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What if sponsorship was the easiest way for brands to get into addressable TV?

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By John McCarthy | Media editor

March 22, 2022 | 7 min read

As TV audiences move into addressable platforms, advertisers are having to follow into unproven spaces – for many, the trusted sponsorship is an easier way to appear in VOD. The Drum questions Peroni Nastro Azzurro and Indeed, which have done just that, and Sky Media, which is innovating the format.

Wavemaker

Peroni Nastro Azzurro became the first sponsor of Sky Atlantic’s VOD content via Now

There are more places to find audiences on the biggest screen in the house than ever in what’s been described as a TV renaissance. Coupled with a production boom and the emergence of more ad-funded TV platforms than you could name, it is an exciting time for advertisers. But for many platforms, it’s still hard to measure the impact of their activity in addressable spaces – sponsorship may be an easier way in.

Total UK ad revenue jumped £1bn in 2021, according to new data from Thinkbox and Nielsen Ad Intel. That’s partly down to inflation. A lot of what Thinkbox calls “online-born” brands are buying into the space, many fatigued by an over-investment in short-term direct response work.

Recently, premium beer Peroni Nastro Azzurro became the first sponsor of Sky Atlantic’s video-on-demand (VOD) content via Now, the streaming TV service. Its media agency Wavemaker dubbed the move a “no-brainer.”

Callum O’Brien, business director, content lead at Wavemaker, tells The Drum that it’s been embracing broader targeting to grow its market share and that “TV has been central to adding scale to the brand’s communication.”

“We have therefore adopted a ‘premium at scale’ approach to TV planning. This involves prioritizing access to the most acclaimed and highest-production-value content. We are blessed to be living through a golden age of TV, and drama boxsets are a central tenant of that.”

The team acknowledged that VOD is taking up a greater share of viewing time, especially on Sky Atlantic where it accounted for 79% of viewing. It’s one of the UK’s best content catalogs and so few are watching it live. The sponsorship is an easy, dependable way into that audience without worrying about the VOD measurement conundrums.

His colleague, planning director Matthew Hirschler, is currently looking at ways to scale up TV reach while maintaining the premium quality too. This leaves on the table a lot of new entrants into the addressable TV space that are trying to eat the broadcaster’s breakfast with masses of low-quality video. The top buyers understand the uplift afforded by the very best shows and movies.

Around the same time, job site Indeed secured its first addressable TV sponsorship with youth-orientated channel E4. It explained why it made the leap here. But in short, Garreth Hayes, UK marketing director at Indeed, admitted that it is looking to increase Indeed’s relevance among the UK’s huge 18-34-year-old audience.

The brand’s long been on TV in the UK (since around the 2008 recession) but was looking for a way to follow the shifting audience. “This is a key audience for us and given shifts in viewing behavior, they are less available to us through traditional linear TV. So we had to think more creatively about that balance [and] long-term shift in behavior around viewing patterns.”

It’s true that youth viewing habits have greatly diverged from older audiences and marketers are having to be smarter to reach them in TV. But they are still watching, and are more likely to be on the VOD services of youth-orientated channels such as E4.

Hayes says: “This [partnership] is an experiment. We’ll be looking at a number of campaign-specific metrics, as well as how it feeds into the wider goals. We track brand studies in the UK across these three audiences, of course we can divide down a number of demographics. We also have some specific pre-and post-analysis for the campaign in partnership with our media partners, which helps us to understand the specific sentiment.”

Of course, sponsorship idents typically last a brief 5/6 seconds, more in line with the window before skipping a YouTube ad than a 30-second TVC. They’re more about frequency than immediate impact. But there’s going to be more ways to up the effectiveness soon. The sponsorships are becoming ever more adaptable and more in line with the addressable ecosystem it’s hosted in.

Sky Media in February announced it will apply addressable tech to TV sponsorship, which would theoretically allow sponsors to switch up idents based on viewer data, or – even more interestingly – open up IP to multiple partnerships based on location.

It said: “A car brand could change the car model featured depending on the affluence or life-stage of the household, or change the scenery and voiceover depending on location.”

Sky believes it can up competition for these properties with these additional options.

Sky is focused on helping sponsors drive more relevant creative (which means more asset production) rather than dividing up sponsorships by geography or audience – at least for now. From the one core creative idea, voiceovers can be regionalized and products can be swapped out based on household affluence too (ads are increasingly shoppable now remember).

“For example, a SUV for a family audience or a city run-around for a younger urban audience. Or they could switch message slightly for existing or lapsed customers. Another example could even be the type of pizza toppings most popular by region – pepperoni for Birmingham, meat for Manchester and ham and pineapple for Southampton.”

In the short term, VOD sponsorship offers brands a neat transition into addressable TV. In the coming years, it’ll be able to perform much of the nuanced targeting that the medium is famous for too.

Sky pitches that it is “significantly boosting awareness, brand health and brand stature (through the credibility and trust of TV and the quality and style of the content) – the longer the sponsorship runs, the better the brand results.”

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