Virgin to sponsor Big Brother 8

Media giant says sponsoring reality TV show is a fabulous opportunity to promote Virgin Mobile.

Virgin Mobile has signed up to sponsor the next series of Big Brother, confident that it won't be dogged by controversy and that the show is a good brand fit.

James Kydd, the managing director of marketing at Virgin Media, said: "We did not do this to court controversy.

"Big Brother gives us the opportunity to promote our content across a number of platforms, and that's why we are doing it. This is not a one-off publicity stunt."

Virgin Media will promote its Virgin Mobile brand through the multichannel sponsorship. It replaces the Carphone Warehouse, which pulled out of the reality TV show earlier this month after three years of sponsorship, as previously reported in Campaign (9 March). The decision came after the racism row that tainted Celebrity Big Brother in February.

Kydd said Virgin Media was satisfied that Channel 4 and Endemol had suitable structures in place to avoid a repeat of the furore that hit Celebrity Big Brother, and would ensure the right people were in place to handle the live programme.

He added: "We considered all of the controversy that surrounded Celebrity Big Brother and we clearly had a reason to think twice, but we had a long chat with Channel 4 and we are convinced. Big Brother makes up 9 per cent of Channel 4's total revenue, so it is vital that it gets it right."

The Virgin brand has never shied away from controversy, and Virgin Media maintains its sponsorship is a marketing "bullseye".

Kydd said: "Big Brother has always come under the spotlight and courted a lot of attention. Virgin is known for facing challenges head on; we know our customers enjoy Big Brother because it's the most unpredictable and exciting TV programme there is."

David Charlesworth, the head of sponsorship at Channel 4, said: "We share so much with Virgin in terms of brand and business and look forward to creating a ground-breaking sponsorship."

The sponsorship package includes branding and advertising opportunities across TV, video-on-demand, online, radio and mobile. Previous sponsors of Big Brother have included BT Broadband.

- Comment, page 36.