OPINION: TV sponsorship can create a partnership of perfection

But it is a three-way relationship which requires careful balance and sound, long-term planning. Otherwise, it can easily turn into a televisual mess.

But it is a three-way relationship which requires careful balance and

sound, long-term planning. Otherwise, it can easily turn into a

televisual mess.

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

opportunity arise.

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

marketing process.

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

pester power.

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.

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