Earlier this month, Coca-Cola Schweppes entered the sports drink market with the launch of Gladiators canned drinks in Citric Kick and Power Punch flavours. And in September Golden Wonder launched Big Breakfast crisps, the first in a range of TV-branded new products from electrical appliances to pancakes.
Broadcasters have long licensed their TV properties and developed merchandising to supplement revenue. But only now is exploitation of TV programmes off-air becoming a legitimate activity in its own right.
Spurred by the growth of programme sponsorship, broadcasters are encouraging companies to extend on-screen associations. This also enables TV marketing departments to tap into below-the-line promotional budgets. And it allows broadcasters to promote their programmes in the supermarket or local pub.
Broadcasters increasingly refer to their programmes as 'brands' and are selling the benefits of 'commercial partnerships'. 'There are significant benefits to associating products with successful TV brands,' said Chris Protheroe, Yorkshire Television's head of publishing and licensing.
YTV, keen to cash in on the success of its programmes, is developing a number of off-air associations with a range of products. Emmerdale cheese, due to be launched later this year by a large dairy foods manufacturer, will be the first of a number of new products tied to the 21-year-old series.
Like other companies exploiting programmes off-air, YTV now has a list of identifiable qualities for successful 'brands'. Emmerdale is green (thanks to rural storylines), warm (it has family values), and honest. 'We believe Yorkshire accents convey straightforward values,' Mr Protheroe explained.
In contrast, LWT's Gladiators is loud, brash, action- packed and highly popular among those between eight and 15. John Chandler, commercial director of Schweppes, says the company planned to enter the sports drink market 18 months ago. 'We developed the product but needed the right brand to give it immediate awareness,' he said.
Earlier this year Schweppes launched Super Mario Lemonado. But Gladiators is different, Chandler explained. Where Lemonado was an existing product re-branded, Gladiators is new and perfectly matches and incorporates the tone and lifestyle of the LWT series.
Wessex Licensing is developing The Big Breakfast brand. Jonathan Clark, a director, said that most products linking with the series are either new or brand extensions. Manufacturers are keen to develop associations with the cult show, he maintained. 'It is an opportunity for them to develop new lines of products that are - like The Big Breakfast - bigger, better and brighter. It's more than a 'label-slapping' exercise.'
At Granada Television, commercial director Jon Marchant identifies this area as one with great potential. 'The value of a particular programme can benefit the launch of a new bread, for example, which would borrow the brand values and inherit immediate brand awareness,' he said.
Granada, like other broadcasters, is keen to develop new revenue streams. Earlier this year it published Unlocking the Power of Television, a guide for companies keen to develop closer relationships with the company through sponsorship, co-production and on-pack promotions - a key activity for the YTV series The Darling Buds of May, which is sponsored by Tetley Tea.
'Darling Buds marked a turning-point for us,' Mr Protheroe said. 'We made huge inroads because it is such a high- profile series.' Four existing brands - including Clover dairy spread and Nestle's Carnation milk products linked with Darling Buds for sales promotions. More than 20 consumer products were associated with the series through licensing.
An established track- record, solid audiences and identifiable values are key ingredients to making such off-airassociations work. But also important is the level of investment - in time as much as money and creativity - that broadcaster and manufacturer are prepared to make. Get this right and both sides can benefit, they claim.
But at sales and marketing group Grayton International, Paul Mainwaring, the managing director, sounds a note of caution. His companyhas exclusive rights to Newton & Ridley, the recently launched beer brewed by Carlsberg-Tetley and carrying the familiar Coronation Street brand name.
'We've never treated Newton & Ridley as a gimmick - it's a real beer and a real lager,' he stressed. But while the brand name may have made it immediately familiar, if Newton & Ridley is to become successful, it will be the contents and not the wrapping that count. 'Ultimately you have to accept that the product will sell on its own benefits more than the fact that it has got a TV name on it.'
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