Slim-Fast thanks its Lucky 'Stars' that TV Partnership Pays off

Weight-loss Brand gets Featured Prominently in one of Fall's Hottest Shows

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Slim-Fast doesn't need the "Dancing With The Stars" judges to declare it a winner. The Unilever brand hammered out a deal over the summer to be integrated into the ABC show, which has become the most-watched reality show this season.

Even for those not looking to drop extra pounds, Slim-Fast's shimmying torsos in red dresses are hard to miss, appearing in the first slot of the show's ad breaks. The Unilever brand is also mentioned several times within the broadcast, especially on the Wednesday results show, which features Slim-Fast's own amateur dancer, a housewife named Tysonia.

"Slim-Fast found a regular woman, and they decided to put her through the same training the celebrities go through [to] learn a dance, and she has a life to juggle. It's a really nice emotional connection, and it expands the show a little bit," said Michael Becker, ABC's VP-integrated marketing promotions.

The program integration is Slim-Fast's biggest media commitment this year, with total spending that's estimated to be between $7 million and $10 million. That push will culminate with a bigger drive during the first quarter of 2007.

"We learned through the producers that there was an opportunity and we recognized it was a big idea. Dancing is our consumer's favorite activity," said James Wong, Slim-Fast's VP-general manager, based in Englewood Cliffs, N.J. "Obviously we're extremely excited about it. When we worked organically with the producers and ABC, we wanted to make sure the program was amplified, and we partnered to get the biggest audience we can."

Slim-Fast used print ads to promote the show and to help market both the premiere and finale.

"Dancing with the Stars" is rapidly becoming ABC's very own "American Idol." The Tuesday-night show is the most-watched unscripted series so far this season and is No. 4 in total viewers, behind "Grey's Anatomy," "Desperate Housewives" and CBS's "CSI." The Wednesday results show holds the No. 5 slot.

The show's numbers are so positive that ABC will give "Dancing" a second go-round this season in March. The third cycle, currently on air, winds up with the finale Nov. 15.

"Dancing" ratings are up 10% in the 18-49-year-old demographic this season, and the marketing partnership has boosted traffic to the Slim-Fast website by 10%, according to the company. According to Millward Brown, a consumer-market-research firm, Slim-Fast, as a result of the program and the high ratings from the show, has seen double-digit gains in brand consideration and awareness.

The opportunity came to Slim-Fast through Unilever's product-placement agency, AIM Productions, New York. AIM heard about it from International Creative Management, which represents BBC Worldwide, producer of "Dancing with the Stars."
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