Media / Talk of the Trade: Sponsorship plea

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THE ITV Association, anxious to defray production costs by attracting new sponsors for selected programmes, is asking for the rules to be relaxed. It wants the Independent Television Commission to allow the company's on-screen logo to be accompanied by a punchline, such as 'British Airways - the world's favourite airline'. It also wants the sponsorship credit to be seen at the beginning and end of the opening programme titles, rather than in the first 15 seonds. The ITC, which has to keep UK rules within an overall European Commission directive that rules out advertising slogans accompanying sponsorship credits, is going to ask the British public for its views.

'We don't want ITV lit up with credits like a Christmas tree,' says Frank Willis, director of ITC advertising and sponsorship. However, he points out that there has been little public reaction or irritation over existing sponsorship, which began at the start of 1991, and was one of the first clear signs of ITV's increasing commercialisation. Meanwhile, the ITV Association, stung by the cool reception that programme sponsorship received, has initiated and published research suggesting that it is a powerful marketing tool, especially for drinks companies. Croft Port enjoyed a sales increase of 50 per cent after its pre-Christmas sponsorship of Rumpole of the Bailey, while Beamish Stout did even better, with a 145 per cent increase in sales, when it sponsored Inspector Morse in the spring. So who needs commercials?