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So the Marriage doesn’t come unstuck
home >> articles >> So the Marriage doesn’t come unstuck

So the Marriage doesn’t come unstuck

Worth almost €1.4 million in 2002 (over 20% of the total market) according to the IAB/PwC Online Revenue survey, online sponsorships are an integral part of the digital media business. The hallmark of a successful sponsorship is the marriage of the publishers' objective to the sponsors' objective resulting in a strong marketing alliance.

For advertisers that want a longer term relationship than a quick banner campaign, website sponsorship is an option that seeks to establish a deeper association and integration between an advertiser and a publisher that includes coordinated beyond-the-banner placements. It has been referred to as being the "glue" of the communications mix.

Online sponsorship examples vary widely, as the whole point is to establish a more unique advertising opportunity than afforded by typical rotating advertisements. They may include several fixed ad placements, integration of functional content, co-branded content sections, or anything relevant the advertiser and publisher can agree on.

Advertisers are attracted by the unique opportunity to elbow out competitors and "own" a space that is designed specifically to speak to their target audiences. Not all publishers are racing to attract sponsors. Some will balk at sponsorship of news and other high value areas which could be perceived to undermine the editorial integrity of the site.

The enhancement of an already sticky website with the presence of a sponsor can therefore present web publishers with a number of opportunities and issues raised by the commercial union:

For publishers, the advantages of site sponsorship are:

  • As long-term deals with fixed monthly tenancy fees they can be lucrative. That said, arranging the sponsorship is usually the easy bit – the real challenge lies in the maintenance of the sponsorship for the duration of the contract.
  • Additional site revenues can be secured from complementary but non-competing second and third level sponsors.
  • Sponsorship forces the publisher to segment their audience, which means more opportunity to give them exactly what they want.
  • It allows for a tighter integration between the content and the advertising; in other words, the advertising adds value and enhances the content itself.
  • The publisher can offer "interaction" with the audience through surveys and feedback.
  • Banner ads draw traffic away from the site, sponsorship does the opposite.

The disadvantages to publishers of a site sponsorship are:

  • If you don't use a specialist online Ad Sales Agency to identify and manage the potential of the site, issues such as Pricing, Key Performance Indicators, Exclusivity, Terms and Conditions can be difficult to negotiate.
  • To compete, the publisher usually has to introduce much more than just online elements to the winning proposal, thus newspaper publishers offer subsidised adverts; TV stations offer integrated packages and so on.
  • The site designers need to allow a way for the sponsor to integrate its image into the site design. This might be through a designer or the use of a framed template.
  • Adding a new sponsor means adding a new content area which (when you've got multiple areas) could give rise to additional operational overheads.
  • The sponsorship fees need to cover the cost of designing, producing and integrating the content.
  • Publishers as always need to be careful about maintaining editorial integrity.

Like Spec Savers sponsoring the shirts of Football Referees, another example of a sponsor creating affinity within a market is the just launched, "Eircom.net Photo Centre powered by Spectra".

This is a natural partnership for two reasons. Firstly, because Broadband enables fast uploads of multiple images to online storage facilities, it makes Digital Photography one of the key drivers of Eircom.net Broadband uptake. Secondly, for Spectra, most Digital Photographers are unaware that they can out-put Traditional prints from their Cameras.

A Key marketing issue that the Spectra sponsorship aims to address is the message that Traditional Prints offer improved quality, convenience and value over desk-top prints. This message isn't getting across to Digital Photographers because Digital Camera Manufacturers have a natural vested interest in the sale of their own brand desk-top printers and consumables over Traditional print out-put. The net effect of this is that the traditional Photo-Processing market is gradually declining at a rate of greater than 5% p.a.

Having divested their own retail network, an obvious extension of this sponsorship for Eircom would be to extend the relationship off-line through the nationwide Spectra outlets. The opportunity is there for Spectra Stores to cross-sell Broadband to their own customers, while demonstrating Digital Photography techniques using Eircom.net Broadband kit. The scene is thus set for joint sales promotions and retail partnerships which again are the hallmarks of a sponsorship marriage made in heaven.

So that your sponsorship deals don't end in a sticky divorce, you need to seek out and develop an attractive partnership that complements both parties. It is important to choose your partners carefully – otherwise the Sponsors and Publisher won't live happily ever after - and the pre-arranged marriage could gradually become unstuck.

Mark Tarbatt ©