Bravo's 'Top Chef Masters' Sprinkled With More Upscale Sponsors

Longtime Partner Toyota to Integrate Lexus Brand Into Spinoff Featuring Elite Chefs

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Bravo is cooking up a high-end special based on its "Top Chef" franchise. On June 10 the network will premiere "Top Chef Masters," a 10-episode spinoff in which established chefs will compete for charity. The cream-of-the-crop approach has translated to the show's sponsors as well.

'Top Chef Masters'
'Top Chef Masters' Credit: Bravo
Longtime sponsor Toyota Motor Co. has upgraded its involvement to focus on Lexus, which will provide the winners of each of the nine qualifying rounds with $10,000 for the charities of their choice, totaling $90,000 in donations. The luxury brand will also sponsor new online features on BravoTV.com such as the "Top Chef Masters Recipe Finder" and "Rate the Plate."

Glad Products Co. is also returning, to award a $100,000 cash prize to the winner's charity of choice. Its products will be integrated throughout the season.

New this year is Anheuser-Busch InBev's Stella Artois, which will sponsor weekly on-air tune-in spots and billboards. Online, Stacy's Pita Chips will host an online viewing party in Bravo's BHive, providing fans with party kits, game ideas and other branded features.

Susan Malfa, Bravo's senior VP-ad sales, said this round of "Top Chef" sponsorships includes the most platforms yet, a result of the double- and even triple-digit growth of Bravo's digital and mobile properties since the fall.

"Not only do they want to align with our content on TV, but they're taking the opportunity of connecting with our customer everywhere they go," she said.

The individual challenges on "Top Chef Masters" will also be put through Bravo's rigorous "brand filter" for integrations and product placements. In recent seasons they've included everyone from Diet Dr Pepper to Butterball to Quaker Oats, amid occasional fan backlash. "We're so selective about the execution of the integration, though; it's really a matter of making sure it delivers on a great viewer experience," Ms. Malfa said. "We live and breathe these interactive conversations between client group and agency to make sure we're delivering the credible quality programming our viewers want."

Although "Top Chef" integrations routinely top Nielsen IAG's product-placement lists, Ms. Malfa said success is measured in anecdotes and repeat business rather than sales of a particular product.

"Very few clients will share that data with you, but to me, the proof is in the pudding when somebody comes back again and again and again and wants to align with your show on-air and off-channel," she said.

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