Cooking up a winning sponsorship

I was watching a preview for the next season of MasterChef and found myself wondering which brands will be at the sponsorship table this year. As one of the most watched shows in Australia, becoming a sponsor of shows like MasterChef through product placement, advertising and merchandising is a big win for any brand.

But, brand sponsorship in today’s world is vastly different than it was even just five years ago.

For marketers, sponsoring a show like MasterChef now means creating content to be communicated across multiple channels that can be tied in to the show’s theme. TV show sponsorship is now more valuable than ever through the use of social media channels, websites and an increase in audience interaction online during the show.

MasterChef’s online audience is almost as large as its TV one. Along with its Facebook page, which has over one million likes, it has a Twitter profile with 81,000 followers and a website that has an active forum. It’s clear to see that the show’s fans are active across multiple channels.  But how are fans interacting with the sponsors? And how are sponsors connecting with consumers and engaging them across channels in meaningful ways?

Coles, MasterChef’s major sponsor, has reported a 1,400 % spike in the sales of products used in MasterChef recipes that are available for download from their website[1]. The supermarket chain has been successful by communicating with their audience across multiple channels to drive sales, showing just how effective targeted multi-channel communication can be in today’s plugged-in world.

In addition to this, viewing habits are continuing to change as the audience’s attention becomes further fragmented between traditional and emerging channels. In fact, 2013 is deemed to be a big year for mobile, particularly as a marketing channel that demands a tailored approach to be successful.

For sponsors, creating specific multi-channel information that relates to the show improves brand value and allows them to capture the attention of the audience through their mobile, social media and on TV, all at the same time. Although it may not necessarily mean sales right away, it helps to form valuable relationships and offers an authentic connection that builds trust among consumers.

Tactics such as a dedicated website page or flash sale are now a must have for sponsors, and these pages will also attract visits from organic searches. Brands can take it a step further, complementing online tactics with offline tactics; for example, incorporating recipe suggestions on the back of receipts or in-store MasterChef recipe tastings.

Starting a sale based on the show is also a good tactic to drive traffic to a company’s website. If MasterChef dedicates a show to duck, sponsors could offer an online real-time flash duck sale for MasterChef viewers. Other duck recipes could be included on the website, tips on how to cook duck could be tweeted over the following week.

Finding out the show schedule and the search habits of the audience is essential. It’s no use sponsoring a show without a search strategy to direct traffic to your website, or knowing what drives your target audience.

MasterChef, and popular shows like it, now have more than a TV audience.  They have a community that engages with each other through the show’s website, on social media assets or both. The use of second screen is growing rapidly and marketers need to be thinking about how consumers use technology while watching TV, to make the most of their sponsorship opportunities.