Empathy with viewer and show is key to sponsorship

Dr Alastair Goode

An annual increase in TV sponsorship in the UK in 2007 of 8.5%, with spend reaching £190 million, might suggest that the activity works. Studies show that television sponsorship affects bottom-line measures such as weekly sales, retail footfall and product trial.

Yet, there is little evidence to show exactly how it works. Academic commentators such as Poon and Prendergast (1), Walliser (2) and Christensen (3) have all commented on how sponsorship has received little research attention and how the fundamental mechanisms behind sponsorship are poorly understood.

To gain a better insight, Thinkbox, the TV industry body in the UK, commissioned a study of ten currently running television sponsorships to uncover how sponsorship was working best.

Sponsorship seems to work in a very different way to other brand communications, including TV such as spot ads. Most modern approaches to brand communication still bear the heritage of 'Action, Interest, Desire, Attention' (AIDA) and 'Defining Advertising Goals for Measured Advertising Results' (DAGMAR), with an assumption that an explicit message is seen and considered by the consumer, and then a conscious decision is made acting on that information. However, with sponsorship, as Christensen states, 'it seems that low-involvement and peripheral information processing are clearly present'.