Friday 2 February 2007

The dangers of sponsoring reality television

Television reality shows are today’s equivalent of ancient Rome’s circuses. Instead of Christians being fed to hungry lions, naive and ill-prepared wannabees are exposed in all their frailty by so called expert judges. Many of them have monstrous egos.

Sometimes the contestants themselves are allowed to blunder into exposing their ignorance and lack of judgement, All this in the name of entertainment.

Why any right thinking person should want to see these embarrassing displays is something best left to psychologists. Much more interesting is why Advertisers would want to sponsor such shows. It cannot be for the quality of the audience. Lowest common denominator shows attract lowest common denominator viewers. So association by brand values isn’t the reason either.

Perhaps it’s the exaggerated reporting of the death of the 30 second commercial or persuasive selling by the sponsorship team that makes advertisers clamour to get on board. The dangers of supporting such high risk “entertainment” is now very clear and Charles Dunstone must be glad there was a get out clause in his contract with Channel 4.

Brands are such fragile things.

AXA Equity and Law do their sponsorship promotions very well. They support the nostalgic strand of programming on ITV 3,with specially written lines in programmes such as Rumpole of the Bailey: “I want to make sure my affairs are in order, order.” So successful is this campaign that it has been adopted by their sister company in India.

The lesson?

Make sure your brand really benefits with the programme by association, write clever strap lines, don’t rely exclusively on sponsorship and have a damage limitation campaign in place.

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