The changing face of TV sponsorship

The changing face of TV sponsorship


Last month saw UKTV bring to market the first TV sponsorship opportunity that could be sponsored by a brands ‘sale’ – think DFS.

Essentially what this meant was a route to market for those brands that had been averse to TV sponsorship due to the previously strict regulations around having no clear call to action within the brand messaging. A novel and interesting approach from UKTV, seemingly addressing this issue front on and finding a way to potentially evade the rules clearly set out by OFCOM. I say evade and not avoid deliberately, it has been made very clear that this approach can only be considered by brands that have an established ‘sale’ that could be viewed as a brand in its own right – again, think DFS and its January sale.

This approach has been highly caveated with talk of compliance approvals and stringent processes, but fundamentally could this be a step change in how brands approach TV sponsorship and a way of removing one of the most prominent obstacles?

Early indications are that this is not an approach that is set to be picked up by the more mainstream sales houses at CH4 and ITV. All broadcasters must comply with both Ofcom rules around sponsorship and the Advertising BCAP Code on scheduling and content. This is enshrined in all OFCOM broadcasters` licence obligations and as such means that this is less likely to be a case of ‘pushing’ OFCOM – but working together with them under the current EU Law. An approach that is not new to CH4 in a wider sponsorship sense.

Channel 4, in particular, have already made ground in the digital space by allowing promotional messaging on their All 4sponsorship credits. They have brought this to market packaged up as iSpon and brands such as Crabbies and Thomson have incorporated interactive click throughs on their catch-up idents with a clear call to action. Since OFCOM brought the regulation of VOD in-house some 18 months ago, ITV has been reluctant to adopt a similar process and cite this reluctance on OFCOM TV rules and regulations being replicated in the digital space.

There are clearly some disparate opinions across the industry on just how far new ground can be broken in the sponsorship space and its merits.

The benefits of TV sponsorship range from an association with a desired show/strand through to simply a cost-effective way to leverage TV presence. OFCOM have of course relaxed laws in place over the last decade to ensure that TV sponsorship remains relevant. Whilst an approach to loosening the restrictions even further would potentially remove an additional barrier to entry; it would also create a cacophony of promotional messaging in what is an already cluttered medium. Sponsorship is a way of aligning with a property either by convergent or divergent means to create brand rub, saliency and reputability, to simply turn this into another canvas to flaunt a product would surely be a mistake.

More than anything, sponsorship can provide effective cut-through and targeted communication to specific viewing audiences. As an industry, we should be protecting this space and placing a premium on it rather than trying to downgrade it to simply become an iteration of a brand’s TV ad. Big properties like BGT or Bake Off (now it has come to market) have always been viewed with envious eyes and never treated as a simple badging exercise.

Surely the future we should all be focussing on is how do we deepen these relationships, not how we cheapen them?


Written by Matthew Hinton, Account Manger, Chorus