NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- In the new TV economy, what starts out as simple product placement can turn into a larger-scale ad buy between a brand and a network or even turn an advertiser into a defibrillator for a dying show. In the case of E! Entertainment's "Kendra," what started out as a one-off integration for sponsor Dave & Buster's turned into an endorsement by the show's star and an off-channel marketing partnership.
The deal with "Kendra" -- a new reality series starring former Playboy playmate Kendra Wilkinson that will make its debut Sunday night at 9 p.m. ET -- started in 2007, when Dave & Buster's integrated one of its locations into Ms. Wilkinson's previous E! show, "The Girls Next Door." When the time came for Ms. Wilkinson to leave the Playboy mansion and break out on her own, "House Bunny" style, Dave & Buster's followed, sponsoring her show's debut with limited commercials and integrating another location into the premiere's story line.
But because Ms. Wilkinson and her fiancee, Hank Baskett, a wide receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles, are both big fans of the sports bar and arcade chain, they requested that their wedding rehearsal dinner be held at a Dave & Buster's in the show's season finale, thus extending the sponsorship. To further sweeten the pot, Dave & Buster's rewards members will receive a poster of Ms. Wilkinson, outfitted in a basketball jersey and cutoff jeans, as an incentive prize.
Dave Cassaro, Comcast's president-network ad sales, said Dave & Buster's and E! "both reach young, affluent, active consumers who enjoy a night out."
Ms. Wilkinson's further involvement was just icing on the cake, he added. "Kendra is a fan of Dave & Buster's, enjoys going there, has that athletic bent and likes to play video games. She really has a genuine affinity for the brand, so for these audiences, matching up it was a no-brainer."
The deal was brokered in-house with Dave & Buster's, which will also be tagged in on-air promos and off-air radio spots for "Kendra."
The marketer spent $17.9 million on measured media in 2008, according to TNS Media Intelligence, but has been adding more strategic integrations to its media mix in recent years. April Spearman, VP-marketing for Dave & Buster's, said, "Any way we can let our guests and their consumers know about our partnerships through different touch points is added value, if that's what gets people through our doors."