Unusual Sponsors Sit Front Row at Fashion Week

Broader Audience Attracts Brands Such as Google, OfficeMax, BlackBerry

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- As fashionistas flock to New York Fashion Week in the coming days, they might be slightly surprised to see the likes of OfficeMax, BlackBerry, Google and the Seoul Metropolitan Government front and center in the tents. But chances are they'll only see more out-of-the-box sponsors in seasons to come.
Wear It's At: Financial execs, investors join fashionistas under tents.
Wear It's At: Financial execs, investors join fashionistas under tents. Credit: Biel Alino

Fern Mallis, senior VP at IMG Fashion, which organizes the event, said it's moved beyond the elite fashion crowd to include financial executives, investors and the banks that underwrite the designers. Reaching those high-powered executives, along with a highly influential crowd of editors and stylists, is appealing for plenty of companies, Ms. Mallis said, even if they don't fit the traditional mold of fashion, beauty and spirits sponsors.

'Experiential' marketing
"People are looking to sponsorships that are experiential, not just putting your name on an ad or program," Ms. Mallis said. "There's a lot of opportunity to leverage the event. ... Certainly Mercedes has been a part of Fashion Week for years, and they wouldn't be the title sponsor if they weren't selling cars because of this opportunity and association."

So at this Fashion Week, BlackBerry is introducing its new color, Sunset. OfficeMax is previewing a collection of fashionable office supplies and providing a business center for attendees. Google is unveiling a designer-created collection of themes for iGoogle. And the Seoul Metropolitan Government is promoting South Korea as a tourism and style destination.

"These people share the fashion opinion of the world," said Bob Thacker, senior VP-marketing at OfficeMax. "Our hope is that the impression we make with them will be favorable and will ripple out to the public."

Although there are plenty of sponsors looking to ride the fashion wave, official partnerships are limited to companies that have relevant stories to tell, Ms. Mallis said. "We're not just going to sell a sponsorship to anyone because they want to rub shoulders at Fashion Week," she said, noting that seats to the runway shows are one of the bonuses of being a sponsor.
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