The first episode of the seventh season of GOT (Game of Thrones) shattered all previous viewing records. In the US, it delivered a 50% increase from the season 6 premiere last year. It also took honours in the Twittersphere, becoming the most commented on episode in the show’s history.
There is much speculation about the record-breaking size of the pirate audience, although that is difficult to quantify. Across the pond, 115 000 UK viewers stayed up until 2am to watch Sky Atlantic’s simulcast with America – yet another record. In Italy, it was Sky Atlantic’s biggest premiere in the country, up 47% from the previous season.
Then Phelps vs Shark propelled Discovery to the number one slot on basic cable network in the US on its launch night. It became the highest-rated Shark Week special ever across the 25-54 demographic, and in the women 25-54 and women 18-49 groups. The July 23 premiere of Shark Week was also the highest live and on-demand streaming day on Discovery Go.
Television certainly seems to be alive and well! It is apt that Thinkbox, the marketing body for commercial TV in the UK, has released a ground breaking study, carried out by House 51 and YouGov to explore how TV sponsorship works and how advertisers can get the most out of sponsorship investment.
Sponsorship builds stronger audience relationships
The “Get with The Programme” research demonstrates that sponsored programmes are able to build a stronger relationship between a viewer and a brand. Across eight brand examples, it was found that viewers of sponsored programmes had much higher brand preferences than non-viewers due to increased brand/self overlap. In other words, the viewers’ perception of the brand was likely to be in line with their perception of themselves.
Sponsorship allows brands to borrow the attributes of the programme and to form a stronger relationship with the viewer through an increase in shared brand attributes. Amongst viewers, the personality fit with a brand was 50% higher than amongst non viewers. The point of this is that the more a brand’s personality fits with one’s own personality, the more likely one will consider purchasing it.
Sponsorship builds mental availability for brands through positive associations. This can be done, for example, by capitalising on the viewer need of state or mood fit surrounding the property being sponsored (e.g. shared family viewing time).
Interestingly, it appears that sponsorships can drive awareness particularly well for low-awareness brands. The study points out that it is difficult for established advertisers to improve prompted awareness. But for mid to low prompted awareness brands, the study shows that sponsorship can significantly improve both brand and ad awareness, as well as brand health metrics. This suggest that sponsorship could be a formidable weapon in a new brand’s arsenal.
Not a ‘one size fits all’ approach to sponsorship
Perhaps one of the most compelling take-outs of the study is that “fit is everything”; the fit between the audience, programme, brand and creative is crucial. A 2008 piece of Thinkbox research, Sponsorship: a brand’s best friend, demonstrated that providing the creative link was strong enough, any programme property could be linked to any brand. The latest research reaffirmed that “creatively congruent campaigns” were more effective in improving brand health. Importantly, it was not merely the fit with the programme, but campaign integration that drove improved brand health metrics. The stronger the perceived link between the idents and other forms of advertising, the higher the level of brand consideration.
The research points to the benefits of the “long-game”; because sponsorship facilitates, nurtures and embeds a relationship between programme and brand within the mind of a viewer, it takes time. Campaigns that had run for over 3 years drove increases in all brand health metrics over campaigns that had only run for less than 12 months.The metrics of reputation and consideration gained the most. By contrast, the shorter-term campaigns proved to be more effective at improving both ad and brand awareness.The study also identifies that higher frequency campaigns are the most effective at driving brand health effects.
Furthermore, the study shows that effects of sponsorship can be relatively long-lived. In the nine months after the sponsorships were completed it appeared that the brand health metrics decayed at a far slower rate than ad awareness, testament to the associative nature of content partnerships
It is a useful study in helping advertisers get the best out of sponsorships, and its lessons certainly can be applied in South Africa. Given that our local sponsorship regulation is not as rigorous as the UK’s, I hope that our marketers will leverage its learnings to maximum effect.