’Sponsored supplements allow for the perfect association with a
brand without screaming advertisement,’ says Simon Kippin, publishing
director of Cosmopolitan.
And sponsored supplements are increasingly, becoming an option for PR
executives. These booklets, or inserts, are sold with a trade or
national publication and are paid for entirely by the sponsor. They are
written, however, by the newspaper or magazine’s editorial department on
a subject which may or may not be related to the sponsor. Supplements
can have the sponsor’s branding or feature its product, but the main
purpose is to create an association with a subject or cause.
More familiar to PR practitioners is the advertorial which is written by
and about the client, who approves every word. They are calls to action
and they are more like advertisements, but in the style of
Sponsored supplements have a three-way benefit, according to Robert
Avery, business development and sponsorship manager of the Times.
’Readers should benefit,’ he says. ’It gives them access to information
that they would not usually have on an in-depth basis. The client should
benefit by utilising it internally for staff, to generate response and
to support its objectives, be it an event sponsorship or a product
launch. And it benefits the Times, not just through revenue, but through
adding extra value for our readers.’
The Times has a full-time dedicated sales and editorial team seeking out
potential clients. They also take incoming queries from interested
advertising and PR agencies.
In the financial year to June 1997, the Times and the Sunday Times
produced more than 76 supplements, on topics that included tourist
destinations, the British Grand Prix and adventure sports.
But the Times has strict guidelines when it comes to editorial
’Clients have access to the editorial team and they know who the editors
are - but clients ultimately have no control over the final editorial
product. When it comes to controversial issues or competitors, it
emerges quickly if there is no point of agreement. But there must be a
synergy between the topic and the title,’ says Avery.
’Many prospective clients are unwilling to commit the money unless they
know what the topic will be and, after speaking to the editorial team,
they may or may not feel comfortable,’ says Avery.
The Guardian and the Observer also has a full-time development
department dedicated to looking for opportunities to complement the
Guardian/Observer brands. The readership of the Guardian/Observer is
sceptical but is extremely loyal to the newspapers, according to Mary
O’Hara, sponsorship manager of the Guardian and the Observer. ’We
conducted a survey of 1,300 Guardian and Observer readers between June
and December last year, conducted by Marketlink, which focused on
sponsored supplements. The results indicated that our readers accept
that the supplements are editorially-led and that sponsorship enables
certain topics to be covered that might not be otherwise,’ says
’They saw the supplement as added value and most readers kept the
supplement for two to three months and/or passed it on to two or three
people,’ she says. ’Crucially, we will only engage with clients that are
absolutely suitable. We will not put material in that alienates our
readers,’ she stresses.
Supplements this year have included a World Wildlife Foundation
supplement which focused on endangered species, Virgin Megastore’s Guide
to Summer Festivals and Haagen-Dazs’ Guide to Late Night Places to
The Haagen-Dazs guide was part of the launch of its new ice cream
flavour Chocolate Midnight Cookie last October. ’We approached the
Guardian with the objective of covering the themes of extending the
boundaries of nighttime further than midnight and at the same time
promote pleasure and indulgence,’ says Tania Littlehales, account
director for Haagen-Dazs at Biss Lancaster.
The guide was highly successful and readers asked the Guardian for extra
copies. Feedback from the public, according to Littlehales, included
praise for its longevity, reliability and relevance.
Biss Lancaster is no stranger to using sponsored supplements for its
clients. British Steel, for example, has sponsored supplements in the
trade publication Architects Journal. British Steel had been facing
serious competition from concrete which was becoming more popular with
new and upcoming architects.
The account director for British Steel Construction, Mary Stewart, came
up with the idea of a 16-page quarterly supplement entitled Steel
The supplement has the same look as the journal, including layout and
typeface. Each quarter it carries two case studies in which architects
pick an exciting building that has just been built using steel. The
other covers a favourite building.
’This case study has become a cult within the profession as each
architect tries to find the most obscure building to outdo the previous
buildings covered,’ says Stewart.
At only pounds 15,000 per quarter, Stewart finds the supplement highly
successful and very cost-effective. British Steel has plans to continue
the supplement in 1998 with a readership survey at some point next
In the world of the glossies, Cosmopolitan has published five
supplements this year covering topics such as glamour, health, shopping,
sex and reading, but Kippin admits that in only a few cases he was
approached by PR agencies.
Tatler, which has been publishing sponsored supplements for ten years,
now publishes four a year including the Veuve Clicquot Handbook to the
Season, Tatler at Home in association with Moet and Chandon, The
Tatler/Cunard Travel Guide and The Tatler Ashe Park Restaurant Guide.
Except for the Veuve Clicquot handbook, Tatler had to actively seek a
sponsor for the editorial-led ideas, says associate publisher Julie
Trade publications are also tapping into the profitable market of
sponsored supplements in order to differentiate themselves from other
publications and to provide value to readers.
Network Week and Network World, published by Emap Business
Communications, are two publications in the crowded market of
information technology titles which focus on the IT and communications
market. In March they published a supplement called Network 2000,
sponsored by Logical Networks plc.
’We decided to do a sponsored supplement with Logical because we know
its product and expertise is good and we would want to be associated
with them,’ says the contract publishing manager for Network Week and
Network World Jackie Quinn. ’Instead of sending out the supplement to
everyone, where most of them may not be read, we targeted particular
readers who are information hungry people who would want to read the
The difference in the cost of sponsored supplements between the
broadsheets, glossy magazines and trade publications is wide. For the
Times, the standard sponsorship package can cost pounds 72,000, which
includes the supplement appearing on the newspaper’s web site with a
link to the client’s web site.
At the Guardian and the Observer, sponsored supplements can cost between
pounds 50,000 and pounds 200,000, depending on what is required. At
Cosmopolitan, a 24-36 page mini magazine can run to more than pounds
100,000, while a sponsored A4 supplement in a trade publication, such as
Retail Week, can cost between pounds 8,000 and pounds 15,000.
Ultimately, the decision on whether to run a sponsored supplement should
be based not on the cost but on the PR objectives, the messages a client
is trying to communicate, and on the target audiences. ’PR agencies
often don’t hold the budget for these kinds of projects and it normally
comes from the advertising budget . But that is changing,’ says the
Quinn agrees. ’PR agencies have a role to play in sponsored
At the end of the day it is all about making your client stand out from
CASE STUDY: TAKING A SHINE TO THE GLOSSIES
The arena of glossy consumer magazines is a lucrative one for
supplements and historically has mainly involved the women’s press. But
PR agencies are discovering the market for men’s publications, to the
delight of publishers.
Cohn and Wolfe has frequently utilised advertorials and sponsored
supplements in glossy magazines for clients such as Heineken, Diet Coke
and deodorant brand Soft and Gentle.
Martin Thomas, managing director of Cohn and Wolfe is, not surprisingly,
a fan. ’They are creatively done and they are a supplement to media
They are a good way to communicate a complex message and are an
alternative to advertisements.’
Last summer, Soft and Gentle targeted the teenage/young women’s market
through the magazine Sugar and ran a supplement on Let’s talk girls’
talk - 16 pages of intimate body secrets. The Sugar/Soft and Gentle
special, as it was branded, was attached in the middle of the July issue
and sealed with a perforation. There was an accompanying promotion
offering readers a chance to win a Soft and Gentle ’pamper’ pack.
Sugar magazine was again the focus for Diet Coke, when the Here comes
summer! supplement was developed.
Again, the target was young girls. The 12-page special covered male
celebrities, summer fashion, and boy-watching, along with subtle
pictures of young girls holding bottles of Diet Coke. There was also a
competition to win a weekend in London.
While magazines targeting men are relatively unexplored territory for
sponsored supplements, November’s issue of Total Sport features a
24-page mini booklet for the rugby season, sponsored by Heineken. The
booklet, entitled Fourteen men and a hooker - everything you needed to
know about rugby but were afraid to ask, covers the rules, positions,
the teams and facts about the game. The magazine also offers a chance to
win a trip to the Heineken Cup Final.
Despite the branding and product placement within the supplements, the
Diet Coke, Soft and Gentle and Heineken guides are editorially
They rely purely on name and product association with a particular
Cohn and Wolfe is also attempting a multinational supplement in an
international women’s magazine for a major health and beauty brand. It
will be distributed in eight different countries. Thomas says the
supplement will be written ahead of time which allows for minimal
production work and leaves the magazines with time to check the
CASE STUDY: TRADING ON THE INDUSTRY
Sponsoring a supplement in a trade publication can be especially
effective, allowing the sponsor to reach a specific audience.
For Haymarket, the publisher of PR Week and Marketing among others, it
is essential to cover topics which are of interest to the target
audiences of a publication.
’We feel it is incumbent on us to give the readers what they want to see
every week,’ says editorial director of Marketing Publications for
Haymarket, Simon Marquis.
The benefit to sponsors is that they are buying into the brand value of
the publications. They have the ability to order as many pages as they
want and can buy into dedicated contact with their most important
Having these key benefits don’t come cheap. ’Supplements are one-off,
tailor-made projects and the price reflects this,’ says Marquis. ’The
cost of production, print, design, layout and photography are just some
of the factors that come into the price. Sponsored supplements are more
cost-efficient per page than an advertisement, but the overall cost will
be higher because there are more pages.’
He stresses that readers must know that what they are reading is a
sponsored supplement or an advertorial. ’We follow the guidelines set
out by the Periodical Publishers Association. For advertorials, we have
a different layout and different typefaces which stand out from our
normal editorial style,’ says Marquis.
Marquis was responsible for the supplement published last year in
Marketing to mark the 70th birthday of advertising agency J Walter
Thompson. He also oversees the glossy monthly Conference and Incentive
Travel, which can often have several sponsored supplements per issue.
Depending on the requirements of the sponsor, the sponsored supplements
can cross over as a supplement for other publications.
Marquis feels the PR industry could make more use of supplements.
’Haymarket is a very proactive marketer of sponsored supplements.
Perhaps PR people should see this as an opportunity for new
CASE STUDY: PROMPT ACTION PAYS OFF
Prompt payment is a major issue, particularly for small businesses, but
is not one that would automatically be associated with the Royal
However, this was the connection that the Royal Mail recentlysought to
makethrough association with the Times in the form of a sponsored
supplment on the subject.
The idea for doing a sponsored supplement came from the Royal Mail’s
public relations consultancy, the Quentin Bell Organisation. By building
name awareness and association with the sponsor, the supplements can
make a lasting impression.
’We wanted to find a means of communicating the Royal Mail’s message in
a less traditional way,’ says Paul Maguire, associate director of the
Quentin Bell Organisation. We did some research with focus groups prior
to selecting the topic to determine the interest level and relevance of
prompt payment with the Royal Mail.’
According to Fiona McGilchrist, marketing manager of business
correspondence for the Royal Mail: ’Sponsored supplements are an
effective way of educating customers on how the post can help them.’
Small business owners make up a significant part of the Times’
’The subject of late payment is dear to the heart of small businesses,’
says the editor of special reports for the Times, Peter Brown.
Articles were written by journalists, and there was a Q&A with the
Minister of Small Business Barbara Roche and the Shadow Trade and
Industry Secretary John Redwood. The 16-page Prompt payment - a guide to
credit management covered topics from direct mail techniques to proposed
late payment laws.
The Royal Mail placed six advertisements in the supplement, but the
articles were not saturated with references to the Royal Mail,
underlining the crucial difference between a sponsored supplement and an
Royal Mail spokesmen were quoted in the editorial, however. ’It is
unrealistic not to do an interview with them because the issue of prompt
payment involves them,’ says Brown. But the supplement also covered
indirect competitors such as telecommunications providers.’You have to
get credibility for the supplement,’ says Maguire. ’If you try to skew
it, the reader sees right through it.’