TV tie-ins: NBC cuts deal for fall line-up with Baskin Robbins

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Once again, NBC is looking to cream the competition.

In an unusual deal to help its fall-season premiere, NBC has struck a multimillion dollar integrated-marketing deal with ice cream restaurant chain Baskin-Robbins, which will develop ice cream flavors for NBC shows-such as "Fear Factor" Sundae, "Will & Grace's" Rocky Road of Romance, "Good Morning Miami" Mint, Stuckey Bowled-Over Brownie (for "Ed"), and Pralines `n "merican Dreams."

Baskins-Robbins will run TV commercials for the promotion on cable networks. Additionally, the company will run a print campaign in Time Inc.'s Entertainment Weekly, as well as adorning its stores with signage for NBC shows. NBC will also run promos. In return, Baskin-Robbins will get to align itself with NBC, the No. 1 broadcast TV network in viewers ages 18 to 49, and will help promote NBC shows in its 4,500 stores. Baskin-Robbins will roll out its "must taste" lineup of treats in stores from Sept. 3 through Oct. 27.

"It's sort of a real-estate exchange," said John Miller, co-president of The NBC Agency. "By the time we get done we'll have a couple of million dollars worth of outside exposure that we could not really afford to buy out of our paid media." It's hard for NBC to compete with other media conglomerates' wide-ranging assets, which are used for TV show promotion. Viacom, for example, can use its outdoor advertising or radio divisions to get increased media and promotional exposure, Mr. Miller said.

A series of sweepstakes will also be included in the promotion, including a trip to a live taping of "Fear Factor"; a walk-on role on "American Dream"; a bowling trip with the cast of "Ed"; a private tour of the "Will & Grace" set and shopping spree at Barney's; and a VIP trip to Miami.

The "Fear Factor" Sundae can be made with any flavor ice cream, topped with broken Oreo cookies and green, gummy spiders. "It looks like you are eating dirt with green spiders," said Mr. Miller. The effort is to bring consumers a chance to experience a friendlier version of the show where contestants eat real insects.

day of the weak

One of NBC's weak spots this season is Sunday night. It will be anchored by "American Dream," a show set in the `60s about a girl in Philadelphia who wants to dance on Dick Clark's "American Bandstand." Another new show, "Boomtown," a crime drama set in Los Angeles that looks at events from many different perspectives, will follow at 10 p.m.

"We feel there is a real opportunity to grow on Sundays," he said. "The Sunday shows are looking for an extra boost."

This isn't Baskin-Robbins' first foray into partnerships with entertainment properties. It developed Shrek's Swirl ice cream and Shrek's Swamp Fizz (a drink that fizzed up after stirring) for last year's Dreamworks Pictures blockbuster theatrical release, "Shrek."

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