TV spot advertising and programme sponsorship go hand-in-hand as elements of an effective high-profile campaign, but they are different animals. Understanding the restrictions of sponsorship from the outset is key to getting effective results.
Q: How does TV sponsorship differ from spot advertising in its value to an advertiser?
Individual series and day-part sponsorship have grown in popularity during recent years, often running alongside a client’s traditional 20 or 30-second spot advertising. It’s a great place for advertisers to be. The media value is evaluated in the exact same way as spot advertising, i.e. based on the audience, universe, CPT, time-length of bumper, the number of bumpers and the TVR (Television Viewer Ratings) performance. In short, sponsorship is very beneficial in keeping brands front-of-mind and increasing brand-recall. It’s also a great way for new brands, especially online brands, to build their name recognition in the run up to a wider campaign. The sponsor’s brand often springs to mind along with the name of the programme, there’s a positive association created. When people think of X-Factor, many will also likely recall TalkTalk.
Q: A client wants to mention a special offer they’ll have during the campaign, is that okay?
No, mentioning specific sales messages in sponsorship campaigns is not possible as it would then fall into the category of advertising. Sponsorship does not count as part of a channel’s advertising minuteage quota, it is deemed to be part of the ‘programme-time’, and hence it cannot be an advertising message. Brief details as to nature of business can be permitted if the sponsor is not already a well-known brand – but no specifics, offers or price-points are allowed. The sponsor’s logo and brief contact details – phone number, text number, hashtag, or most often a website URL – are permitted, however these can only appear as visual graphics. Any voiceover on the sponsorship would also have to avoid the potential of being misconstrued as an invitation for the audience to contact the sponsor.
Q: What format does TV sponsorship take? The bumpers in the X-Factor never seem to appear twice – does the client have to make a lot of versions?
Generally the standard broadcast time-lengths are 15-seconds for the intro to a programme, 10-seconds at the start and close of each ad-break in that programme, and a 5-second closing bumper at the end of the programme’s credits. However – dependent on the programme, the broadcaster and the schedule it is sometimes possible to use 10-second bumpers throughout all parts of the programme, which still offers clients the same number of minutes, accreditation and frequency. Either way, generally you have to produce a minimum of three bumpers. Any TV commercial production company can also handle TV sponsorship production.
Obviously for a series extending over many weeks (such as X-Factor) it’s good to stay fresh and to be able to rotate from a larger pool of bumpers. Often you’ll see that the tone and style of the sponsorship adapts as a series progresses, it’s been developed specifically to be a really good fit with the programme it’s paired with – e.g. incorporating user-generated-content in the TV bumpers as part of a wider online exposure.
Q: How much does TV sponsorship cost? Is it more expensive than a regular TV commercial?
More often than not, no. Sponsorship is much more cost-effective than the traditional media buy and is something that media-agencies are often able to negotiate on very competitive terms. However as there are absolute restrictions on promotional messages/advertising messages/tag-lines and so forth that require substantiation it is not entirely a like-for-like comparison. TV sponsorship production needn’t cost any more than the creation of a regular commercial message – sponsorship messages are often kept quite simple due to the time constraints of the medium; short and sweet.
Q: TV sponsorship bumpers seem relevant to the programme they’re sponsoring, are there any programmes that broadcasters would consider an advertiser unsuitable to sponsor?
There are many variables to this, but firstly all news and current affairs programmes are prohibited of sponsorships (see full Ofcom regulations). Secondly, advertisers that are not allowed to advertise on television would also be unable to sponsor shows. Of the advertisers able to consider sponsorship there are BCAP restrictions dependant on the content of programme, as is the case for regular TV ads. For example, a show indexing highly for kids such as X-Factor couldn’t be sponsored by an HFSS (High Fat, Salt, Sugar) brand. Sponsorship largely follows the same standard restrictions for advertising, e.g. a pre-9pm restriction on gambling companies unless they opt out of their own self regulations. The sponsorship of gameshows by betting or bingo brands has recently been prohibited as an unsuitable combination.
Outside of everyday regulations there can also be personal or business considerations in deciding the suitability of a sponsor. A presenter or major talent may have their own opinions on the suitability, or a presenter may already have an existing contractual arrangement with a particular brand and therefore the show couldn’t accept sponsorship from a rival of that brand. Also it wouldn’t be possible for an advertiser to sponsor a programme in their own direct interests… i.e. a travel agent could not sponsor a travel programme that showcased holidays that the agent could source, this would tread too narrow a line between sponsorship and co-advertising.