Bravo Becomes the Go-To Network for Brands

Network's 'Top Chef' Strengthens Partnership With Top Marketers

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LOS ANGELES -- The Bravo network, home to "Project Runway" and "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," is further cementing its position as a go-to place for brand integrations with season-long deals with Sears, Toyota and Glad for the second season of the hit reality show "Top Chef."
Glad, along with Sears and Toyota, is back for season two of 'Top Chef.' The marketers will have deeper relationships with the show this time around.

Food & Wine magazine will be prominent in the reality series, which launches Oct. 18, and a cadre of marketers including TGI Fridays, Kraft, Pepsi, Korbel, Calphalon, Nestle and Bailey's Irish Cream will appear as part of the budding chefs' challenges.

Deeper involvement for top brands

The deals for season two of "Top Chef" aim to embed marketers further into the story arcs of the show itself and deeper into its online world. The brands will promote the cooking-competition show in some of their own media and provide prizes for a new consumer sweepstakes. Glad, owned by Clorox, will pony up the $100,000 cash prize for the winner -- the money will be used to help start that chef's culinary career.

"Advertisers wanted a deeper relationship," said Shari Post, Bravo's VP-ad sales. "We looked at the show from the creative angle and saw opportunities, and then talked to the marketers about how we could tailor it to fit their needs."

Sears, Toyota Motor Co. and Glad partnered for the first season of "Top Chef," with integrations into some episodes. Their involvement will broaden the second time around with added features such as a branded Kenmore Kitchen (Kenmore is a Sears brand) that was built on the show's downtown Los Angeles set and will have as much call-out as the Tresemme hair salon and the Macy's accessory wall on "Project Runway." During season one, Kenmore appliances appeared on set with little fanfare.

Sears plans to tout "Top Chef" in its national circular and direct mailers to its customers. The marketer also plans to create custom commercials with a "Top Chef" theme to air during the show, Ms. Post said.

Viewers get their own contest

Sears and Glad are sponsoring a first-time "Foodie Flyaway" contest for consumers that will send winners to the annual Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, Colo., next summer and give them Kenmore appliances and Glad products.

Toyota, which featured its Highlander hybrid model in the first season, will have several new RAV4 sport utility vehicles in the upcoming episodes. The marketer has been aggressive in its TV integrations, with high-profile projects involving Fox's "24" and "Prison Break" and ESPN's "The Contender."

Instead of skipping from show to show, the brand prefers stability.

"We try to find projects that we can continue to have a presence in over time," said Rob Donnell, president of Brand Arc, the firm that handles Toyota's integrations. "It makes sense to us to stick with a show if it's reaching the demo we want and it's successful."

"Top Chef," produced by Magical Elves, worked on both those levels in its freshman season, Mr. Donnell said. The show averaged more than 1.2 million viewers, making it the top-rated food series on cable among the advertiser-coveted 18-49 demo. The "Top Chef" finale drew some 1.6 million viewers.

Strong brand recall for Toyota

Data from IAG Research showed that brand recall and brand opinion was higher on "Top Chef" than on any other TV integration that Toyota did in the early part of this year.

"We like the fact that this show revolves around young up-and-coming chefs," Mr. Donnell said, "and it's addictive."

The winning chef, in addition to the cash prize and a spread in Food & Wine magazine, also receives professional Kenmore appliances. It's yet to be determined if there will be a car giveaway.

Episodes this season will include challenges involving ethnic foods, with guest judges such as Ming Tsai; normally discarded animal parts like chicken feet and lamb hearts; and holiday dinners. Bravo executives said they wanted to work in a certain number of marketers without overdoing the integration concept.

"This format lends itself fairly easily to brand integration," Mr. Post said, "but the last thing we want to do is clutter it up and have it be obnoxious."

New advertisers come onboard

The integrations led to some new advertisers signing deals with the network, though Ms. Post wouldn't give specifics of those agreements. Major sponsors made their integration deals as part of overall media buys on Bravo, following a general trend where "it's few and far between that advertisers are only looking to buy 30-second spots," Ms. Post said.

The show has a new host this season, model-actress and award-winning-cookbook-writer Padma Lakshmi, along with returning head chef and judge Tom Colicchio and food expert Gail Simmons from Food & Wine magazine. The series will take advantage of its L.A. setting by including local chefs such as Suzanne Goin of A.O.C. and Lucques and celebrities such as "Entourage" star Debi Mazar.
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