Is Champions League ad fee justified?

There are, apparently, only three sports that matter in the UK: football, football and football.

Champions League...millions will tune in to 2008 final
Champions League...millions will tune in to 2008 final
So it was no surprise, after England had failed to qualify for Euro 2008, that fans across the nation waited with bated, lager-fuelled, breath to see if any English clubs would make it to the Uefa Champions League final in Moscow.

With three teams in the running at the semi-final stage, at least one English representative was guaranteed a place. But ITV and Sky, which own the broadcast rights, would have been celebrating even harder after both Chelsea and Manchester United got through.

In the first-ever all-English final, many accept this is a game that holds a premium.

And it is a premium that ITV has grabbed on to with both hands. After the finalists were revealed, ITV raised the price of its TV ad slots by up to 50 per cent. This meant clients were coughing up around £200,000 for a 30-second ad. And, according to industry sources, that figure had increased again by a further 15 per cent within two days.

Although ITV declined to say how the rates compared with last year's final between Liverpool and AC Milan, Gary Digby, the customer relations director at ITV, did admit they were up.

Gary Leih, the chairman and chief executive of Ogilvy Group UK, says: "ITV hasn't had very much to smile about in the last couple of years, so the first-ever all-English Champions League final represents an opportunity for it.

Who can blame it for taking ad-vantage of a surge in interest?"

13 million viewers

Digby hopes around 13 million viewers will switch on to the game, excluding the out-of-home viewing in pubs, compared with four million in 2004, the last final without an English club involved.

So far, Sky has Audi, Ford, Nike, Samsung and Pepsi on board, and, although ITV declined to comment for fear that competitors would try to hijack the campaigns, it is understood that Ford, Audi and Nike also have slots booked up during the match on ITV. 

Ed Elworthy, the head of brand connections at Nike UK and Ireland, says: "We can legitimately expect a strong ratings result, given that it is an all-English final, and also appreciate the premium associated with such a huge event. They can charge what they want; no brand is forced to buy ad slots."

At the time of writing, ITV had a few slots left to sell, but Digby stresses that this is a good situation, as advertisers will get more interested and the price will increase as the pre-game hype builds up.

Client premium

With ad slots reputedly going for up to four times the normal price of a premium ad during a high-rating show on ITV, Digby says clients will always accept a value above normal programming for a premium, one-off, prestigious sporting event, or the final of a high-rating show such as Britain's Got Talent.

With only one category allowed in each ad break, competition is fierce and secrecy a must.

Ford and Nike have created new ads for the final: Ford has hired the Sony Bravia "balls" director, Nicolai Fuglsig, while a Nike spokesman says cryptically that its ad will feature Premier League, FA Cup, Champions League and European Championship milestones.

It appears that the value of communicating with around 13 million people in one swift shot supersedes any price tag - particularly when you are targeting blokes who are traditionally hard to reach.