Sponsorship — how the nature of the game is changing

By Pete Davis

But sponsorship opportunities have evolved to become so much more creative these days. This is in no small way thanks to the fact that digital technology now allows for clever sponsorship activity to span many channels, from social to mobile and video. It’s no co-incidence that we now see an increasing number of brands increasing their investment in sponsorship and a growing number of creative agencies take an interest not just in shooting a brand’s ad, but in being part of the creative process behind their broadcast sponsorship activity too.

There are still brands that treat sponsorship activity with an attitude of ‘slap a badge on something – job done’, and some that will snap up distressed inventory at the last minute because it is going cheap. But clever brands are the ones thinking of the bigger picture – that is to consider how a sponsorship opportunity can really amplify a brand’s message to its target audience.

The brand new sponsorship by Morrisons of Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway is a great example of modern sponsorship that takes the concept way beyond the idea of simply badging a show. As part of the deal, Morrisons will sponsor other shows fronted by the duo, and see the stars appear in their own ads. This arrangement is all about the brand viewing their sponsorship arrangement as an actual partnership, and fostering a deeper relationship which sees the ‘celebrity’ element embedded right within the core of the brand message. It will be interesting to see whether the relationship with Ant and Dec will travel in-store at some point, or transgress to live point of sale at Morrisons events.

When Simon Sproule, Nissan’s global marcomms guy was interviewed last year about the brand’s association with Formula 1 (it’s luxury car brand, Infiniti, sponsored Formula 1’s Red Bull Racing) he said that “an idiot can put a logo on something – you have to activate it”. And he’s right.

How did Infiniti activate its sponsorship? In a number of ways – by naming a car “The Vettel” after 2011 F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel, by organising a group of journalists for a ride in its racing cars, and by inviting stakeholders to gain exclusive access to the garages and pit lanes.

Product placement in advertising, a possibility since 2011, has added another element entirely to sponsorship of programmes. Product placement is, typically one component of a multi-faceted advertising campaign involving sponsorship of the same programme, spot advertising, online and mobile activity. According to Sky Media, which has carried out its own research says that product placement works better in combination with other elements than in isolation.

The TRESemmé and Next Top Model partnership on Sky Living HD was a UK first to include both sponsorship and product placement. The key objectives were clear; to improve loyalty, brand positioning, purchase consideration and of course drive word of mouth. And the dual approach worked; the overall campaign increased both talkability for the brand (69% for viewers aware of product placement and sponsorship verses 45% for non-viewers) and advocacy (79% verses 61%) at the mid-stage of the series.

Certain regulations do render product placement a relatively subtle method of communication. That said there is an unlimited number of ways in which it can be used imaginatively, to the benefit of advertisers, programmes and viewers.

Sky Media has developed a planning aid called the ‘Concurrent Model’, to guide the implementation of spot, sponsorship and product placement, using each of their strengths to create a message journey in broadcast. Online, mobile, experiential and marketing elements can also be integrated, to create a holistic schematic view of a campaign.

There is another important point to be made here, and it brings me back to my original one about brands who merely ‘badge’ the beginning and end of an ad break. Brands should never fall into the trap of seeing their idents become merely indicators as to when a viewer should hit the fast forward button at the beginning of an ad break, and the stop button at the end of one. Some of the examples I have talked about here alude to the fact that good use of sponsorship these days involves interactive, off-the-screen content. The old sponsorship model may have seen idents shown on – in a high profile case – a Saturday night show and then on the ITV2 or E4 repeats thereafter. But modern technology now affords sponsorship as a channel as a much longer – and more exciting journey, and clever brands are the ones embracing this.

About the author

Pete Davis is managing director of innovative media ideas hub, Getmemedia.com.

http://www.getmemedia.com

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