TV groups chase sponsorship deals

Britain's commercial television companies are pushing hard for more sponsorship deals to supplement regular advertising revenues, according to executives from ITV.

This year, the popular US import, Baywatch, will be available for corporate sponsorship, while ITV is looking for sponsors to support the 1996 World Cup, to be played in England from 8-30 June next year.

Sponsorship, under which companies pay for the right to be associated with particular programmes, is six years old in Britain, and accounts for pounds 20m a year in revenue for ITV companies compared with spot advertising revenues of pounds 1bn a year.

Other commercial television outlets account for a further pounds 20m a year in sponsorship deals. The market has been growing 20 per cent a year since 1989, despite the early 1990s economic slowdown and slimmer advertising budgets during the recession.

Recent sponsorship deals include this year's Rugby World Cup, backed by Heineken Export, the Chart Show, linked to Mars' Twix chocolate bar and, perhaps most famously, Beamish Stout's association with Inspector Morse.

"When sponsorship was introduced in the UK in 1989, there was great concern that we would go the way of US television," Marcus Platin, of ITV Network Centre, told advertising executives and clients at a recent conference. "US television certainly has its bad points, but sponsorship isn't one of them."

There are 10 large sponsorship deals in place on ITV schedules, according to industry figures.

The Rugby World Cup is touted by ITV as an example of the attractions of sponsorship. Heineken has developed a new logo and will be featured in trailers, and in opening and closing credits during the 16 televised matches in Britain. Heineken will get 375 mentions during the five weeks of the tournament.

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