Corporate sponsorship is all about getting your company’s name in
the headlines. But research into the coverage of sponsorship at the
Millennium Dome shows that the investment can backfire.
According to a report carried out by Echo Research for the BBC’s Money
Programme, Dome sponsors have received negative press coverage which,
using AVEs, the company gave a negative value of pounds 2 million, with
positive coverage valued at only pounds 600,000.
The 27 sponsors, which include some of the biggest names in British
business, have pledged to contribute pounds 150 million of the pounds
758 million cost of the Dome and they are not all entirely happy. This
pounds 150 million is equivalent to 25 per cent of the money that the
commercial sector has invested in sponsorship in the past year.
Sponsorship consultant Bill Kallaway points out that many sponsors had
Government pressure put on them to get involved - something that would
never happen in normal market conditions.
’There was always this conservative view that we should have this
national emblem and the Government then went out and made contact with
blue chip companies, at a very senior level, saying they had to support
it,’ says Kallaway.
Sally Hancock, who runs the sponsorship consultancy Red Mandarin, says
she is surprised as to why companies such as Marconi, GEC and British
Aerospace had become involved without seeing any direct benefits.
’Their market has nothing to do with the consumer market and the members
of the public visiting the Dome. I think there was a lot of political
pressure put on them, probably at ministerial and company chairman
level,’ she says.
Unfortunately the reality of the Dome, as opposed to the sales pitches,
seems to have fallen short of sponsors’ expectations and as of today
contracts worth pounds 30 million, or 20 per cent of the sponsorship
cash, have not been signed.
But according to Colin Tweedy, the chief executive of corporate
sponsorship specialists Arts and Business: ’All the sponsors have
Government contacts and as long as they keep in with them they are
happy. The word ’sponsorship’ in this context is a misnomer. There was a
wider agenda here than just marketing.’
In fact, it is not all doom and gloom as some sponsors feel that they
have already seen benefits from their investment. BT put pounds 12
million into the Talk Zone and has been very happy with the feedback
received so far.
Spokesman Richard Dunnett says: ’Media coverage has been disappointing,
but the real test is the response from people who have been there.’
He also added that there was no proof to suggest that sponsors of an
event, which was perceived to be unsuccessful, were necessarily harmed
themselves. A fact supported by Echo’s research which shows that while
the coverage of the Dome might have been overwhelmingly bad, 83 per cent
of coverage specific to sponsors was neutral, as would be expected. The
damage by association is, of course, harder to measure.
In terms of future corporate sponsorship, BT will consider every project
on its own merits and the Dome has certainly not left it with a bad
taste in its mouth, says Dunnett.
Another pounds 12 million player is Boots the Chemist, which backed the
Body Zone - one of the highest profile themes in the Dome. Group media
relations manager, Francis Thomas, accepts that the project’s PR got off
to a shaky start, but believes this has damaged the management company,
the New Millennium Experience Company, rather than the sponsors.
’The sponsors and the vehicle are quite different and the public are
sophisticated enough to realise that. The real focus from our point of
view has to be the response of the public, not the press.’
Sandra Macleod, chief executive at Echo Research, says that while some
companies might be regretting their involvement in the Dome, the
experience is unlikely to damage the corporate sponsorship market in the
’The Dome will work for some sponsors. There is a lesson being learned.
I think all of this will make sponsors more cautious and more determined
to set the parameters of what they are getting out of a deal.’
All of the companies involved in the Dome say that they had not been put
off investing substantial sums of money in future projects - if those
projects were thought to offer excellent exposure. However, the scheme
is the largest in the United Kingdom, one of the most unique in the
world and above all, there are few, if any, similar developments that
companies can use by way of a comparison. It is a ’vertical learning
curve,’ and inevitably some of the players involved had little idea what
Jim Latham, a director of 141 Worldwide Sponsorship, says that
investment in this field will always be on a project basis and that the
Dome was experiencing ’teething problems,’ because of its sheer size and
’What may happen in the future if this property does not exist on the
market place, is that companies may consider the possibility of
creating, owning and executing their own bespoke events,’ he says. He
added that a recent MORI poll carried out on 1,000 visitors to the Dome
had showed that 75 per cent of them would recommend it to their friends.
Clearly there is great scope for extravagant, themed and high capacity
events that are held with corporate backing.