW’s Mini and worth &£1m for this series.

Advertisers haven’t shied away from alternative packages, either. Barclays last week announced a &£1.9m arts package sponsorship. It will sponsor the Royal National Theatre and exhibitions at the British Museum, the National Gallery and Tate Britain. The initiative, branded Invest and Inspire, is a perfect vehicle to convey the softer brand image.

Innovative sponsorship packages still have a place in integrated media campaigns. They add value on the basis of brand affinity and give real added value to a whole communication strategy. Thinking and acting laterally can offer advertisers unique advantages for the brand communications strategy that, in the longer term, offer real brand-building advantages.

Sarah Armitage is associate director of Carat Sponsorship

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