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The dangers of sponsoring controversial TV - how damaging can it be for a brand?

PepsiCo has refused to advertise around 'Big Brother' despite Channel 4's attempts to reassure brands over the reality show. Some agencies have said that PepsiCo's decision could have major implications - it suggests that brands endorse the shows in which they advertise. Here you can see a short video reporting what viewers think of brands that sponsor controversial TV shows.

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Salman Amin, PepsiCo UK's president, first stepped in last January to pull ads from 'Celebrity Big Brother' following the race row surrounding Shilpa Shetty, writes Nikki Sandison. Channel 4 tightened up its editorial procedures and interventions policy to alleviate brands' concerns over the new series of 'Big Brother'. PepsiCo said that although it was not advertising during 'Big Brother', this did not represent a "specific policy". Virgin Media confirmed that it would sponsor the eighth series of 'Big Brother' in March. This came after weeks of speculation over the replacement of Carphone Warehouse, which withdrew its sponsorship of the show earlier that month after three years of sponsoring the show.

The sponsorship package includes branding and advertising opportunities across TV, video-on-demand, online, radio and mobile. Virgin Media is only committed to sponsor one series of the show but has an option to extend its contract, should the activity be successful. Virgin Media's idents appear before, after and during ad breaks for 'Big Brother'. They feature footage of housemates in foreign shows, with subtitles promoting Virgin Media products. The spots were created to demonstrate "the range of digital communications and entertainment products and services available" from Virgin Media, including cable, television, mobile and landline services and its broadband products.

Matt Edwards, new business and marketing director, WCRS said: "There's a big difference between sponsoring a programme and advertising in it. Sponsorship suggests a brand shares values and attitudes with a programme, so sponsoring something controversial can certainly damage the brand, as Carphone Warehouse realised with Celebrity Big Brother."

Nokia abandoned its sponsorship of 'The X Factor' in May, which it had sponsored since 2004. The decision marked a change in strategy for the firm, which had extended its involvement with the programme in 2006 by signing up to sponsor celebrity spin-off 'The X Factor: Battle of the Stars'. The sponsorship caused controversy in May when Ofcom ruled that the spin-off show 'The Xtra Factor' was in breach of its broadcast code after viewers complained that Nokia might have influenced scenes in the show. Viewers complained when a sketch on 'The Xtra Factor' called 'The Text Factor' showed repeated scenes on a Nokia-branded mobile phone.   Complainants questioned whether the programme sponsor had "inappropriately influenced the content of the programme". Ofcom believed that the showing of the Nokia brand could have been avoided and as such was not editorially justified.

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