TV sponsorship is now an integral part of any broadcaster’s
advertising agenda. Recognising this, the Independent Television
Commission is in the process of relaxing restrictive sponsorship rules
to allow advertisers to show their products within a sponsorship credit
for the first time.
Yet last week, Media Business reported that the ITC is also planning to
ban advertisers from sponsoring just part of a TV series. This would put
an end to individual programme strand sponsorship and sponsorship of a
few episodes within a whole series.
Understandably, broadcasters are perplexed by the ITC proposals. On one
hand, they will help the sponsorship market to grow, on the other, they
will limit the opportunities available to advertisers and therefore
The ITC says it is too early to comment on what will appear in the
finalised code. The body justifies its logic on the basis of its role as
a consumer protector.
A spokesperson for the ITC said: ’We want to open up the sponsorship
market but will not sacrifice our editorial integrity. Viewers should be
able to enjoy programmes without being bombarded by sponsorship
If you have a different sponsor on the same series every day of the week
it will confuse the viewer.’
Greg Grimmer, managing partner at Optimedia UK, disagrees. ’As long as
you create an association between the brand and service you are
sponsoring, the ITC has nothing to worry about,’ he maintains. ’When
Granada creates a food strand for its morning show, it fits the
programme perfectly, which is why the advertiser buys the slot.
Packaging a whole series together will make it far more difficult to
find a sponsor. You are not going to find one sponsor for an event like
ITV’s Christmas package that broadcasts a range of programmes - there
are too many different target audiences.’
Ivan Clark, media director at iMediapoint, agrees. ’How will shows like
This Morning and GMTV be classified?’ he asks. ’The whole point of
magazine television is that it offers segments to the advertiser.’
In defence of the ITC’s proposed ruling, a spokesperson for Channel 4
claims: ’You can see where it is coming from. The ITC needs to ensure
the broadcaster creates a synergy between the sponsorship brand and the
programme in question. Otherwise, you might have people cherry-picking
individual programmes from all over the schedule. They could lift a
product like a Guinness bottle straight out of an ad and tag it on to to
any programme. ITV has an advantage in that it will be able to show
products without the clutter coming from other ad breaks.’
The consultation process for the proposals continues amid fierce debate
until 26 May and the new code will be published later this year.
Broadcasters still have time to iron out concerns and last week meetings
were called with the ITC to clear up confusing territory.
It remains to be seen how the final code will shape up but broadcasters
hope the ITC stands by its promise to ’broaden the sponsorship market,
not cripple it’.