’Ello, ’ello, ’ello. What have we here, then? A juicy sponsorship
offer for the constabulary, I presume. Or would you rather enjoy a
stretch at Her Majesty’s pleasure?’
Of course, it’s unthinkable that an officer of the law would ever utter
such lines. But the truth of the situation is that sponsorship is now
firmly on the agenda for police forces, and has been so since
legislation was changed three years ago.
In the future, the image of the police may owe less to Dixon of Dock
Green and more to Dixons of Dock Green. If Inspector Morse can be
brought to us with the assistance of Beamish stout, one might argue, why
can’t his real-life counterparts be supported by other companies and
This contentious issue makes some profoundly uneasy. David French,
chairman of the constables committee at the Police Federation, takes the
view that there is a danger of the police being compromised by accepting
sponsorship from private companies.
’Once you are associated with individual companies you can be affected
by whatever political spin the company might put on anything,’ says
’The thought of using a car sponsored by a brewery to do roadside breath
tests is farcical to me.’
There has been talk of the credibility and impartiality of the police
being undermined, even the spectre of brand logos appearing on uniforms
has been raised. But the latter appears extremely unlikely - although
the move toward increased sponsorship is gathering momentum in less
All of this is taking place within a loose framework of rules governing
sponsorship and the police. Chief constables are permitted to raise up
to 1% of their budgets from private sources; this may not sound a lot
but it equates to about pounds 70m in England and Wales.
How that sponsorship is implemented is at the discretion of chief
constables, but the convention is that it should not be used to fund
The most controversial of the services sponsorships to date have come
from drinks companies. Off-licence chain Thresher has sponsored a van
for the Avon and Somerset force while Newcastle Breweries has provided a
mobile police station for its home town.
Due to the police’s role in accident prevention and clamping down on
drink driving, there has been criticism of sponsorship of this sort. But
it appears that most forces would not be averse to accepting drinks
company sponsorship in appropriate circumstances.
’There will still be officers on the beat who are not very
pro-sponsorship because they think that marketing or PR-sell will take
over,’ says North Yorkshire Police sponsorship and marketing officer Roy
Philpott, who is co-ordinating a national police sponsorship working
’Our force’s view is that if it’s a brewery putting something back into
the community, and if they’re taking a responsible attitude, then why
shouldn’t they be supporting us? Indeed, why shouldn’t they be pouring
more money into it?’
Cambridgeshire Police sponsorship officer Terry Turner adds: ’All core
policing is funded by local and national government, but I can see all
sorts of opportunities for adding the icing on the cake.’
To date, most of the sponsorship deals that have been agreed have been
PR-driven; public demonstrations of good corporate citizenship rather
than cause-related marketing.
Facilities management group Care Services has, for instance, provided
North Yorkshire police with two vehicles for use by the special
Although the company’s logo is discreetly evident, Care Services
maintains the initiative is a thank you to the local community around
its head office rather than part of its marketing.
’This is not by any stretch of the imagination a visual-branding
exercise,’ says Care Services sales and marketing manager, Victoria
The fire brigade, not burdened with the same need as the police to
continually stress its impartiality, has gone some way further down the
road of sponsorship as marketing communications. As well as putting out
blazes and rescuing our feline friends from trees, West Yorkshire Fire
Authority has dabbled as a mobile media owner.
A3-size advertising panels on its fire engines have been sold at pounds
1000 a go for those vehicles based in Leeds (and at discounted rates for
those located in less densely urban locations). Companies such as
Cornhill Insurance and Radio Aire have signed up for space.
The London Fire Brigade, which needs to make savings of about pounds 10m
a year, has even more ambitious plans.
’We’re considering the badging of fire engines and maybe some of the
equipment, like fire helmets and tunics,’ says its head of PR, Gordon
White. ’The fire brigades union aren’t keen on it; it’s being done
because the fire service is short of cash. But if it’s done with the
degree of taste that I’m sure we’ll all insist on, I don’t see any
White adds that the London Fire Brigade it hoping to attract a ’major
sponsor’ for its entire fleet of 200 tenders and 6000 operational
To this end, the Central Office of Information has been appointed to
help attract interested parties and is expected to begin contacting
large ad agencies in the near future to sound them out about suitable
Given the size and prominence of the fire service in London, sponsorship
of its vehicles would be comparable to buying space on the sides of a
significant number of taxis or buses. Although clearly it will have the
advantage - and PR spin off - of being unique.
The Coastguard, meanwhile, is talking to potential sponsors for its
education programme encouraging seaside safety awareness among children,
while the sponsorship of the London air ambulance - for a long time
carried out by Express Newspapers - proves there are also opportunities
in the medical sector.
In the future we will still dial 999 to reach the emergency
But who knows, there might also be an 0800 number we can call for
details of the latest emergency services sponsorship opportunities.