Unilever's Clear will be official hair-care sponsor for season six of NBC's "The Voice" and has signed Victoria's Secret model Miranda Kerr for a new campaign as the brand looks to hold and expand its place on store shelves following a 2013 launch.
Clear Scalp & Hair joins Starbucks, Sprint and Kia among sponsors of the NBC reality show, where sponsors have gotten prominent roles – from judge Blake Shelton's ever-present Starbucks cup to only Sprint customers being able to text votes for contestants (though people can vote online or by phone via other providers.)
David Rubin, VP-U.S. hair-care marketing for Unilever, said only that Clear will be the first official hair sponsor of "The Voice" and that more details would be forthcoming in advance of the Feb. 24 season premiere. Network contracts typically restrict sponsors from revealing brand integration plans without clearance, and an NBC spokesman didn't immediately return calls for comment on Clear or other show sponsors for the upcoming season.
Ms. Kerr enters a war of Victoria's Secret models endorsing hair-care products, as Unilever's announcement comes within weeks of Procter & Gamble Co. unveiling Gisele Bundchen as pitchwoman for Pantene. Ms. Kerr was a distant No. 2 to Ms. Bundchen in the Forbes list of the world's highest-paid models of 2013, though she closed the gap a bit as her earnings rose while Ms. Bundchen's fell.
Ms. Kerr follows fellow model Heidi Klum, who pitched Clear last year. Unilever spent $60 million on measured media for Clear last year through October, according to Kantar Media, up from $59 million in 2012.
Pantene remains the leading U.S. and global hair-care brand, with around $3 billion in sales, but it's seen declining sales and share for years. Unilever, which also sells Dove, Suave, Tresemme and Axe hair-care products, in 2012 became the leading U.S. marketer of hair-care products excluding colorants. It added to its share last year, with Clear among its other brands chipping away at P&G and Pantene. Unilever is also preparing a U.S. mass-market rollout of salon brand Toni & Guy.
Clear got its start years ago in developing markets of Asia and Latin America and is the leading men's hair-care brand in the world, according to Mr. Rubin, though it has products both for men and women.
Launched in spring 2012 in the U.S., Clear had a 1.8% share of the regular shampoo and conditioner market and a 4.2% share of dandruff shampoo, according to IRI data for the year ended Dec. 1. While it's seen by some, particularly overseas, as a dandruff shampoo, only $21 million of Clear's $90 million in U.S. sales came from dandruff products.
"Repeat purchase on this brand is among the highest in the category and well above what we forecasted," Mr. Rubin said. "When people try the product, they love it."
Ms. Kerr's hiring and ads from Interpublic's Deutsch, New York, are about getting more people to try it and further defining Clear as a brand about "scalp health" and its impact on overall hair appearance. Ms. Kerr will be in TV, print and digital ads as well as representing the brand in Unilever owned content and in social media.
Ms. Kerr was chosen in part for her appeal to both genders, Mr. Rubin said. "One of the things she's admired for is her resilient hair," and "beautiful, resilient hair" is going to be a Clear focus this year.
That may sound a bit like the "healthy, beautiful hair that shines" positioning long advanced by Pantene and embraced anew as the P&G brand goes back to its roots, but Mr. Rubin said Clear has differentiated itself in part by trying to own the healthy-scalp positioning.