MEDIA: SPOTLIGHT ON: SPONSORSHIP - P&G’s Emmerdale deal marks sponsorship’s coming of age/P&G and Granada’s idea for a soap to sell soap is smart, Alasdair Reid says

It is sometimes easy to forget how young the broadcast sponsorship business is in this country. A decade ago the subject could still trigger worthy newspaper editorials condemning the practice as the work of Satan and a corrosive influence on programme standards - not only a direct attack on editorial integrity but also an affront to the nation’s morals.

It is sometimes easy to forget how young the broadcast sponsorship

business is in this country. A decade ago the subject could still

trigger worthy newspaper editorials condemning the practice as the work

of Satan and a corrosive influence on programme standards - not only a

direct attack on editorial integrity but also an affront to the nation’s

morals.



The broadcast sponsorship market is still relatively small (it is worth

only pounds 50 million in the UK), but last week’s pounds 6 million deal

marrying Procter & Gamble to Granada’s Emmerdale confirms what many

people have suspected for a while now: the business has reached a new

level of maturity.



P&G will use the tie-up to promote brands from its detergent portfolio,

including Bold, Daz and Ariel, and will doubtless make much of the ’soap

sponsoring a soap’ angle. Some observers used this aspect of the deal to

suggest that it was not only a major departure - a big consumer

advertiser joining the market - but a rather neat and witty one at

that.



They were forgetting that P&G not only invented programme sponsorship

but that it did so by inventing the soap opera at the same time - the Ma

Perkins Show, sponsored by Oxydol, launched on US radio in 1933.



The big question, though, is what implications this recent deal will

have for the TV advertising market as a whole. Will P&G fund the deal by

taking pounds 6 million out of its spot advertising budget? And, more

particularly, its ITV budget? Loss of spot revenue was something that

television sales outfits used to be very worried about - and ITV people

were arguably the least forward-looking. They allegedly killed off

several potential deals by insisting clients sign contracts promising

not to shift spot advertising budgets from ITV once they’d tied up

sponsorship agreements.



Some agencies say that ITV’s approach - including sponsorship

considerations in the big annual airtime negotiation round - is still

wrong.



Is ITV still worried that it is helping to wean its biggest advertisers

off spot airtime? Gary Knight, the executive commercial director of

Granada Media, believes not. He says: ’We think it is new money to

television. Everything we’ve done in sponsorship is about creating a 360

degree proposition, where we attract above-the-line budget into

television but still relate it back to below-the-line activity like

database marketing and sales promotion. It is an effective way of

getting a truly integrated campaign. Sales promotion has grown massively

in recent years and the suspicion was that television was losing budget

to that sector. So sponsorship can protect budget as well as generating

new budget.’



Which, if true, is good news for commercial television. And won’t the

entry of a mammoth advertiser like P&G also be good for sponsorship

rates?



Some observers doubt that. Big advertisers tend to be formidable

negotiators - and supply still exceeds demand, even if the gap is

closing.



But such matters are perhaps of secondary importance. Everyone seems to

agree that P&G’s involvement in this sector is very good news

indeed.



Tess Alps, the managing director of Drum PHD, is a big fan of Emmerdale,

and as a former Yorkshire TV employee she has even pulled a pint or two

in the Woolpack. She says: ’It’s a cracking programme and it was

probably only a matter of time before someone snapped it up. This

reinforces the reality that sponsorship has become mainstream. It’s on

the agenda for most clients - anyone not looking at it must feel they

are missing out.’



Alps points out that sponsorship still represents excellent value:

’Although there is competition for some opportunities, there are still

some programmes and programme genres - docusoaps for instance - that

aren’t used. But maybe there isn’t the same potential there. In terms of

real viewer involvement and consumer attention, narrative programmes

continue to rank pretty highly.’



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