TV sponsorship makes brands appear more successful, research finds

A new study commissioned by Thinkbox has suggested a number of ways that brands benefit from sponsoring popular TV shows.

Just Eat: will sponsor The X Factor when it returns later this summer
Just Eat: will sponsor The X Factor when it returns later this summer

The data will make happy reading for Channel 4, which is currently seeking a headline sponsor for The Great British Bake Off, set to air on the commercial channel for the first time this autumn. The commercial importance of that deal grew this week after a source told The Guardian the show would not feature product placement.

The study was carried out by YouGov and House 51, the latter of which carried out in-depth research with 300 participants, looking at eight TV sponsorships.

It found that viewers of a TV show were more likely to regard the sponsoring brand as popular or successful than non-viewers, by 78% to 68%. House 51 said this could be explained by "costly signalling", where TV sponsorship is understood to be expensive, and so signals success.

House 51 also found that on average, sponsorships created a personality fit between the brand and the show’s viewers 53% higher than with non-viewers, thanks to sponsorship idents borrowing from the show’s personality.

The findings from YouGov, which combined its Brand Index and TV programme databases, which each survey 4,000 people a day, suggest that the benefits of TV sponsorship are long-lasting.

On the last day of a campaign, viewers of a sponsored TV show were 5.4 percentage points higher than non-viewers on a set of brand health metrics. Six months later, this difference had fallen only slightly, to 4.3 points. At nine months, it was still at 3.8 points.

But YouGov also uncovered factors that can have a significant impact on the effectiveness of a sponsorship. When the sponsorship creative was a good fit with the TV show, the set of metrics were 5 points higher for viewers than non-viewers. When the fit was less obvious, this difference was only 2.4 points.

And fully integrated partnerships, involving aspects like microsites, products placement or licensing, were found to work a lot harder than "badging only" sponsorships, with integrated partnerships increasing metrics by 8.9% above non-viewers, against 2.8% for badging-only deals.

Matt Hill, research and planning director at Thinkbox, said: "People judge you by the company you keep, and this is at the heart of TV sponsorship’s power.

"Through this research our understanding of how TV sponsorships work is better than ever. We know what they deliver and we know how to get the best out of them. Marketers need to know that their investments make a real difference to their brands – this research enables them to do just that."