Of course, it is not just through television that this sort of sponsorship pays off. Replica kits have become big business, and although the youngsters [mostly] who buy the shirts might pay more attention to whether or not they have the name ‘McManaman’ or ‘Fowler’ on the back, they will be carrying the Carslberg logo around with them every time they dress in the colours of their heroes.
Despite the undoubted importance of this sort of spin-off advertising, television is where the real impact is made. Television commercials are expensive, and the current limit on advertising on ITV is only six minutes in every hour. With the sponsorship of sports events, company names are on the screen almost constantly for anything from one and a half to eight hours in a day. Sponsors such as Cornhill insurance, who support the test matches [internationals] involving the England cricket team, have almost unlimited advertising at a fraction of the normal cost. They have developed the art of raising public awareness of the company to such a degree that they have even managed to profit from cricket’s traditional enemy, England’s weather. Whenever there are rain interruptions, the umpires may be seen inspecting the pitch under the cover of huge umbrellas, which are emblazoned with the Cornhill Insurance motif and bear the company’s distinctive gold and black colouring.
Public awareness of Cornhill Insurance rose from 2% to around 17% in only four years through their sponsorship of the England cricket team [Lawrence:10]. Their name appears in every conceivable location, most of which appear on the television screens.
Cigarettes and Alcohol
Yet there is no doubt that sponsorship is occasionally used as a flimsy disguise to circumvent the laws of television advertising. Cigarette advertising, for instance, is illegal on television in the UK, but the tobacco companies are not prohibited from sponsoring sporting occasions, and their names and logos are thus splashed across TV screens hour after hour during cricket matches, grands prix, golf tournaments and the like. Alcohol adverts are not banned from television, but are strictly controlled, yet drinks companies are also voracious sponsors, opting for all the aforementioned sports, plus football and rugby. Golf, a particularly telegenic sport, has events sponsored by companies such as Dunhill, Benson & Hedges and Johnnie Walker: Rothmans has become associated with the football yearbook [but does not sponsor televised football]: John Player was once synonymous with cricket, and Benson & Hedges still is: Marlboro sponsors a formula 1 racing team: Stones Brewery sponsors the rugby league championship: Courage Brewery sponsors the rugby union championship: and, last but not least, Silk Cut cigarettes sponsor the Rugby League Challenge Cup. Perhaps it is not surprising that the third biggest sponsorship industry, after tobacco and alcohol, is life insurance.
Football teams are particularly well supported by brewers, more so than in any other country in Europe. It is uncommon, but not unheard of, in Germany, The Czech republic and Belgium for the top teams to be sponsored by brewers: in Spain and Portugal it would be very unusual indeed: and in Italy you could certainly not imagine...