Channel 4: making back-of-the-cupboard brands famous

31 Jul 2017  |  Dominic Mills 
Channel 4: making back-of-the-cupboard brands famous

The double sponsorship for The Great British Bake Off is a potential game-changer for Tate and Lyle and Dr Oetker, writes Dominic Mills - even if sharing devalues its currency. Plus: Campaign chooses one way, Marketing Week another...

Last week, rooting around at the back of the kitchen cupboards, I found a jar of Tate and Lyle black treacle so old the lid could no longer be lifted. We also, believe it or not, have a carton of Dr Oetker chocolate flakes, part of its edible decorations line. I don’t think it’s ever been opened.

Both are classic back-of-the-cupboard, back-of-mind brands, hoping for a new lease of life from their sponsorship of the new commercialised Great British Bake Off, soon to hit C4.

It’s a double sponsorship, apparently. I am not sure what that means, and in my eyes it devalues the currency of sponsorship - you’re either the sponsor or you’re not (could you imagine, say, Barclays and Heineken sponsoring the Premier League together) - but as the two brands are complementary rather than competitive I suppose they (and C4) can get away with it.

The news comes hard on the heels of a recent Thinkbox study demonstrating that sponsorship is a hard-working beast, especially when there is an obvious and rational link between the programme and the sponsor.

Fit is everything, Thinkbox says: a strong fit between the brand, programme, creative and, increasingly, creative congruence with other forms of advertising activity, magnifies a sponsorship’s effects.

When it works, it’s bleedin’ obvious. Talking of, er, fit, I’d say that Superdrug’s sponsorship of Love Island is a terrific match, allowing the viewer to intuit whether the most relevant product in the Superdrug aisles is either a) suntan lotion b) nail varnish or c) something from the Durex range.

Of course, fit is not the only reason brands like sponsorship. Especially for lesser-known brands, the high repetition rate of bumpers, as long as the viewer doesn’t get bored, is a cost-effective way for them to move from back-of-the-mind towards awareness.

It’s I’m a Celebrity... that I have to thank (or blame) for making me aware of Aunt Bessie’s Yorkshire Puddings (not that I’ve ever tried one).

No wonder it’s a potential game-changer for the likes of Tate and Lyle and Dr Oetker, which is apparently German even though it makes frozen pizzas. (In my head, Dr Oetker is the second cousin of Dr Scholl, but while one sought to make their fortune in pedicare, Dr O preferred to help in the kitchen.)

And lest we forget, media agencies and broadcasters like sponsorship too. It’s good for the latter because sponsorship allows them to broker more complex interactions way beyond a bit of spot buying - think of Suzuki’s excellent, but multi-layered content deal that is part of the Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway deal - and thus climb higher up the client foodchain; and it’s good for broadcasters because sponsorship stands outside share deals - and, similarly, the more complex the better.

Of course, this enthusiasm for sponsorship sometimes leads to a collective loss of brain power and good sense. When Aviva sponsored Downton Abbey it all went a bit pear-shaped. (Whatever were they thinking of running the sponsorship anyway?)

But my favourite piece of miscasting came in the first series of Broadchurch, sponsored by Viking River Cruises. In one of the shows a boat catches fire (possibly the least offensive or edgy part of that episode)...prompting a hissy fit from Viking. Doh. As if there wasn’t going to be something dodgy in a murder mystery set in a coastal town.

But that’s the joy of it. Every now and then sponsorship goes hilariously off-piste and brings much additional pleasure to the nation.

Campaign goes one way, Marketing Week another

There was something distinctly odd last Thursday. No Campaign - the weekly is no more.

It’s not appropriate for me here to comment on the passing of that format except to say that those special feelings of joy, anger, pleasure, jealousy and schadenfreude experienced by the readers every Thursday - and Brian Jacobs puts it exceptionally well here - are unlikely to be repeated.

In September we shall see what the new-look monthly brings, but however good it is it simply won’t be able to grip the readers in the same way.

Time moves on in other ways too. When I worked on Campaign it was axiomatic that we regarded Centaur, owner of Marketing Week, as the arch enemy. This feeling was, of course, reciprocated, with both sides happier to spit blood than acknowledge the existence of each other. Nevertheless, I think everyone would agree, both sides kept the other up to the mark.

Now their paths are diverging, the differences becoming wider by the year. They no longer compete in any meaningful way, but move on parallel tracks.

Earlier this month Centaur announced it was splashing £13.4m on a telemarketing outfit called MarketMakers or, as Centaur calls it - take a deep breath here - “a leading UK fully integrated end to end B2B marketing services business.” I think this means it does cold-calling, lead nurturing and so on with a few knobs on but across sectors such as automotive, banking, financial services and so on.

Apparently, at least according to the big cheese from MarketMakers, it and its new parent share a DNA, each with “innovation, data and creativity at its core”. Make of that what you will.

But the point is that this deal accelerates Centaur’s move away from publishing (Marketing Week bit the frequency bullet a few months ahead of Campaign, going monthly in March) and follows, in the marketing services area, the acquisition last year of The Oystercatchers for £3.3m and before that Econsultancy for £12m - potentially a maximum £50m if all the targets are hit.

Those are big bets on making a successful transition from a publishing-led model to services. Let’s call this model B2B 2.0.

Haymarket meanwhile seems to be gambling on the survival of conventional B2B publishing, expanding the Campaign brand globally and online, while as of last month shrinking it in print. We can call this B2B 1.5.

But as far as Campaign is concerned, it remains focused on the typical B2B publishing-type activities - awards, conferences, value-added supplements and so on - and eschewing business-intelligence services or data-led products. This may be because it can’t find any (or at an affordable price), because it doesn’t think it can make them work, or because its investment priorities lie elsewhere.

Success or failure depends on how long it can continue to sweat traditional publishing, while pumping up the live or face-to-face stuff.

What will drive success for Centaur’s ‘mixed-economy’ model? As far as I can see the idea of adding service-led entities works on two levels. One, vertically around the community of interest: thus, Marketing Week, Oystercatchers, Econsultancy and MarketMakers (and don’t forget Creative Review, either), all give Centaur a large footprint in marketing, from which it can launch non-publishing but related activities such as the Festival of Marketing, its answer to AdWeek.

From what I understand, the festival is picking up steam and, spread over ten stages, is more akin to a Glastonbury or Latitude experience than your typical conference. Moreover, unlike AdWeek - whose dependency on Google sponsorship might come back to haunt it - the Festival of Marketing makes its money off delegates at just under £1,000 for a pass. One well-known telecoms outfit has bought no less than 40 passes.

The second way is horizontally, where the likes of Oystercatchers and MarketMakers can take their skills to Centaur’s other vertical communities of interest, in particular lawyers, financial services and HR. You can certainly see how this might, in theory, work for Econsultancy and MarketMakers, and I understand Oystercatchers has already got its teeth into the legal community.

But what role do the likes of Marketing Week and The Lawyer have to play? Will they, at some point, be surplus to requirements? It’s possible, but Centaur CEO Andria Vidler insists that the publishing brands are the glue that binds the communities together, and the provision of specialist content - always providing it is good enough - gives Centaur access to those communities.

We shall see. I have no idea which is the better model. But since they don’t compete any more, there is at least room for both.

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DraytonBird, Founder, Mr on 31 Jul 2017
“1. It is perfectly possible to have co-sponsors. One is featured in one break, another in a second and so on.
2. Drum has picked up what Marketing and Marketing Week neglected.”

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