I’ll freely admit that I’m a devoted fan of Bravo’s Top Chef. As a foodie it’s one of the more interesting shows over all. However, as a marketer, it’s fascinating in terms of marketing opportunities.
Product placement is one of the most obvious ones. It’s one of the rules of the Top Chef drinking game, and that rule alone would have you pretty buzzed by the end. I will give them credit for keeping most of the placements relevant to the “story” A few things like the phone placements this season were a bit forced, but in general they work. A stove or wine brand makes perfect sense in a show about cooking.
Top Chef also does a great job of providing challenge sponsorship opportunities. Creating a frozen dinner (Bertolli) or low calorie treat (Dr. Pepper) makes sense for the brands in the past that have done it. The Glad family of products sponsors the overall pride and gets more than frequent mentions as a result.
Even those placing traditional ads might get a bit better off in the show. They use frequent mini-sodes that bring fans back into the show if they tune out or try to skip past via Tivo. I haven’t touched the mobile content or website integration, which further extend the show in advertiser friendly methods.
I don’t have the data that proves or disproves the effectiveness of their tactics. What I can say is that the same sponsors have appeared season after season. To me, that’s pretty good evidence that something is working.
There is a real lesson that any marketer can use. Engagement is key to effectiveness. If you find a place to promote your product that is relevant, it’s likely that you’ll do better. Placement matters for you and your brand. Scattershot placements are far less valuable than relevant ones.