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UNILEVER EXTENDS SPONSORSHIP OF NATIONAL PARKS

$22 Million Deal Includes Park Promotion in Product Ads

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WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) -- Unilever Foods, expanding its long-running sponsorship of the America’s national parks, today announced a $22 million four-year commitment that will include promoting the parks in Unilever's product ads.
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Mike Polk, Unilever Foods president and group vice president for Unilever, said the campaign, which begins in May with the launch of a national parks month, includes a May 15 freestanding insert in Sunday newspapers for Unilever Foods products such as Lipton teas, Wishbone salad dressings, Wisk laundry detergent and Hellmann’s mayonnaise.

Longtime association
Unilever has been associated with the U.S. national parks system for a dozen years and said it has spent $24 million over that time, contributing cash and merchandise (notably recycled wood from plastic in company products) and supporting volunteer activities at the national parks. During the next four years, Unilever said it will "unleash [its] diverse portfolio of brands and its respective communications vehicles directed to consumers, trade customers, media and employees in support of National Parks and the goals of the National Park Foundation."

The multilevel sponsorship includes not only promoting the parks to the public, but also making Unilever a sponsor in the Park Service’s Junior Ranger program.

Promoting active lifestyles
Unilever, like most major food companies, will stress eating healthy and maintaining an active lifestyle in its ad messages as the food industry has been criticized for Americans' expanded waistlines.

Unilever recently relaunched marketing behind its Lipton Tea line to push the health-lifestyle approach. Some Lipton ads will highlight the park program.

“This takes us to a whole new level,” said Mr. Polk, who added that the sponsorship fits in to Unilever’s global mission of “adding vitality to life” and “sustainability.”

Branded entertainment
Mr. Polk said on the media side Unilever is looking for opportunities to extend its activities beyond traditional advertising. He noted the company’s sponsorship of a TV competition among young chefs in Canada as an example of the kind of opportunity it is seeking in the U.S.

“It has got to be in context and how it fit into [a consumer's] life. [Placements are] certainly great exposure, but it doesn’t really amplify how important a product is in a person’s life. Product placement is very important but if you can amplify it," he said.

“We have a brand like Bertoli frozen dinners, which we are just launching -- high-quality, restaurant-like meals. If you can amplify that positioning with a connection to something like the [Canadian] program, then all of a sudden you have a connection,” he said.

He said Unilever might fund such programming.

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