'Dancing With the Stars' Beefs Up Slim-Fast

ABC Show Delivers for Weight-Loss Brand

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Slim-Fast doesn't need the "Dancing With The Stars" judges to declare it a winner. The Unilever brand hammered out a deal over the summer to be integrated into the ABC show, which has become the most-watched reality show on air this season. And the Slim-Fast brand is front and center.
Tysonia Sichinga, Slim Fast's own amateur dancer, and Christian Perry
Tysonia Sichinga, Slim Fast's own amateur dancer, and Christian Perry

Even for those not looking to drop extra pounds, Slim-Fast's shimmying torsos in red dresses are hard to miss, appearing in the first slot of the show's ad breaks. The Unilever brand is also mentioned several times within the broadcast, especially on the Wednesday results show, which features Slim Fast's own amateur dancer, a housewife named Tysonia, who appears on the TV show and in video on the ABC website.

'A regular woman'
"Slim-Fast found a regular woman, and they decided to put her through the same training the celebrities go through, learn a dance, and she has a life to juggle. It's a really nice emotional connection, and it expands the show a little bit, and programming has been happy with that aspect of it," said Michael Becker, ABC's VP-integrated marketing promotions.

The program integration is Slim-Fast's biggest media commitment this year, with total spending that's estimated to be between $7 million and $10 million. That push will culminate with a bigger drive during the first quarter of 2007.

"We learned through the producers that there was an opportunity, and we recognized it was a big idea. Dancing is our consumer's favorite activity," said James Wong, Slim-Fast's VP-general manager, based in Englewood Cliffs, N.J. "Obviously we're extremely excited about it. When we worked organically with the producers and ABC, we wanted to make sure the program was amplified, and we partnered to get the biggest audience we can."

Promoting the show
Slim-Fast used print ads to promote the show and to help market both the premiere and finale. A sweepstakes at the company's website offers tickets to the finale.

"Dancing with the Stars" is rapidly becoming ABC's very own "American Idol." The Tuesday-night show is the most-watched unscripted series so far this season, and sits at No. 4 in total viewers behind "Grey's Anatomy," "Desperate Housewives" and CBS's "CSI." The Wednesday results show holds the No. 5 slot.

The show's numbers are so positive that ABC will give "Dancing" a second go-round this season in March. The third cycle, currently on air, winds up with the finale Nov. 15.

With "Dancing" ratings up 10% in the 18- to 49-year-old demographic this season and overall viewers topping Fox's World Series game three on Oct. 24, the marketing partnership has boosted traffic to the Slim-Fast website by 10%, according to the company, with spikes on the days the show airs. According to Millward Brown, a consumer market-research firm, Slim-Fast, as a result of the program and the high ratings from the show, has seen double-digit gains in brand consideration and awareness.

Product-placement opportunity
The opportunity came to Slim-Fast through Unilever's product-placement agency, AIM Productions, New York. AIM heard about it from International Creative Management, which represents BBC Worldwide, producer of "Dancing with the Stars."

"When I [joined ICM] in March, we were talking about how certain themes came out, and we talked about the weight-loss category," said Lori Sale, ICM's head of global branded entertainment. Along with ABC and Slim-Fast's media agency MindShare, the partners talked about developing not only the TV integration but the other elements, which now include a national live tour that begins Dec. 19.

The tour, organized by BBC Worldwide and sponsored by Slim-Fast, features stars of past and present seasons including Harry Hamlin and his wife, Lisa Rinna. The tour begins in San Diego and stops in some of the marketer's strongest markets across the country, ending in Atlantic City, N.J., in February.
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