Before "American Idol" emerged as a talent-search phenomenon or brand-integration vehicle, the grassroots "Showdown" was churning out future country-music stars. Even after five years as title sponsor of the 25-year-old "Showdown"-whose finals air annually on syndicated and cable TV-Colgate is seeing solid returns for a program in which nearly 500 local radio stations do much of the heavy lifting financially and operationally.
Though "Showdown" can't top the nation's highest-rated TV program for viewers, it has "American Idol" beaten handily as a brand-integration vehicle. While Coca-Cola has its cups on the judges' table of the Fox show, Colgate has its brand name all over every element of "Showdown," which includes local talent-search events backed by nearly 500 radio stations linked with retailers in their markets each year.
"Showdown," produced by Special Promotions, Nashville, Tenn., started with Wrangler Jeans as its title sponsor and has included Dodge, True Value, Coca-Cola and GMC Trucks at times over the years. Under Colgate since 2001 it has evolved into a major national retail promotion, combining the show's branded-entertainment component with co-marketing programs via retail chains such as Kroger, Albertson's and CVS, national coupon inserts and extensive event marketing with sampling.
"The return on investment is very good," said John Kooyman, general manager of Colgate's personal-care division. "Country music has a very passionate fan base. Like Nascar, like soaps on TV, if you get that consumer who loves that genre and make that connection, you potentially have a consumer for life."