In early 2016 Livewire held the view that the year ahead would be an exceptionally busy year for sponsors, driven by a “summer of sport”, due to Ireland’s involvement in Euro 2016, the Olympic Games, as well as annual stalwarts including the GAA Championships. Add to this an ever growing music and cultural festival scene, the landscape was likely to be both cluttered yet potentially exciting. In January we pointed to three trends to watch for the year ahead:
- Superior activation strategies
- Immersive media sponsorships
- Sponsors looking for more from rights holders
For this report Livewire spoke to a select number of sponsors, rights holders and media owners to ask their views on the sponsorship campaigns which stood in 2016. We also asked them what is on their sponsorship Christmas wish list for 2017 and what they would like to see sponsors and rights holders do more of next year. The feedback is included in the report.
So, how did our predictions for key trends in 2016 fare? The answer lies in three separate reports in which we have analysed the above trends.
Immersive Media Sponsorships
When speaking about immersion, we are referring to brands becoming a part of the narrative, enhancing the audience experience and being thought of as more than a disconnected, commercial add-on. 2016 has thrown up some excellent examples and potential for growth in this area. However, there are also challenges – most notably, how to deal with the concept of value and tentative approaches from industry stakeholders.
- Immersive Media in 2016
Media sponsorship is not a media buy! Media value attainable from a potential sponsorship is relevant only in that the levels of reach and frequency achievable need to be considered against other, potentially more cost-efficient means of achieving the same. When assessing a sponsorship package, its worth is assessed in media value terms as standard practice. While this provides a common context for evaluating the opportunity, a base for negotiating and the cost of investment for an advertiser – it should not be the only means of assessing it. This is arguably more so given the trend towards immersion and how we can evaluate success.
“The Toughest Trade”, created by AIB is an excellent example of advertiser-created programming and how a brand can move beyond simply badging a property. The brand was subtly integrated into the content, while also sponsoring each of the broadcasts. The format provided AIB with the perfect platform to further promote its sponsorship of the All-Ireland Club Championships, while forging a more meaningful relationship with viewers and fans alike.
More and more, the effects of a collaborative approach between media owners, agencies and advertisers are observed. While it is notable that brand objectives exceeded all targets: AIB became the GAA sponsor with the highest awareness in Ireland (Source: AAI Toolkit Seminar), the objective of increasing engagement with AIB’s target audience was evident in its social media results – for example, 1.8 million video views. The key learning from this example is the breadth of value that can be garnered from immersive media sponsorship, far beyond the standard sting value. This is a new standard and AIB are out in front.
More recently, we have seen Vodafone cement its relationship with Irish Rugby through the airing of “Irish Rugby – What We Did Last Summer”, an Advertiser Funded Programme (AFP) used to leverage what has become one of the standout sponsorships of 2016. These two examples illustrate how media sponsorships can bolster traditional sponsorship. If this is accepted, there is no reason we can’t think about this in the reverse and use off-air activations to leverage media sponsorships and adopt a more dynamic way of thinking around media sponsorships.
Another example of this slow but effective shift towards more immersive media sponsorships and content can be seen in Skoda’s sponsorship and involvement in “Daniel and Majella’s B&B Roadtrip” which was originally broadcast on UTV Ireland in 2015.
In this case Skoda moved away from merely being attached to a property and instead formed part of the story and programme narrative. This was achieved through the Skoda Yeti becoming an intrinsic part of the show. The success of the relationship was illustrated when the sponsorship picked up the ‘Best TV Broadcast Sponsorship’ award at the 2016 Irish Sponsorship Awards. The show is demonstrative of the way in which the industry can start thinking about using sponsorship properties going forward and working added value into sponsorship deals which are tailored around the brand in question.
Going into 2017, while there is an established standard in television, there is scope for more activity and more innovation. An area of growth potential is radio AFP. While radio advertising spends are not expected to rise, there is scope to change the way radio is used in line with brand objectives. Heineken adopted an innovative approach in 2016 for its music campaign, introducing the weekly show, “Sound Atlas” across a number of the Media Central stations. Kelly-Anne Byrne hosted this slot, which was intrinsically linked to Heineken’s Sound Atlas, focusing on some of the world’s most exciting music scenes, around the globe – including Paris, Brooklyn, Berlin and Tokyo.
FM104 has also demonstrated a willingness to go beyond traditional media sponsorships. In a relatively risky move, the station replaced some scheduled programming in favour of the AIG-backed FM104’s Dub Hub – a sports show which aired on the Friday evenings of big Dublin games. This provided AIG with a platform to engage with Dublin GAA fans through targeted content and on-air activations.
Acknowledging there is a long way to go, the idea that broadcast immersion can cross-over TV and radio is an exciting prospect. There is potential to be unlocked and 2016 has started the momentum.
- The value of broadcast stings
While Livewire champions immersion, we should acknowledge that the most traditional asset – the broadcast sting – continues to have unique value. At the most top-line level, the nature of a programme means a sponsor can establish a connection with a theme that can resonate in the mind of the audience. Obvious examples are presented where there are natural parallels between the brand and the theme of the show. For example, “Countrywide” on RTE Radio 1 was last year sponsored by National Dairy Council and “Futureproof”, Newstalk’s science and technology show is currently sponsored by Science Foundation Ireland. The opportunity to reach a community with such a pointed, frequent and creatively relevant message is something that a tangible value cannot be placed on. The association is functional in that it is representative of the brand’s sphere and more importantly, ‘owning’ that theme enables a sponsor to stand out from its competition particularly when demand for relevant programming exceeds supply.
In addition to the above, there are specific audiences that are notoriously difficult to reach. For example, targeting adults 15-34 is relatively tough due to the shift towards online viewing. This makes a television programme like First Dates Ireland all the more valuable to a sponsor for both targeting an audience and eliminating opportunities for competitors. In 2016, the series reached 40% of adults 15-34 and 55% of women 15+, ensuring that the sponsor – its4women.ie, could communicate succinctly with its target audience.
A sponsorship that is not necessarily a natural fit between the brand and property can, in fact, bring its own benefits. Sponsorship can bring the opportunity to embed a brand within a context, routine or way of thinking and add to the audience experience. This creates a connection between a brand and a theme that would not otherwise be there. P&G’s sponsorship of Ireland AM is an example of how household brands place themselves within prominent daytime programming thus becoming a normal fixture in the daily routine, making connections with those who are at home during the day. Cadbury’s has also effectively done this with its sponsorship of The X-Factor on TV3 by changing the stings to match the programme theme creating a smooth transition and seemingly integrating into the show. Cadbury’s took this further and activated the sponsorship strongly with the addition of an X Factor Party for the screening of the final.
- The challenge of valuing media sponsorships
So why talk about immersion and value? Prior to the trend towards branded content, AFPs and on air activations, traditional media sponsorships have always held a superior value that can be difficult to quantify. The added element of immersive opportunities adds to the qualitative element. Livewire’s stance on this is two-fold:
First, while there are conversations around ‘added value’, value means different things in different contexts. There needs to be a distinction between cost to a sponsor, media value for the sponsor and overall value of a sponsorship to an advertiser. The cost is the market value of a sponsorship package, the media value is the amount the sponsor would pay in a standard media buy for the same media results as per its trading rates and the overall value is how the property in question can satisfy the sponsor’s overall objective(s). ‘Value’ of a sponsorship is often skewed by what the sponsor would expect to achieve from a standard media campaign and this varies between advertisers. Therefore, the media value should be communicated, but only as a cost opportunity – a means of achieving the same reach and frequency through a standard media buy.
For all the examples outlined previously, there is an implicit logic to the sponsorship despite the media value that could be derived. It serves to think beyond media value and look at what sponsor can do with the show. Over and above the value of making a connection, there is the means of re-enforcing that connection through editorial content, product placement, PR opportunities, promotions, audience engagement etc. Sponsorship value needs to be thought of in terms of return on objectives as well as return on investment. There are intangible benefits to aligning with any given media property. It is these gains that differentiate sponsorship from a standard media buy.
Secondly, as previously alluded to, there are learnings to be taken from traditional off-air sponsorships. Frequently sponsors use broadcast to leverage existing non-media sponsorships. Examples from 2016 include AIB Club Championships sponsorship extending to the broadcast on TG4 and The Toughest Trade AFP on RTÉ, Vodafone’s AFP for Irish Rugby on RTÉ, and Ulster Bank’s sponsorship of RTÉ’s Six Nations coverage. If done properly – adding to, rather than interfering with the fan experience, a brand can become a part of a passionate discourse in a relevant way and potentially influence brand perception, as well as being front and centre for a large audience. If media is one piece of the puzzle in that context, then there are measurement methods around effectiveness and affinity from off-air activations that can be applied to media sponsorships and their complimentary activations. A holistic approach to measuring media sponsorship that includes elements beyond the broadcast should be fostered across the industry and it is up to sponsors, agencies, media-owners and producers to nurture this potential and encourage innovation in sponsorship.
Media sponsorship is not a media buy! Being a good fit for the brand or reaching a specific audience is only one, though the most visible, piece of the media sponsorship puzzle. The opportunities offered range from influencing awareness and perception, to inhibiting competitors and allowing more on-point messages to more relevant audiences. Secondly, key to consideration of media sponsorship is the idea that when the transmission ends, the conversation around it is only beginning and that is the space the sponsor can capitalise on. More so, it is a conversation which the sponsor can initiate. There is a ready-made audience for the brand with added opportunities to engage in relevant context.
However, to drive this forward this will require a change in mind shift from media owners and brands. The industry must finally move away from a “badging exercise” and instead embrace new formats, social media, technology etc. which will leverage the scope and potential for media sponsorships – thus delivering brand objectives.
The final piece of the puzzle is a drive for a better understanding of the value that exists in immersive media sponsorships – beyond broadcast stings. This is an area of focus for Livewire in 2017.