Bord Bia, the food board, paid €15,000 in costs to ensure its 'Bloom' horticultural festival enjoyed a lengthy prime time spot on Pat Kenny's final episode as host of the Late Late Show in May, it has emerged.
This compares favourably with rates of approximately €11,000 (excluding VAT) for a 30-second advertisement during the show.
The episode, which featured an elaborate summer garden party theme strongly based around Bloom, was watched by almost one million viewers at one stage. They saw Pat Kenny interview people participating in the festival, with his final "farewell" also taking place from the specially constructed set outside RTE's studios in Donnybrook.
A spokesman for Bord Bia said that, following a meeting between its communications department and the Late Late Show production team in March, it was agreed to host a segment featuring Bloom as an "effective promotional vehicle for Bloom, Irish horticulture and artisan food producers".
The aim was to build on the success of a similar feature on the show in 2008, he said.
"As part of the Bloom feature, Bord Bia supplied, and in some cases incurred costs for elements of the garden set," he added.
These came to €15,158, including some €5,200 on materials for the show garden, €3,800 on set design to create the garden, and €3,000 in labour costs to construct and remove the set. But he said "no payments were made to or by RTE for the promotion of Bloom".
Under the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland's general advertising code, sponsors are permitted to provide direct funding or "investment in kind", for example through the provision of facilities or services from a sponsor.
But although a recent EU directive will allow "product placement" in programmes when it eventually takes effect here, broadcasters are currently not allowed to give "undue prominence" to a product or service other than "incidental references" where this is editorially justified.
Bord Bia noted that a typical 30-second advertising spot during the show would have cost it around €11,000, excluding VAT.
"Where possible, Bord Bia borrowed materials from Bloom suppliers, contacts and exhibitors... Sections of the garden have since been relocated to hospitals and youth groups," its spokesman added.
An RTE spokeswoman said Bloom is now "firmly established as a cultural event in the Irish calendar".
The summer garden party theme "offered a light and informal atmosphere, a celebration of great Irish produce and Irish enterprise, and tapped into a lifestyle area of proven interest to our audience. Achieved within production budget – with Bord Bia supplying the entire garden set elements and food – the resulting show was entertaining, inherently editorially justifiable and cost-effective," she said.