In April, the breakfast show on SGR FM Colchester was sponsored by Sunsilk, the hair product. This included three sponsor credits an hour, but on more than one occasion, the stand-in presenter refered to particular days of the month as 'National Sunsilk Day'.
Following a breakfast show sponsor credit for Sunsilk, a stand-in presenter for the regularly scheduled hosts said: “So, out of all the entries for this free bar session —
I’ve declared today a National Sunsilk Day — I’m gonna call someone back after this
song.” After the song, a brief weather update and another sponsor credit, she
explained how her hair had been “looking a right mess” for some time, but, as she
had straightened it the previous evening and it was looking better today, she was
“declaring today a National Sunsilk Day”.
A listener could find no connection between Sunsilk and the draw and believed the
presenter had directly endorsed the show’s sponsor. So complained to Ofcom.
[b]Rule 9.6 of the Sponsorship Code requires that:[/b]
[i]“There must be no promotional reference to the sponsor, its … services or products… Non-promotional references are permitted only where they are editorially justified and incidental.”[/i]
GCap Media, which owns SGR Colchester, confirmed that it broadcast three pre recorded sponsor credits each hour, which clearly identified that the breakfast show
was sponsored by Sunsilk. It added that on two random days each month a
presenter declared a “Sunsilk Day”, when a competition or draw was held and the
prize donated by the sponsor. The broadcaster confirmed that, on the day in
question, the presenter had replaced the regular presenters and “may not have been
fully aware of the guidelines…” but the station’s Programme Controller had
subsequently advised all relevant parties of the Code requirements concerning
sponsorship and undue prominence.
The broadcaster clarified that “no actual reference is made to Sunsilk’s products or
services during the editorial content of the show.” It assured us that there had been
no attempt by the show’s sponsor to influence its editorial independence and
claimed that the “Sunsilk Day” declaration made during this particular show was non promotional, incidental and “arose from the marketing strategy that was devised for
the sponsors of the breakfast show.”
Ofcom has decided that as the bimonthly competition/draw was a feature sponsored by the same sponsor as the breakfast show, references to a “Sunsilk Day Draw” or “Sunsilk Day Competition” could have been legitimate as integrated sponsor credits.
In this case, in addition to a sponsor credit, there were four references to “Sunsilk
Day” in audio lasting just over two minutes. We welcome GCap’s assurance that the
programme’s sponsor had not influenced the editorial content and we acknowledge
that no products or services were promoted in the content we heard. However, while
the sponsorship arrangement concerning the breakfast show was clear, the
connection between “Sunsilk Day” and the featured draw was not.
Irrespective of the broadcaster’s intention concerning the sponsor’s marketing
strategy, the presenter’s repeated references to “Sunsilk Day” appeared contrived,
not incidental, and their lack of any direct link to the draw failed to provide editorial
justification for their broadcast. They were therefore in breach of Rule 9.6.