It all starts with a date...

Determine’s dominance in the online dating market is unquestionable.

It is the best known online dating site in the UK and over 10 million people have joined the site in the last five years. 

It was also the first dating business to launch above the line in September 2005. Through their committed investment and comms work has successfully taken online dating from the pursuit of a few techies, to one of the most popular ways to meet a partner in modern Britain. In fact 1 in 4 relationships now start online (YouGov Feb2013).

However, though it dominates the category in terms of brand awareness - online dating has without doubt become a more acceptable way to meet a partner – we needed to break down remaining stigmas and normalise online dating.

Whilst known for their emotional and entertaining approach to TV commercials, is a company driven by data - their spot campaigns are modelled extensively and every pound spent must deliver to a set ROI target. Consequently, sponsorship in the traditional sense had always been considered as a nice exercise in driving brand awareness but in this instance was always dismissed because it was not believed to be able to drive trial and, crucially, registrations.


We needed to find a show that fitted with the wider brand and comms objectives and positioning eg that has a positive and hopeful tone of voice and brings the new creative strategy to life and find a way to actively encourage trial of the brand whilst working within Ofcom sponsorship regulations

Late summer into early winter is a quieter time for online dating and the higher cost of TV in September-November reduces the ROI, making this an ideal period to investigate new opportunities away from spot advertising but keeping a consistent presence on TV and maintaining daily sign ups.

We wanted to associate with real people in real situations going out on real dates. ITV2’s Girlfri3nds was perfect. ITV2 is a key station for the younger female target audience. They love ITV2’s popular, fun and light hearted programmes and it is a key station that delivers new sign ups.

The show follows real people from different areas of the country, with different backgrounds, on their dating journey, from finding a date, to preparing for a date, going on a date and then eventually meeting friends and family.

The show demonstrates that there are many opportunities and possibilities out there for singles.  Whilst honest and real, it’s big hearted and optimistic in tone.  It was a modern and contemporary format, designed so that viewers get close to the three main characters, share and support them on their journeys and watch as the characters make the most of the opportunities in front of them.


This campaign went way beyond just providing the traditional ident, to help deliver against the wider business and communication objectives. Activity included:

  • The creation of a microsite at where viewers could get to know the contestants better and communicate with them via  The site was packed the content including:
    • Videos
    • profiles for all contestants
    • Dating advice from experts and other show related editorial
  • Twitter – tweets during the show from’s relationship experts
  • Banners  featuring the contestants
  • CRM to match members encouraging them to interact with men from the show
  • Bespoke landing page featuring profiles of the show’s most popular male contestants


Furthermore, viewers of the show received dating advice from ‘girlfriends in the know’ in the idents.

Idents were created to compliment the Real Stories TV commercials and the show.  The idents portrayed ‘real girls’ (played by actors) giving first dating advice from their workplace (popular places for first dates).  The girls spoke directly to the camera and offered straightforward advice on first dates, which added a level of ‘normalisation’ to online dating.  


The Tweets positioned Match as the expert on dating, added value to the show, drove people to the boys’ profiles  (more than 1,000 people visited a profile), increased’s Twitter following by expanding reach and appeal (more than 2million people) and gave  the sponsorship a presence in the Twitter space.

The ITV site carried significant content. Once on the site, viewers could take part in a quiz or visit the tips and advice section.

6000 people engaged, driven by Twitter & those visiting

A gossip and tips section contained articles written by relationship expert, Kate Taylor, based on themes that had arisen during the shows.  The top five articles drove 25,000 clicks and covered topics like:

  • Ten Giveaways They Think You’re Gorgeous
  • Getting Back in the Dating Game
  • How to creative a great First Impression
  • How to Increase Your Chemistry      


Clickable banners featuring the most popular men who had been voted off the show ran across Banners were updated as soon as the evictions were announced.

Through optimisation the CTR doubled versus a traditional banner campaign.

Bespoke landing page

A co-branded landing page featured clickable photos of the most popular men that link straight to their profiles.

Profiles were updated weekly to reflect episode newcomers and optimised to the most popular guy. profiles creative for contestants  profiles were created for contestants which meant  viewers could view and contact free of charge after they had been voted off the show.

The boys received over 20,000 emails, winks and visits during the shows alone and is hearing reports that some romances are budding!

The Results

The Campaign

  • Campaign ran 26th September – 19th November 2012 on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Sundays
  • Total cost less than £200,000
  • Sponsorship delivered 161 Women tvrs and was seen by 5,300,000 women (and 9,600,000 individuals)

What did it do for

  1. Maintained level of new sign-ups in Q4 despite reduced TV investment
    • -58% TV investment, but with the same volume of new registrations
    • Improved  cost per new sign up by 29%
  2. Successfully supported and complimented the new creative strategy and brand personality 
    • Independent post tracking study of over 1,000 adults by YouGov found that 90% thought the sponsorship was a great brand fit
  3. Position as the authority on all things dating
    • Independent tracking study by YouGov of 1000 people found that the top indexing attribute for by Girlfri3nds viewers was ‘ is an expert in dating’
  4. Addressed remaining stigma - normalising online dating
    • Those who watched the show were 48% more likely to considered online dating as a natural way to meet a partner (YouGov)


Katie Sheppard, Director of Relationships & Marketing at match UK and Ireland, said:

“Our sponsorship of Girlfri3nds was a great way of bringing a new and exciting dating show format to life. For the first time ever was able to viewers the chance to interact with the stars of reality TV from their sofas on our site.

“The results speak for themselves. We have managed to successfully make what could have been just a brand awareness exercise into something that really drove trial of the service.  We are delighted.” Sponsers Girlfriends Idents from Finish on Vimeo.