The Top Gear team could be moving to commercial TV – what are the pros and cons of sponsoring Jeremy Clarkson & friends?


The Top Gear presenting trio, Jeremy Clarkson, James May & Richard Hammond, alongside executive producer Andy Wilman, are rumoured to have been in secret talks with ITV. Oscar Lie, from Story Lab, looks at the pros and cons for any brand thinking about sponsoring a new commercial show.

Jenny Cornish Jenny Cornish Carat Blog Editor Carat UK Top Gear ITV Jeremy Clarkson advertising television
The hugely popular Top Gear team are rumoured to be negotiating with ITV executives to create a motoring show to rival the BBC show. It has been said they’ve been joking about calling it House of Cars after Netflix’s hit series House of Cards. 
ITV had first said they were not interested in negotiating with Clarkson after the recent incident which led to his sacking from the BBC. But it now seems they have shifted their position when his co-presenters also stated they would be leaving the programme. It is also believed that the team is considering joining a streaming service such as Netflix or Amazon.
The BBC has made it clear that they will be re-launching Top Gear with new presenters, rumoured to be Jodie Kidd, Philip Glenister and Guy Martin.
Top Gear has been massively successful – it holds the Guinness World Record 2012 for the most watched factual programme in the world.
It’s been sold to 214 territories, it has more than three million YouTube subscribers, over 19 million Facebook fans and a million Twitter followers.   
Online it’s a success too – there are four million unique users on every month, with half a billion page views in the last year. There have been almost nine million downloads of the Top Gear game apps and 1.5 million visitors to Top Gear Live. Overall the show generates 350 million viewers a week worldwide. 
The audience demographic is interesting too – 40% of the audience is female, although the core audience is still males aged between 18 and 35 who are passionate about cars and driving, along with ‘dads & lads’ – men aged between 35 and 54 and their kids aged seven to 11. 
Pros of getting involved with sponsoring a potential new show
  • The main pro is the startlingly successful figures of Top Gear.
  • Fans are very loyal to the presenters and would most likely follow them regardless of network.
  • Top Gear’s storytelling method gives it universal appeal - mixing comedy, action and drama that transcends boundaries of age, gender and culture.
  • The hosts have amazing on-camera chemistry.
  • The show features some fantastic cinematography, which has changed the way car shows are presented.
  • Hilarious celebrity appearances.
  • Their live show has made its way through 24 countries.
  • Publicity guaranteed due to the controversial nature of Clarkson’s BBC departure.
Cons of getting involved with sponsoring a potential new show
  • Due to the way Top Gear was funded the trio were able to be brutally honest - as the program was taxpayer funded the hosts could pretty much say what they wanted without facing retribution from sponsors.
  • The so-called “Clarkson Effect” is real - a positive or negative review from Clarkson has the potential to make or break a car/product/brand. Some blame him for MG Rover entering bankruptcy in 2005 after several negative reviews. Tesla unsuccessfully sued Clarkson for exceedingly negative reviews of their Roadster, which caused panic among investors and led some customers to cancel their pre-orders.
  • A new network’s budget may not be large enough to create as attractive of a show as the BBC version did.
  • Clarkson has now become a hugely controversial figure and a target for the tabloids – any poor ratings or negative elements will be magnified in the media.
  • Parts of the show will surely change due to copyright issues (such as ‘The Stig’, theme music, etc.) which may lead to a loss of certain fans
What do the fans think? Click here for a full Reddit thread on the fans’ pros and cons of Top Gear moving to ITV.
Jenny Cornish Jenny Cornish Carat Blog Editor Carat UK Top Gear ITV Jeremy Clarkson advertising television
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