LIVE ISSUE/SPONSORSHIP: Has sponsorship become a brand-building tool? Can linking up with events enhance awareness of the brand, asks Richard Cook

Consider this: in the summer of 1990, according to unprompted brand-awareness indicators, the three best remembered marques in the UK were Mars, Coca-Cola and National Power. The first two were harvesting the fruits of decades of big-spending ad campaigns. And, because it was the summer of a World Cup, they were reaping the rewards of exceptionally big spending summer ad pushes. But National Power?

Consider this: in the summer of 1990, according to unprompted

brand-awareness indicators, the three best remembered marques in the UK

were Mars, Coca-Cola and National Power. The first two were harvesting

the fruits of decades of big-spending ad campaigns. And, because it was

the summer of a World Cup, they were reaping the rewards of

exceptionally big spending summer ad pushes. But National Power?



In fact, National Power had paid a little over pounds 1 million to

become the broadcast sponsor of Italia 90, and in so doing had showed

just what sponsorship was good at - raising brand awareness. Here was

the one way of beating spiralling airtime inflation. It seemed to be the

great leap forward.



By the time Euro 96 came to the UK, broadcast sponsorship came with a

slightly inflated pounds 2.5 million price tag and a host of interested

would-be partners, all looking for a cheap awareness-building tool. But

that was the end of the good news - in reality, the market had failed to

consolidate all the improvements it had been making.



There have been other spectacular leaps forward, but always, it seems,

accompanied by at least one step backwards. When Cadbury’s announced a

record pounds 10 million sponsorship deal with Coronation Street in

March last year, the breakthrough appeared to have been made. But, at

the same time, News International and Mirror Group Newspapers were

coming to the end of a massive pounds 7 million multiple game-show

sponsorship programme that never seemed to take off.



The message was clear enough. Sponsorship could deliver awareness, but

not much else. Advertisers would continue to jostle for big-rating

sporting events and the top-rated shows, but it was just a relatively

cheap way of raising awareness. It is, after all, seven years since

Croft port first linked up with Rumpole of the Bailey and showed how a

drama programme’s values could help re-inforce those of the brand and

yet that type of deal remains the exception. For every logical

Commercial Union and London’s Burning match, there was a Daily

Mirror/Take Your Pick tie-up that seemed the result of expediency rather

than strategy.



Fast forward to the winter of 1997. Last week, Toyota concluded a

remarkable multi-year pounds 18 million broadcast sponsorship deal with

ITV (Campaign, 12 December). This might really be the deal that at last

shows how much sponsorship can deliver.



It comes in two parts - the car giant will link its brand up to 32 hours

of programming on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day for each of the next

five years.



This will include the millennium, of course, and will be used by Toyota,

at least this year, to help launch its most important new car in years,

the Avensis. In addition, the company will be sponsoring ITV’s Movie

Premiere series for the next three years, taking over from Doritos.



’Broadcast sponsorship on ITV is growing by 20 per cent a year, but it’s

still coming from such a low base,’ admits the Carlton head of

sponsorship, David Prosser, who last week negotiated a pounds 500,000

deal between Carlton and Panasonic to sponsor a number of programmes

over the festive period.



’We think it should be worth about pounds 40 million on ITV next year,

or around 2 per cent of total TV revenue. But it hasn’t really developed

as it might have. There have been false starts. Now restrictions have

been loosened and more agencies are interested in sponsorship, the

percentage is set to increase over the next few years. I don’t know

whether 8-10 per cent would be possible in 5 years’ time, but I think 5

per cent is an achievable goal.’



For growth of anything like this scale to become a reality, sponsorship

has to be seen to do much more than a straightforward awareness-raising

job, and this is partly why the Avensis deal is such an important

test.



On the one hand, the main reason Toyota is using sponsorship is exactly

in line with received thinking. On the other, making sponsorship a

central part of such an important launch is unique.



Saatchi & Saatchi’s media group director, Neal Deeprose, who put

together the deal, explains: ’You’d have to say that the reason we went

down this route is because Toyota isn’t very well known in this

country - it’s a 3 per cent brand that doesn’t make it to most car

buyers’ shopping lists and we wanted to rectify that situation. In other

words, we are using sponsorship to build awareness of the brand. But the

New Year’s sponsorship is a very important plank in the launch of the

Avensis.



’We’ve been careful with the executions to get the brand message across.

We looked at deals like Cadbury’s-Coronation Street where the line, ’the

nation’s favourite’, seems to have a natural fit, and that’s what we

will be trying to do.



It’s a new year and this is a new car. We think there is a powerful

connection.’



Tess Alps, the managing director of PHD Big Time and architect of the

tie-up between Midland Bank and the ITV Drama Premieres, adds: ’Of

course, sponsorship can be used strategically and tactically - it’s just

a medium.



It’s just taken time for agencies to get used to that. You still can’t

show the product, but that hasn’t stopped Cadbury’s creating new

products to launch with its Coronation Street sponsorship. Sponsorship

can do different jobs in the way that all media can, it’s really up to

agencies to make the most of it.’



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