TV sponsorship - the answer to all of advertising's woes?

24 Oct 2017  |  Simon White 
TV sponsorship - the answer to all of advertising's woes?

VCCP Media's Simon White wonders whether TV sponsorship can solve the problems of ad-blocking, brand safety, visibility and ad avoidance all in one neat package.

Today, the world of media has found itself at a strange crossroad. While technology has allowed us to monitor and analyse consumers better, it has also brought with it a cloud of doubt that surrounds debates on measurability, accountability and brand safety.

But fear not, in these paradoxical times where progress and uncertainty are working alongside each other, there’s a tried and tested media solution. A solution which has had somewhat of a revival over the last few years, and is standing very comfortably and confidently amongst its more wobbly peers - sponsorship.

This year, across ITV, C4 and Sky, over 230 sponsorships have already been active, and the market size is expected to match 2016’s figure of £200m net. This is no mean feat given the serious lack of big sporting events this year, and the fact that the TV market as a whole is down 9% so far.

This boom in popularity can largely be attributed to the glut of technology in our houses. Over 60% of us have a set-top box and, more importantly, over 20% of all shows viewed are time shifted. This has opened up something of a golden opportunity for sponsorship, whereby bumpers are used as signposts, telling consumers when their show is about to restart.

As a result, brands are able to use sponsorship bumpers to create an immediately positive association; an increasingly rare commodity in the age of fast-forwarding. Comparethemarket.com’s sponsorship of Coronation Street, for example, is evidence of how creative and compelling characters can create a bond between viewer and brand.

Sponsorship is currently experiencing a positive version of the perfect storm, in that everything’s going right"

Moreover, sponsorship doesn’t carry any issues in terms of viewability or clickbots, and there’s no need to worry about where your advertising will be placed: brands choose who or what they want to support. Further, in comparison to non-video media, sponsorship can’t be defaced, torn down or badly pasted, it isn’t one-dimensional like radio, and its cost per viewer is about 5% of that of cinema.

Trustworthiness, environmental fit and the power of high frequency messaging are well known benefits of sponsorship, but there are other features which often go unappreciated. The jobs it can do in terms of changing perceptions and generating interest, for example, and even more importantly, ROI.

David Shore, Sky’s head of sponsorship, believes that “sponsorship continues to offer brands a great way to engage with their consumers. Strong programming and strong channel brands are out there in abundance. Coupled with innovative ways of activating partnerships, the opportunities have never been better."

It’s not only Shore who is looking into innovation and partnerships; a number of his competitors have cottoned on as well. Sky Movies’ successful sponsorship deal with Casillero del Diablo involved highly visible in-store material in Tesco and Asda.

ITV, meanwhile, use it astutely in their pairing of Suzuki with Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, which they have built on by using the Geordie duo in their spot advertising as well.

Likewise, Chanel 4’s superb case study for their inaugural Paralympics activity highlights a great partnership between them, BT and Sainsbury’s.

Returning to two further points I introduced earlier - ROI and accountability - the accountability comes from the availability of accurate viewing figures, along with pre-and-post sponsorship research. There are also a number of ways in which we can measure business returns.

When Bosch sponsored Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch, they enjoyed a 77% uplift in unprompted awareness, and a 16% increase in sales.

Viewers of Confused.com’s short-term Simpsons sponsorship saw advocacy levels more than double to 65%, while its brand status improved noticeably. 56% of those who saw the sponsorship thought the brand made it easier for them to save money, 2.5 times that of people who had not seen it. Not bad for a few break bumpers.

Media and creative need to work in harmony to make any campaign successful, and with its short time lengths sponsorship is the perfect way of firing out quick, simple brand messaging that sinks in through its repetition.

10 times out of 10, sponsorship bumpers use new creative, specific to the media, and take advantage of its capabilities and qualities. The same cannot be said for VOD, which normally just uses a TV spot and hopes it will translate well across the hundreds of platforms available.

Perception of Volvo as innovative and modern went from 39% to 59% following their visually arresting sponsorship of Sky Atlantic. The creative used also helped change people’s opinion on the cars, with 57% saying they were attractive in design, versus 37% before the activity.

Similarly, Nissan’s Sky Sports sponsorship has seen 73% of viewers calling the brand innovative, compared to 49% of non-viewers.

The future of sponsorship looks very bright, as brands continue to take advantage of its benefits by harnessing the power of innovation and creating synergy between creative a media - something which can not be overstated in a media landscape where the “full service” approach is becoming more and more attractive to clients.

Sponsorship is currently experiencing a positive version of the perfect storm, in that everything’s going right. It ticks a huge box in terms of cost effectiveness, it is proven to gain good ROI levels and change viewer perceptions and purchase intent significantly. It is visible, accountable, environmentally secure, and there’s room for creativity and innovation.

In times of uncertainty, if a brand and sponsored property are paired together well, it can become somewhat of a no-brainer for advertisers seeking a clearer solution in a somewhat cloudy media atmosphere.


Simon White is broadcast performance director at VCCP Media

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