Unilever Dons Producer's Hat

Degree brand funds one-hour show on NBC

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%%STORYIMAGE_RIGHT%% On the heels of the moderate success of NBC's "The Restaurant", the network is locking and loading another advertiser-supplied piece of programming for October—this time it's from Unilever's Degree brand.

Adhering to the emerging strategy in this cluttered and fragmented media marketplace that it's better to "own rather than rent" content, the Anglo-Dutch package-goods titan will be doing a time-buy on the Peacock on Saturday, Oct. 11 at 3:00(EDT)for "Degree Road to the Ironman," a one-hour reality special chronicling the exploits of a group of athletes as they prepare and train for the Ironman triathlon competition.

"The two brands are like peas in a pod. What we found, which is why we signed the deal, is that it takes heart and soul, not just physical prowess , to get to the starting line. Degree embodies the same thing," said Allison Harmon, manager of marketing communications for Degree, based in Chicago.

%%PULLQUOTE_LEFT%% The TV special, which was developed by the client in conjunction with branded content mavens Tattoo DDB, Chicago, and Banjo, San Francisco, evolved from a deal in February. Degree signed an exclusive, multi-year North American licensing agreement with Ironman Properties, which includes such components as a national contest for a six-month training and salary reimbursement to train for an Ironman triathlon and a Degree Ironman line of five SKUs. This includes three new scents: Extreme Blast, Sport, and Cool Rush.

The network was not involved in creative development of the TV special; Tattoo DDB and Banjo walked NBC through a rough treatment at the outset. Unilever paid for production.

This deal is similar to the Rocco DiSpirito vehicle "The Restaurant"—it had its six-episode run this summer—, in that it's another creative example of a brand marketer alleviating a network's financial burden in exchange for the opportunity to transcend the branding limitations in a traditional media buy.

IPG's Magna Global Entertainment funded the production of the show—waiving the network license fee—and sold product-integration packages (including marketing rights for the show) to American Express, Coors, and Mitsubishi. Magna and co-producer Reveille retain full equity of the property.

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