Majority state-owned power giant Genesis Energy is in hot water over its sponsorship of My Kitchen Rules New Zealand.
The 51 per cent Government-owned energy retailer is the main sponsor for the cooking show, which debuted on TV One last Sunday.
Genesis spokesman Richard Gordon wouldn't say how much the deal was worth, except that the cost was less than $500,000. The details were too commercially sensitive to share.
"It's a substantial marketing campaign ... it buys us a lot of media advertising on that network."
Parliamentary records show it spent $12.3million last year and $9.7m in 2012 on advertising. Green Party energy spokesman Gareth Hughes said the sponsorship was "questionable" given some Genesis customers had endured 20 to 30 per cent price hikes in the past five years. "They would prefer a decrease in their bill, not seeing the logo on a TV show."
Energy analyst Molly Melhuish said she backed sponsorship deals by small power companies accountable to their communities. But Genesis did not fall into that category. "A few hundred thousand dollars is not small change ... any spare change ought to come back to customers who are in real need.
"Sponsorship of a TV show sounds more like a marketing, public image-making thing and that simply isn't appropriate," she said.
Grey Power energy spokesman Allen Davies called the sponsorship "a waste of money". "If they've got money to spare they should bring the price down. God, everybody's heard of them, we don't need them flashing their name all over the place and wasting money."
Gordon confirmed the company had the biggest chunk of New Zealand's residential electricity and gas markets but competition was fierce. "If we didn't advertise and make offers we'd lose customers. We need to be out there with our brand," he said.
Genesis posted an annual profit drop of 53 per cent on Wednesday, and revealed it had lost 3 per cent of its customers in the year to July. Net profit was just over $49m for the same period.
University of Auckland senior advertising and marketing lecturer, Dr Mike Lee, said pairing with a TV cooking show would give Genesis "the human touch".
"It's showing, 'We're not this faceless power company'," he said. He was not surprised some people were upset.
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