Macy's Replaces Banana Republic on 'Project Runway'

Gap Unit Bows Out; Other Sponsors Return for Hit Show's Third Season

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LOS ANGELES -- When Bravo's hit reality show "Project Runway" returns for a third season this summer, one of its top marketing partners will be out. Gap Inc.'s Banana Republic will no longer be the series' signature retail partner, according to an executive who was close to the deal-making process with the brands.
Macy's landed the coveted role of retail sponsor in the Heidi Klum-fronted Bravo hit 'Project Runway.'

Instead, Macy's Inc. landed the coveted spot. After Banana Republic opted out of the series, other retail partners had been in consideration, including H&M, which is in the midst of expanding the number of its outlets on the West Coast.

In what capacity Macy's will be integrated into the show is still unclear, but in the past, the show's contestants have worked in Banana Republic-branded workspaces at New York's Parsons The New School for Design and competed during both seasons to design a dress that was sold in several of the retailer's stores.

Unilever deal falls through

A major deal with a Unilever brand also was in the works but fell through at the last minute, the executive said.

According to an executive at Bravo, the Unilever brand was All. The company wanted to get its new All Small and Mighty product into the show. But producers couldn't figure out a creative way to integrate the product into the show. It would have stood out too much and looked like a commercial.

Meanwhile, those coming back to the show, which makes its first summer debut July 12, are L'Oreal Paris and TRESemme, which have served as the show’s hair and makeup sponsors since its first season.

The series, hosted by supermodel Heidi Klum, pits 15 fashion designers against each other in a series of challenges that have culminated in three finalists facing off at New York's Fall Fashion Week in February. But with the new schedule, finalists will compete at Fashion Week in September.

Once again, fashion designer Michael Kors and Elle magazine fashion director Nina Garcia will serve as judges and industry mentors, while Tim Gunn, chair of fashion design at Parsons The New School For Design, will return to guide the contestants through their challenges. Models also will continue to work with the designers throughout the season, competing for a fashion spread in Elle.

"Project Runway" is co-produced by the Weinstein Co. and Miramax Television. Magical Elves ("Project Greenlight," "Last Comic Standing") and Full Picture serve as executive producers.

Runaway hit for Bravo

The show has become a runaway hit for Bravo, averaging 1.7 million total viewers during its second outing, up 59% from its first season. The finale in March pulled in 3.4 million viewers, making it the most-watched show in Bravo's history. It improved the numbers from season one by 102% in the coveted 18- to 34-year-old demographic. A DVD set of the second season will hit store shelves June 27.

Online, the show has attracted 2.2 million unique visitors and 87 million page views on the site, the network said. Mr. Gunn's "Tim's Take" blog generated 9.1 million page views, and his podcasts garnered 600,000 downloads.

The show's ratings and Web numbers have helped producers attract more high-profile marketers and broker integration deals, which include not only on-screen exposure but also opportunities for tie-ins online, in store and in print. Whereas some placements in shows such as "The Apprentice" have seemed out of place for some marketers, producers of "Project Runway" have tried to make sure integrations make sense and fit with the show's fashion-based concept.

"Project Runway's" first season had Cotton Inc. and L'Oreal Paris as inaugural sponsors. Banana Republic provided the winners mentorships and help developing their own fashion labels, but one winner, Jay McCarroll, turned the offer down. Banana Republic took a larger role in the second season, replacing Cotton Inc. as a major integrated partner. Newcomers included General Motors' Saturn, which awarded a Sky Roadster to the winner. Online travel service Orbitz also was an on-air sponsor.

Task sponsorships

In addition to the show's main sponsors, tasks in individual episodes of the series have been sponsored by other brands. Mattel had contestants design an outfit for its My Scene Barbie line. The toymaker produced 3,300 Barbies wearing the winning designer's outfit, and sold out of the limited-edition doll online.

Financial terms of the promotional partnerships and integrations were not disclosed.
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