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‘Runway’ Struts New Sponsors

Oct 3, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Emmy-nominated “Project Runway” will return to NBC Universal-owned Bravo for its second strut on the catwalk Dec. 7 with six sponsors, including Banana Republic, which last season sold products designed by contestants on the show.

The marketers-which also include L’Oreal Paris, Saturn, TRESemm%E9;, Elle Magazine and Orbitz-will participate in the show in divergent ways.

Banana Republic, for example, which is not traditionally a television advertiser, didn’t buy advertising spots during the show. Rather, it will get exposure on “Project Runway” this season by providing accessories for the designers and will have a mentorship program for the winner of the competition.

On the other end of the spectrum, Orbitz won’t be involved within the content of the show, but will run spots during the show’s commercial breaks, said Scott Collins, director of ad sales, NBC Universal Cable Entertainment. Bravo and Orbitz are also discussing a potential viewer sweepstakes attached to the show and Orbitz would provide a trip as a prize.

Some sponsors got into the show by making deals with Bravo; others got involved with the production through “Runway” producers at Miramax Television or the Weinstein Co., Mr. Collins said.

With most of its original programming in the reality genre, Bravo has embraced integrated advertising and product placement. The revenue from accepting those marketing dollars “absolutely enhances what you see on the screen,” said Frances Berwick, senior VP of programming and production at Bravo.

Ms. Berwick said the network selects “brands we thought would be helpful to the story line or could be integrated organically.”

The winner of the show, in which 16 aspiring designers compete in a series of challenges, will get $100,000 from Saturn as seed money to launch a clothing line. The winner also gets a 2007 Saturn Sky Roadster.

The winner’s designs will be photographed by Gilles Bensimon of Elle and appear in the magazine. The winner will also be mentored by the Banana Republic design team.

Models will be made up by L’Oreal Paris makeup artists and use TRESemm%E9; hair products.

Heidi Klum returns as host of the series, as do judges Michael Kors, the designer, and Nina Garcia, fashion director for Elle. Also coming back is Tim Gunn, chair of the Parsons The New School for Design, who guide the contestants through the challenges.

During its first season, the show’s ratings grew dramatically from its debut, drawing record ratings for its finale. The return of “Project Runway” comes after a trying summer in which Bravo launched nine new shows. Only one, “Being Bobby Brown,” drew significant numbers.

Ms. Berwick said because the network draws a lot of upscale, educated viewers, it was hit particularly hard by the major news events that drew people to the cable news outlets.