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ITV to ‘push the boundaries’ of sponsorship regulation

ITV sells secondary sponsorship on This Morning’s lifestyle segments

ITV’s commercial and development executive Sue Walton and controller of creative partnerships Anne Bailey sit down with The Drum to explain how they execute commercial deals without alienating audiences.

In 2021, ITV increased its number of secondary sponsorships deals, selling show segments to brands below a headline sponsor.

This year, it is to “push the boundaries” of sponsorship regulation as it looks to consolidate this secondary partnership strategy.

All of ITV’s onscreen commercial partnerships have to adhere to Ofcom and ITV editorial policies, and controller of creative partnerships Anne Bailey says it is her job to “try to blur the lines” between editorial and sponsorship without breaking these broadcasting regulations.

“We are being careful not to oversell and put in limitations on everything that comes out of the door,” she says, adding that she will cap secondary partnerships if it risks damaging a show. Its daytime flagship This Morning, for example, has reached its “peak” of deals and Bailey’s 2022 focus will be renewals.

“We only have so many secondary partnerships we want to sell. We don’t want to overkill the show by being seen as doing too many.“

For This Morning, ITV has sold secondary sponsorships to the likes of WW (formerly Weight Watchers) on its health and food segments, Lloyds Bank for its financial advice and Estee Lauder for beauty.

ITV Studios commercial and development executive Sue Walton calls the daytime magazine program “rich in opportunity“, but adds that there needs to be a balance to make sure it isn’t “overdoing it“ and that it continues to be discerning.

“Our viewers trust This Morning, so we always have to protect the integrity of the show.”

Both Bailey and Walton say Lorraine is the next show ripe for multiple sponsors opportunities within lifestyle, food and fashion

Walton describes herself as a “gatekeeper“, liaising with producers and editors to decide what all parties are comfortable with. “I know what I’m comfortable with and what we wouldn’t work on. These shows are the crown jewels we have to be careful.”

To mitigate the balance between editorial and commercial, ITV has set a two ads a week cap on shows’ social channels to ensure the pages aren’t “overloaded” with ads. “People won’t go to the sites if they are bogged down with ads all the time,” says Walton.

Bailey explains that while the editorial teams “don’t want the social pages littered with lots of ads”, they often will push back and ask if they feel comfortable putting out more social posts or find other ways in.

For its secondary partnerships, ITV Studios Daytime also requires the editorial team to produce all content, including the ident, to ensure sponsored shows retain “trust and authenticity”, says Bailey.

Unlike ad-funded programs, these deals restrict brands from editorial input. “None of the sponsors will have any control over what is said on the show,” says Bailey.

Game sponsorship opportunities

Elsewhere, Bailey says This Morning is developing a live mass participation game following a successful trial with an in-app game of ’rock paper scissors.

Similar to ITV and John Lewis’s I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here metaverse play, the broadcaster is searching for a brand to experiment with this new format.

“There is an opportunity for a brand to bring this experience to life,” says Bailey.

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