Tresemme's 'Project Runway' Integration Coincides With Sales Boost

Brand Deal Hard to Measure, But Marketer Wants Back for Season Four

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The deal: Despite L'Oreal Paris' prominent integration into "Project Runway," rival beauty brand Alberto-Culver Co.'s Tresemme brokered a deal to appear in the past two seasons of Bravo's hit reality show.

The result: Significant exposure that has helped Tresemme show off the brand's salon-quality products for the masses and compete in the ever-competitive hair-care category. It's negotiating to appear in the fourth outing of the show.

The show featured runway models having their hair done using Tresemme products.

Rival aspiring fashion designers work alongside each other on Bravo's reality show "Project Runway." That rival beauty brands do so too is a more unusual twist for a reality-show brand integration, but one that Alberto-Culver Co.'s Tresemme finds has worked.

L'Oreal Paris was the partner for both cosmetics and hair care in season one of "Project Runway" but decided to drop the hair-care integration for its L'Oreal Vive brand following the series' initial outing.

Brandy Ruff, director of corporate communications at Alberto-Culver, found out about the vacancy from a contact at Elle magazine, which is also an ongoing show sponsor. When she took the idea to marketers on Tresemme and its agency, Interpublic Group of Cos.' Campbell-Mithun, Minneapolis, they quickly seized on it as an opportunity for the hair-care brand.

Fashion for the masses

"When they came to us with the idea, we thought it was a brilliant mixing of the target of Tresemme and the cultural zeitgeist of the democratization of fashion," said Don Kvam, exec VP, Campbell-Mithun. "For Tresemme, which is all about bringing salon-quality products to the masses because of its affordability, it fit perfectly."

One reason is that L'Oreal and Tresemme, while they do appear in close proximity in some shows, such as the October finale, have had their primary brand integrations separate.

Campbell-Mithun helped create an Aug. 8 "Icons of Hair" segment that was a cornerstone of this year's integration. The show featured runway models having their hair done by Tresemme's chief stylist, Nathaniel Hawkins, in classic styles -- such as those of Farah Fawcett in the 1970s or Twiggy in the 1960s.

"It really brings to life our brand and emphasizes our salon heritage and credentials," said Julian Nichols, marketing director for Tresemme. "It allows us to actually demonstrate real-life products in a real-life environment to show consumers how the products actually perform in a frenetic, fast-paced fashion setting and walking up a runway."

Having just finished its second year of integration (on the third year of the show), Alberto-Culver is now in talks about continuing into season four. The third season of "Project Runway" wrapped in October, and its finale was Bravo’s most-watched episode in history, with 5.4 million viewers.

Metrics hard to come by

Mr. Nichols believes the integration is paying off, though he acknowledges he has yet to find the metrics to quantify how much. Though the brand has been tracking traffic to its website from the show's website, he knows that tells only part of the story.

"While it's very difficult to pull very robust data from this kind of integration, we've been having a great run of success on the brand over the past two years -- growing way ahead of the category," he said. "And we feel this integration is attributable to part of that success."

Tresemme sales are up "well into double digits" the past 52 weeks in a hair-care business that has grown around 5%, Mr. Nichols said.

He said the brand has continued gaining share through the summer and fall during the integration -- and during the most intensely competitive periods in U.S. hair care in three years, including the launch of Unilever's Sunsilk and three major restages of rivals such as L'Oreal's Vive Pro brand, which has been losing share despite a major boost in marketing support.

Mr. Nichols isn't prepared to credit "Project Runway" for all of that success, but he believes it's been a contributor.

"It's a significant investment," he said, though he declined to put a dollar or share-of-budget amount on the Bravo sponsorship.

He acknowledges that the share of internal staff time is considerably greater than the share of budget from the integration.

Weighing staff effort against ROI

"There's an awful lot of effort, coordination and planning that goes into it in terms of supporting the integration and making the most of it," he said. "And that's something you have to weigh up in terms of the ROI."

One new area Tresemme sought to tap this year, he said, was to connect with the bloggers who follow "Project Runway."

"We invited the people who are showing a huge degree of interest in the show to a finale viewing party, and they were delighted to come," he said. "We gave them access to footage and materials they wouldn't normally have access to, and they were very excited to be included. It's not typical for them to be included in a public relations or branded event, and that helped us get great coverage on their sites."

Just for its ability to reinforce Tresemme's salon-heritage brand equity with consumers, Mr. Nichols believes the integration has been worthwhile. "We were nurtured and raised as a salon brand," he said, "but for some non-users or users who weren't that familiar with the brand, they're probably not even aware of that heritage ... so it's a great way to remind them."
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