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Double Standards - How should brands tackle media sponsorships?

Brands looking to enter into media sponsorship should be ready to commit to a multifaceted relationship, two experts advise.

Agostino Di Falco, partnerships director, Channel 5

Agostino Di Falco, partnerships director, Channel 5

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AGOSTINO DI FALCO, PARTNERSHIPS DIRECTOR, CHANNEL 5

- Would you say sponsorship in media is more about partnerships these days?

If you define partnerships as multifaceted marketing campaigns that bring mutual gain to all parties involved, then yes. Broadcast sponsorships continue to provide a great foundation and help decode a brand's intentions in the eyes of the viewer. But there is a lot more that can be done. A key factor to the success of Channel 5 in the past 18 months has been our desire to create integrated partnerships with advertisers, giving brands the opportunity to plug into the relationship viewers have with our content across different platforms.

- How do brands make themselves relevant to the content they wish to be associated with in a multiple touchpoint world?

I'd argue that marketers would be well advised to "media plan" before they "message plan". The more congruent the creative message is with the environment in which it's going to appear, the more effective it is likely to be. People intuitively subscribe to this view, but now act upon it. Our creative services team has never been busier working on partnership briefs, knitting together their understanding of our content with marketers' brand objectives. A great example is our 12-month partnership with Very.co.uk that began in Northern & Shell's celebrity magazines and culminated in lucky readers having makeovers televised.

- What is the value in partnerships between brands and media owners?

Ultimately, if a partnership doesn't generate incremental financial return, you would question its role. Deeper relationships return greater value for both parties. Metaphorically speaking, a "Level 1" conversation is a simple transaction - always welcome. But there's more potential for brands willing to go further. "Level 5" is a great place, where brands have unlimited access to tangible and intangible assets within a media owner's portfolio. Intangibles, such as licensing arrangements, talent, unique content, bespoke research and product placement, are difficult to leverage. As part of deeper collaboration, we fight hard to bring these to the table.

- Does the habit of second-screening open up new opportunities for sponsorship?

Second-screening is the "talk of the town", but its long-term impact could be overestimated. Viewers use second screens to communicate with friends about content, or look for information. Big Brother evictions, for instance, create massive spikes. The key is to understand what this has to do with advertising effectiveness: why will viewers engage with a brand in this way; and why with a sponsor of a show? As for new opportunities - maybe, but we always focus on developing a central idea before assessing the role that second-screening (or other touchpoints) could play.

- How can a brand best integrate itself into entertainment content so that sponsorship is not a clunky add-on?

Brands can do this through tremendous collaboration between agencies, clients, production companies and media owners, with everyone on the same page. The pinnacle is where a brand is not only able to seamlessly integrate within an editorial environment, but helps make great TV. Our Big Brother partnerships have brought this vision to life. Most recently, it was Schwarzkopf LIVE Colour XXL hair products. Endemol placed XXL in the bathroom hoping housemates would use it. Housemates used the product, commented on it and paraded around the house with their newly dyed hair. XXL was the broadcast sponsor that underpinned the whole partnership. And that, in our view, is how to do it.

DAVID PETERS, DIRECTOR, HEAD OF SPONSORSHIP, CARAT

- Would you say sponsorship in media is more about partnerships these days?

Yes. Sponsorships have always been based on working with media owners in a collaborative way, and as these sponsorships get increasingly complex and multifaceted, this approach becomes more important. It requires media owners to show a willingness to try new things and a brand that is willing to take calculated risks to push the boundaries of what can be achieved through a sponsorship. For this to work, it requires a partnership that is equal and where a mutual value exchange can be achieved between brand and media owner.

- How do brands make themselves relevant to the content they wish to be associated with in a multiple touchpoint world?

The most important consideration for a brand to be relevant to the content they sponsor is to be empathetic. This means understanding the motivations and passions of the audience and ensuring they add value or, at least, be seen to add value. This means creatively paying homage to the content they sponsor, not conflicting with it, and giving the audience additional content or "money can't buy" experiences. This creates advocacy, which, in a world where technology has enabled social interaction to be almost instant and wide-reaching, is very powerful.

- What is the value in partnerships between brands and media owners?

Value is in the eye of the beholder. There are tangible assets on which hard values can be attached, but it is the intangible benefits of association with a property that really makes the difference. It is that which elevates a brand compared with its competitors. The value for the media owner is the ability to create a much closer collaborative working relationship with the sponsoring brands and their agencies. By transforming the relationship from something purely transactional into a business partnership, a successful collaboration can be truly redefining.

- Does the habit of second-screening open up new opportunities for sponsorship?

Yes. Much of the time spent by people second-screening, especially among the young, is chatting with friends about the TV programmes they are watching via e-mail and social sites such as Facebook or Twitter. Content is innately social - it is what people talk about, whether it is live sport, The X Factor or their favourite soap. This gives brands that create a credible association with that content something interesting to talk to their audience about - a currency for conversation.

- How can a brand best integrate itself into entertainment content so that sponsorship is not a clunky add-on?

Be relevant, be empathetic and be integrated. Integration is a key part of successful sponsorships, which means thinking holistically about the role of the sponsorship as a platform for communication, not a channel. A great example of this is the campaign we created for the haircare brand TRESemme, which sponsors Next Top Model on Sky Living. Carat created an association with the programme that went way beyond what was required to communicate the sponsorship, working across virtually all marketing communication including above-the-line advertising and on-pack. The sum of the parts was greater than the whole, directly resulting in the client renewing the sponsorship for a second year.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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