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Unilever bankrolls soccer TV series

[london] Unilever is funding an international TV series for soccer-loving countries to capitalize on the World Cup soccer tournament to be played in Germany this summer. "Sure/Rexona Fans United" is a series of 13 half-hour-long TV programs examining the universal passion of soccer fans, their attitudes and love for the game, including superstitions and rivalries. The series, created with MindShare Team Unilever Europe and branded-content company Apace Media, has already kicked off in the U.K. Versions for Germany, Russia and Paraguay begin in the next few weeks, and there are plans to roll out the format in up to 50 countries in Europe, Latin America and Asia.

Unilever is exploring ways to develop the format for U.S. sports as well as for rugby and cricket.

"Fans United" is the central piece in a communications program for the Sure/Rexona brand under the tagline "Extreme protection that lets you go wild" (see Spotlight, below). A Unilever spokesman said, "This is the first major global advertiser-funded programming initiative from Unilever. This clearly positions Sure/Rexona as a brand not so much for the sportsman, as for those with a passion for following sport."

Advertiser-funded programming is still relatively rare in the U.K., where "Fans United" is appearing on the U.K.'s most-watched terrestrial commercial channel, ITV1. Apart from a Heinz-sponsored series called "Dinner Doctors" three years ago and the Pepsi Chart Show, advertiser-funded programming has been pretty much absent from mainstream television.

Kate Marsh, Group M's director-entertainment, Europe, said, "We'll see a lot more shows like "Fans United" rolling out. The business model is changing and I'm sure we'll be doing a lot more." Sure/Rexona branding appears on the break bumpers of "Fans United" and the show is called "Sure Fans United" in the U.K. TV listings, but there is no product placement in the show. Product placement is officially banned in the U.K., although TV regulator Ofcom is looking at relaxing the rules on such deals and is expected to make a decision this spring. -emma hall

'Fader' to launch Japanese edition in September

[new york] The Fader, the hip emerging-music and lifestyle magazine that has been published in New York since 1996, has struck a deal to introduce a Japanese edition due to appear on newsstands this September. Initial circulation will be 20,000 to 30,000.

Because The Fader, an independent title that publishes eight times a year, struck a licensing deal with Blues Interaction, a Japanese publishing company, the foray will become a new revenue center at the word go. Blues Interaction was able to win over The Fader, which has never published an international edition before, partly because of the company's commitment to music. In Japan, it publishes a music magazine called BMR, while a subsidiary called P-Vine distributes albums from independent American publishers like Matador Records.

"I had done a lot of due diligence on these types of deals," said Andy Cohn, publisher, The Fader. "I'd heard a lot of stories about the translation, which gets really messy. You think of the deals from a financial standpoint but it's really more important to think of the editorial translation. It can really damage the brand-it's a small world."

Fader Japan will comprise 70% translated material from The Fader and 30% original material, and will include advertising. In the U.S., advertisers include General Motors Corp., Heineken, Puma, Pepsi Cola Co. and Armani Exchange.

The Fader, which claims unaudited paid circulation of 87,500 in the U.S., anticipates more international editions ahead. "We're going to be announcing more of these deals down the road and it's given us a really good template for how to make these deals work from an editorial integrity standpoint," Mr. Cohn said. -nat ives

P&G to introduce Japanese skin care brand in China

[guangzhou, china] Procter & Gamble Co. is following up the international success of its Japanese premium skin-care brand SK-II by introducing in China a more mass market brand called Ilume developed in Tokyo as a substitute for Olay, which P&G doesn't sell in Japan. In China, Ilume is being backed by a major campaign starring Hong Kong actress Cecilia Cheung created by Leo Burnett, Hong Kong. Ilume is being introduced initially in Beijing, but if successful in China could expand to other Asian markets. - normandy madden

FYI...

daimlerchrysler's Mercedes-Benz division is including two additional agencies-El Laboratorio from Spain and Italy's Colnaghi & Manciani-in the global review to choose an agency to introduce the 2007 model of the C-class line. ... Carlson Marketing is opening its first office in mainland China, in Shanghai. Gabi Kool will be managing director, China, and exec VP- Asia Pacific for the marketing services company. Mr. Kool was previously the Singapore-based VP, Asia Pacific for South East Asia.
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