Begins Third Year of Successful Brand Integration Deal

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The deal: Procter & Gamble’s Cover Girl backs UPN’s reality show America’s Next Top Model, using the sponsorship to introduce new products.

The result: The integration has moved beyond experimentation to become a staple of Cover Girl’s marketing plan and has spawned expansion into similar ventures.

Neither Procter & Gamble Co. nor Cover Girl marketing executive Anne Martin are known for making a leap without a hard, analytical look.
Begun as an experiment, the Cover Girl brand integration in 'Top Model' has been a major success for P&G.

So Cover Girl’s continuation of its content-integration deal with UPN’s America’s Next Top Model into a third year and recent expansion into new branded-entertainment ventures provide strong evidence that the fledgling marketing discipline is working for the brand.

“Because these are new ways to connect with our target [consumers], the one thing we’re really trying to learn and learn fast is what value do we get out of these?” said Ms. Martin, vice president for global cosmetics marketing for P&G. “We’ve put a pretty extensive tracking system in place … and what we are getting from it is a great value. We’re on cycle five [of Top Model] and we’re fully integrated into that one. If we’re repeating it, it’s because we’ve gotten good results from it.”

Ms. Martin declined to provide specifics, but one indication of the success of Cover Girl’s brand integration with Top Model has been the success of Cover Girl Wet Slicks lipstick, integrated into the show in 2003.

Wet Slicks take off

“Wet Slicks has taken off like a rocket since we launched it and never ceases to grow and grow and grow,” said Ms. Martin. “We were able to track considerable sales increases during the time that we integrated the product into the show … a significant bump during and, importantly, continuing after the show.”

Ms. Martin likes to explore new areas of marketing as much as any P&G marketer. As a “Harley Procter marketer,” she’s part of a group of top P&G career marketing executives who’ve chosen to forgo moving into general management to stay in marketing.

But she’s no starry-eyed bandwagon hopper.

When top P&G executives from around the world gathered in Cincinnati in 2003 and heard a daylong presentation on influencer marketing, she used a Q&A session to warn the assembled senior managers about the risks of getting too carried away with any nontraditional marketing approach.

P&G’s integration with Top Model has moved beyond experimentation to become something of a staple of Cover Girl’s marketing plan and has spawned expansion into similar ventures.

Miss USA and Miss Universe seals

Earlier this year, Cover Girl launched a partnership with the Miss USA and Miss Universe beauty pageants modeled somewhat on its integration with Top Model. Just as viewers can vote on model contestants at, Miss Universe pageant viewers earlier this month also could vote on the site. Indeed, the judging panel, besides including Cover Girl model Molly Sims, also included an empty seat to represent the vote of visitors. The Miss USA/Universe collaboration, which also included localized newspaper coupon inserts, will continue next year as well, Ms. Martin said.

Naima, chosen America’s Next Top Model in cycle four this spring, also became a Cover Girl model. That, in turn, led to a marketing partnership with the Baltimore Orioles near Cover Girl’s headquarters in Hunt Valley, Md. Naima appeared for Cover Girl at a Women’s Night in June that went well enough that the brand also agreed to sponsor women’s night and Latino night promotions, with extensive sampling and model appearances.

Women make up 41% of the crowd at the average Orioles game, Ms. Martin said, adding that the Cover Girl target consumer is a sports enthusiast who regularly attends Major League Baseball games.

Top teen magazine advertiser

All that aside, Cover Girl isn’t giving up on TV commercials or magazines. The brand has long been, and continues to be, the top advertiser in teen magazines.

“Because of the size of the brand and target, we need a good combination of several vehicles to reach [our consumer] when and where she’s most receptive,” Ms. Martin said, adding that the marketing plan “will always contain the more traditional TV, print, online, etc. in combination with the new and innovative vehicles.”

What’s worked best with America’s Next Top Model is that the deal goes well beyond product placement or even broader brand integration within a single show, Ms. Martin said. “There’s the relationship during the cycle and frankly the long-lasting relationship after the cycle.”

Cover Girl has been a key part of at least two to three contestant challenges per cycle during the three with which the brand has so-far been a sponsor, she said. “In the most recent cycle [four], we set up an entire in-store display like a wall and recreated the press event on the set and the contestants were evaluated by professionals on how well they did at the press event.”

'My Life as a Cover Girl'

The season finale has finalists competing in a Cover Girl shoot, which actually becomes part of the print copy for the brand. The series also includes a “My Life as a Cover Girl” segment, which tracks the previous cycle’s winner. The winners also represent Cover Girl in appearances on news programs and talk shows.

One reason Top Model and the pageants have worked well for Cover Girl is that women often watch the shows in groups, which prompts discussion and thus better retention of the brand message, Ms. Martin said. “The important part of the group we like is the mother and daughter,” she said. “We find in the Cover Girl [consumer segment] a lot of household usage. And when you dig into that, it’s mom and daughter.”

Though Cover Girl may seem deeply entwined with America’s Next Top Model by now, it wasn’t always that way.

Rival Revlon was the original title sponsor of the show. Revlon declined to comment on why the relationship ended in 2003, around the time the chief marketing officer who did the original deal, Deborah Leipman-Yale, left the company.

Ms. Martin said she doesn’t know why the relationship with Revlon ended, either, but said Cover Girl is a perfect fit for the show, whose host, Tyra Banks, is a former Cover Girl model. While Revlon has been pitched in recent years mainly by actresses, such as Halle Berry and Julianne Moore, Cover Girl’s heritage is all about models.

Ms. Martin said Cover Girl’s media-buying and now communications-planning agency, Starcom MediaVest Group, New York, approached P&G after UPN and Ms. Banks approached SMG.
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