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Connect China: TV Show Sponsorship


Point Media was honoured to have been invited as a guest lecturer at Brisbane Marketing’s Connecting with Asia, Tourism masterclass series. In light of the positive feedback received from our audience, I thought that we could extend its value by cherry picking some of its highlights to input into our blog.

First we will take an intermediary look into the rising popularity of TV sponsorships in China.

Connecting China through TV Show Sponsorships

If you ever get curious enough to tune into a Chinese produced TV show, you will be sure to notice the overwhelming amount of brand logos, products plugs and placements, sprinkled (if not dominated) throughout the episode. You may question whether marketers are ‘over doing it’, whilst imagining the backlash from their general viewers for over-commercialisation. Conclusively, not the best public relations strategy. You then raise this with a Chinese friend, but, to your surprise, find they have no issue with excessive advertising at all. For them, it’s a norm; a simple price to pay for free entertainment. In fact, product plugs have become an integral part of Chinese pop-culture. People get a kick out of entertainers cleverly, or at times nonsensically, navigating situations into opportune moments for a product pitch.

A few years back, an over saturation of TV commercials inspired the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television to introduce more regulations on commercial content. The new rules limit time for commercials; and, in turn, protects sponsorships that can offer producers cash upfront. This has forced marketers to become more collaborative and innovative with regards to how their brands and product are given exposure on air. Thus, began the rapid evolution of the entertainment industry’s sponsorship enterprise.

Now let’s sink our teeth into some case studies.

Show Name: Dad, Where Are We Going?

Genre: Reality Show

Broadcaster: Hunan TV

Sponsor: Yili Industrial Group Ltd.

Already well into its fifth season, ‘Dad, Where Are We Going?’ is a reality show that features celebrity fathers and their young children as they travel to rural places around China. Rendering the entire nation defenceless against the kids’ innocent charms, the series’ ratings skyrocketed to an average of 75 million viewers per episode.

For Season 2 and 3, the showed raked in 312-million-yuan and 500-million-yuan worth of sponsorship, respectively, from a leading diary producer named Yili Industrial Group Ltd. The value proposition appeared in the form of:

1) Logo integration

2) Product placements

3) Product plugs before and after the commercials

One episode was even filmed in the Yili’s pastures near Urumqi (capital in XinJiang Uygur), a region often described as an emerald embedded at the foot of the Tianshan Mountains. Through showcasing the natural and organic processes of how Yili obtains its product ingredients, the episode addressed a major concern lurking in the minds of all Chinese consumers: ‘How safe and nutritious are these foods/drinks [for my child]?’

Consequent to the success of the show, season 3’s deal accounted for 14.1% of diary producer’s net profit in the first three quarters of 2014 (year of broadcast).

Show Name: Ode to Joy

Genre: Drama, Comedy, Romance

Broadcaster: Dragon Television; Zhejiang Television

Sponsor: Sanitarium Health and Wellbeing Company

This list cannot be complete without a mention of our own home-grown Aussie brand, Weet-Bix.

Weet-bix first appeared on the shelves of Chinese supermarkets in 2008. While China has always been Weet-bix’s top export country, it wasn’t until their cereal box appeared on the hit TV drama ‘Ode To Joy’ did the brand truly become a household name.

This was a brilliant example of finding the right endorser. Andy, one of the female leads in the drama, is known for her corporate feminist persona and healthy lifestyle. This allowed Weet-bix to establish its popularity among 18+ female audiences that see Andy as a role model.

Hailed as China’s answer to Sex and the City, the drama found commercial success with both domestic and overseas viewers. The first season had over 18.6 billion viewers as of December 2016, becoming the most watched contemporary drama in China during its broadcast. The second season also found commercial success with over 1% viewership ratings in China. Thrust into the limelight of China’s top rated TV drama, Weet-bix’s sales escalated to a 50% increase.

Show Name: Idol Producer

Genre: Reality Show

Broadcaster: iQiyi (Online platform)

Sponsor: Nongfu Springs

Idol Producer plays an excellent hand integrating star power with the interactive capabilities of mobile apps. The show takes 100 out of 1908 idol trainees from 87 entertainment agencies all over Asia, and pits them against each other to win the affections of iQiyi app voters. With merely 12 days, from March 26th to April 6th, the top 20 trainees grossed over 100 million votes, while the winner received 47.64 million votes alone.

Besides using basic product placements strategies, Nongfu Spring saw huge potential in the voting element of the show. It was a gold mine opportunity for pushing the sales of their new vitamin drink. When fans bought a carton (24 bottles) of their Victory Vitamin Water, they would receive 48 votes for the idols of their choice. On March 24th, on the eve of the show’s finals, fans could obtain 96 votes for each carton of the drink they bought. As the drinks with votes could only be purchased from Nongfu Spring’s official online store on Tmall.com, it created a fan buying mania where the demand was much higher than the supply. According to Entertainment Capital, a Chinese entertainment news website, Victory Vitamin Water had an astronomical 500% increase in sales.

TV sponsorships in China have become synonymous with the country’s pop culture. However, it is to be expected that an impressive amount of exposure, such as the ones occurring in the presented case studies, must come with an equally as hefty price tag. If your corporation has deep enough pockets, then high chance your company could become the next ‘in Vogue’ brand.

Here’s a sneak peak into the price range of some of China’s most well-known entertainment shows:

Show Name: Happy Camp

Main Sponsor: ViVo

Price: 7 million

Broadcaster: Hunan TV

Show Name: Singer 2017

Main Sponsor: Satine

Price: 6 million

Broadcaster: Hunan TV

Show Name: Sing! China Season 2

Main Sponsor: OPPO

Price: 5 million

Broadcaster: Zhejiang TV

Show Name: Running Man Season 4

Main Sponsor: Yili Ambrosial Yogurt Drink

Price: 5 million

Broadcaster: Zhejiang TV

Show Name: Go! Fighting Season 3

Main Sponsor: ViVo

Price: 4 million

Broadcaster: Dongfang TV

Show Name: If You Are The One

Main Sponsor: ViVo

Price: 3 million

Broadcaster: Jiangsu TV

Show Name: Mars Intelligence Agency

Main Sponsor: One Leaf

Price: 2.5 million

Broadcaster: YouKu

Show Name: Rap of China

Main Sponsor: Nongfu Springwater

Price: 1.5 million

Broadcaster: iQiyi

Show Name: Divas Hit The Road

Main Sponsor: Marubi

Price: 1 million

Broadcaster: Hunan TV