Suave, Maybelline, Retailers Pile Into 'Fashion Star'

Brands Align With New NBC Reality Show, Touting Its Accessibility

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Even before Unilever acquired Tresemme last year, Unilever executive David Rubin admired the former Alberto-Culver brand's integration with "Project Runway" from afar. Now, he's looking to one-up that success by bringing another Unilever value hair-care brand, Suave, into a similar arrangement with "Fashion Star," which begins tonight on NBC.

A scene from 'Fashion Star' on NBC
A scene from 'Fashion Star' on NBC

Suave joins a large lineup of brand integrators on what may be among the most commercially integrated programs ever, given that winning fashion designs will find their way the day after each show to the shelves of Macy's , H&M and Saks Fifth Avenue, whose buyers are judges. L'Oreal's Maybelline cosmetics brand will also be integrated into the program as models get prepped for the runway in both apparel and beauty products that have a decidedly mass appeal.

"H&M loves to surprise our customers," said Jennifer Ward, spokeswoman for the chain, in an email. "The idea of selling the weekly winner's designs immediately after the show was so appealing to us and allows fashion to be accessible. It's a fantastic opportunity to introduce the brand to a new customer base across the 50 states as we continue our expansion in the U.S."

Suave, which is cooperating with H&M on some joint advertising around "Fashion Star," can't yet close the loop as neatly in selling its products alongside the winning apparel. But it has paired with hair stylist Theodore Leaf, who will appear in each show fixing the models' hair, then make the styling tips available on the Suave Beauty Facebook page. And, of course, its products are on sale in stores like Walmart Stores every day.

Mr. Rubin, hair-care marketing director for Unilever in North America, appreciates the "everyday accessibility of the fashion" on the show, a necessary ingredient given the need to sell the apparel created at the partner stores. That makes it a good fit with Suave, he said. "Suave is a beauty hair brand that makes you look how you want to look, but it is more accessible" than the salon brands with which the Professionals line compares itself in ads.

Suave has focused heavily on its Professionals line in recent years, which has helped it begin "nipping at the heels of the historical leader" in hair care, which would be Procter & Gamble Co.'s Pantene, said Mr. Rubin, who's aiming to add U.S. dollar leadership to the volume leadership he said Suave has long enjoyed. Much of Suave's growth, he said, has come from focusing more on fashion and beauty properties, such as red-carpet events at award shows with Sophia Vergara and Nicole Ritchie.

"With all that focus on fashion and beauty, it made sense for Suave to connect itself to an entertainment property we think is going to be the big fashion-beauty entertainment property of the season, hopefully even longer," Mr. Rubin said.

Tresemme was a competitor when the "Fashion Star" deal happened, Mr. Rubin said, but one of the first things he did after the deal closed was to approach Alberto-Culver people coming into the company for tips on how Tresemme's partnership with "Project Runway," which ran from 2005 to 2008, had worked. "It was a partnership we certainly had been envious of ," Mr. Rubin said. "It was one of those partnerships people remembered well beyond other brands that may have spent more or been bigger in the show."

WPP's Mindshare Entertainment and Mindshare handled brand integration and media, and Interpublic's Weber Shandwick handled PR.

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