But it is a three-way relationship which requires careful balance and
sound, long-term planning. Otherwise, it can easily turn into a
We’re all very cynical and accountable in this business. We wait to be
convinced in our own minds that a proposal will actually deliver on the
bottom line before we sign on the dotted line. And it takes something
absolutely stunning to shift our views because we know best.
In today’s climate, we need to be brave enough to interrogate all
opportunities to break through the clutter of competition. OK, so direct
mail has worked well in the past, we can establish where all the leads
came from and ultimately what happened to them.
But how were those lost prospects feeling when that junk package hit the
mat? Would they have responded more warmly if some sort of relationship
had already been built with them?
And what about the longer term? If direct mail can bring in the initial
response, what about retrial and retention for the future?
The key here has to be relationship - and that leads neatly to my point.
At the other end of the communications spectrum lies TV programme
sponsorship, the opportunity for this close liaison to be consummated.
Good TV sponsorship works best when the strategic fit between the
sponsor, the audience and the programme is complementary with no one
side being seen to dominate the relationship.
True, early attempts at sponsorship are still remembered, the ultimate
being Brian Moore’s summing up in World Cup ’90. ‘Four minutes to go and
it looks to be a night of disappointment we have brought to you in
association with National Power.’
But we’ve come a long way since then. Case studies abound where examples
of good sponsorship have either stimulated sales activity
(Beamish/Inspector Morse, Croft/Rumpole of the Bailey) or increased
awareness (Barclaycard/Wish You Were Here?, Sega/European Football
And it’s important that sponsorship should be treated as any other
weapon in the communications armoury alongside traditional media and
below the line.
But where does the sponsorship budget come from? The majority of
advertisers appear to have strict cost codes for different aspects of
the marketing mix with flexibility to transfer across should the
Setting budgets at the start of the year should take account of any new
areas that may arise. Sponsorship tends to fall down at times because
the budget has not been planned in, or accounted for, at the beginning.
This whole area of sponsorship can’t generally be put together in the
short term. It should not be viewed as a tactical medium that takes
weeks to put together. A longer-term view has to be part of the ongoing
But when my 19-month-old son points to the TV set with his right hand
and the logo on his Duplo box with his left hand, totally unprompted,
the only answer being that Duplo sponsors Tots TV, we know that a future
visit to the Early Learning Centre will generate our first exposure to
Commercial Union’s association with London’s Burning, for me, represents
the best example of everything coming together spectacularly well.
From the point of view of programme choice and style, the likely viewer
and the creative link to previous ad campaigns (‘We don’t make a drama
out of a crisis’), all sides have been joined together in perfect
At the moment, when greater consumer sophistication and choice lead to
concerns over the effectiveness of traditional advertising, the case for
sponsorship to be taken seriously has never been stronger.