While brands like Anheuser-Busch and Pepsi are creating their own TV-like content in an effort to reach consumers who are skipping ads, tried-and-true brand integrations continue to be an important way for marketers to reach fragmented audiences.
Case in point, Bravo's "Top Chef" debuts Thursday with eight brand tie-ins peppered throughout the season. This includes returning sponsor, BMW, as well as new sponsors like Chipotle and Dave's Killer Bread.
Brand integrations certainly aren't new, but marketers are finding new ways to embed themselves into series where the number of commercial breaks might be decreasing or even non-existent.
“There's been an uptick in interest in brand integration and they have gotten a lot better,” says Michael Law, president of Dentsu’s Amplifi. “It's no longer putting a can of soda on a table; there's a more natural fit into storylines."
Amid the pandemic, brands have had to think a bit differently about how they integrate into the cooking competition. BMW, in its fifth year as a “Top Chef” sponsor, doesn’t just provide automobiles for grocery pickups at Whole Foods. Its vehicles are front and center during a drive-in-themed challenge that ties into how people are gathering during the coronavirus pandemic.
Tillamook signed on as a season-long “Top Chef” partner, as the show’s exclusive cheese and butter brand. The contestants visit its creamery during an episode. Chipotle and Dave’s Killer Bread are new to the show and will be featured in challenges, as will returning brands Talenti and Better Than Bouillon. S. Pellegrino is also back for the season.
This comes as more brands are eager to create their own custom content and IP, Law says. Pepsi, for example, created a reality dating show with ViacomCBS to promote its new Pepsi Mango flavor, while Anheuser-Busch is airing "Not A Sports Show" on the streaming platform Ficto TV.
“Brands are seeing themselves as content creators and have plenty of ways to distribute it,” says Law. “But there is room for both. Producers and talent have been more open to letting brands in.”