Branded Entertainment

The Australian Open – Two Weeks with Rafa, Roger, Novak, Layton and Jelena

As Eli Manning declares his plans to visit Disneyland, and New Yorkers bask in the afterglow of our ticker tape parade, I am still recovering from two intense weeks that were the Australian Open.  (That’s tennis for those less obsessed than I.)

Thanks to ESPN2 and my Time Warner Cable DVR, I awoke every morning for two weeks to a Christmas morning of sorts, full of 10 some hours of tennis coverage.  Putting aside the incredible athleticism, the fit and attractive main characters and the fashion considerations, just the fact that I had a window into beautiful summer weather made the tournament an uplifting addiction.

But there was more to it than that.  When you spend so much time observing the drama that was those two weeks, it is only natural to have thoughts that beg to be shared.  Shared with someone.  Friends, yes, but also, my blog.  (In great part because I have not had a chance to write in a while, so this offers great inspiration.)

So, some observations.  We know that psychology is important to sports and that tennis, in particular, is as much a head game as a game of skill.  In fact, I had the opportunity to have dinner with Tracy Austin a few years ago at which time she acknowledged that a primary reason she won her first U.S. Open is that she was too young to know what a big deal it was.

So back to the observations.  Andre Agassiz observed that tennis is like life.  And like Russian dolls.  Points make up games.  Games make up sets.  Sets make up matches.  Matches make up tournaments – in the same way that seconds make up minutes, make up hours and so on.  And what I find so interesting is that as hard as you fight for a particular point or game or set, when it is over, you are back to square one.  A set won 6-0 is equivalent to a set won 7-6 in a grueling tiebreaker.  Hence, when a match is tied 1-1, it is completely equal.  Except for this.  The player who won the second set is pumped, even deliriously happy as when Nadal fell to his knees after winning the fourth set of the finals.  And the player who won the first set, who came out of the gate flying, is dejected, frustrated, even angry.  I noticed this especially when the young 21-year-old Canadian player Raonic was playing the “old” 30-year-old Layton Hewitt.  Going into the break between the second and third sets, Raonic looked distraught and Hewitt invigorated.  But, from a scoreboard point of view, they were equal.  That’s what they mean when they talk about “momentum.”

What else?  Well, if it is not already the case, then Novak Djokovic’s girlfriend (Jelena Ristic) needs to be approached by a clothing manufacturer or designer for product placement.  All the players have logos galore, but she, who seems to be on screen more than anyone other than the two players, is left to her own impeccable taste to decide how to dress.  (By the way, she’s gorgeous if you were not aware.)  This is a missed sponsorship opportunity.

And, how about those tennis fashions?  For some reason Adidas felt compelled to subject those they sponsor to a disturbing combination of peach and coral that even men on the courts in Central Park remembered two weeks later.  My nephew, who plays wheelchair tennis competitively, tells me it’s because the manufacturers want to show off bright colors at this first summer event.  But I found it cruel.  It took me a while, by the way, to understand why so many players were wearing the exact same dress or style.  At first I thought they might be from the same Eastern European nation.  Then I realized it was Adidas.  I imagine they feel that by having multiple players, who may not make it very far into the tournament, wear the same outfit, they get similar air time as they would if a highly seeded player wore it for many rounds.  That said, the fact that the women’s tennis has become a game of “your guess is as good as mine” makes it hard to predict who might actually have significant airtime.  Even Sharapova, who made it to the finals, went down in a quite brief 6-3 6-0 match.

But let’s get back to Nadal.  Nadal has become my inspiration.  Yes, he’s cute and cuddly and muscular and fit and a magnificent athlete… wait, where was I?  Ah, right, inspiration.  As one of the commentators observed, Nadal plays every point as if it is match point.  No matter how unlikely it seems that he might win – as with the, sigh, U.S. Open of last year, he will never lose hope.  He will never stop fighting.  If Nadal (oh, and Djokovic too) can play a 6 hour final match, then I can (in theory), run for 45 minutes on the treadmill, or hold that tortuous yoga pose until the instructor lets me (please, for G-d’s sake) move on.  So, somehow, even when Nadal loses.  (And, don’t get me wrong, I’m still in mourning for this year’s final), I feel somehow inspired.

To expand upon that point, I have friends who are not Nadal fans.  I don’t fully get it, but it’s true.  Many are Federer fans.  And I can appreciate that.  He’s a class act.  But it does make me wonder what makes someone a Nadal fan and others a Federer fan.  (Putting Novak aside for the moment.)  They are, after all, different.  Nadal is wearing bright swaths of color.  Lime green and sporty blue – on simple (high tech) t-shirts.  Federer’s shirts all have collars.  (Federer has Rolex as his sponsor.)  But I love Nadal.  He’s PASSIONATE.  And he’s physical in a warm way.  When Federer first lost to him and was crying, Nadal put his arm around Federer’s neck and his head on his shoulder.  (I could die!)  When Nadal passed Novak on the grounds of the Ossie open, he patted his back rather than just shaking his hand.  It’s these little things that appeal to me.

So, back to fashion.  What’s up with the mismatched yet coordinated wristbands.  One blue, one white.  One black, one red.  I don’t know.  I can’t think of the colors, but it’s a thing.  Someone ordained it.  They take the colors from the tennis outfit and break them out into two wristbands.  This meant, of course, that when Novak switched from his white shirt to his black shirt in the second or third set – also an interesting move – his blue wristband didn’t make sense, as it was not reflected in the shirt.

So….  what was supposed to be a quick post feels like it could go on and on – much like the 6 hour final, so I must end it somewhat arbitrarily and abruptly.  I hope you’ve enjoyed my tennis musings – brought to you thanks to the coverage of ESPN2 (and the Tennis Channel) and the DVR functionality of Time Warner Cable.

Place the Spot; Spot the Placement

I can’t help it! When I’m watching “The Big Bang Theory,” and Leonard’s “Mom” holds her soda can just a little too long and a little too high, and the can remains visible for 5 minutes of the show, then it must be a product placement. It’s a bit of a game, a bit of an art to spot, so I’m reopening my log of potential spottings. I hope you’ll join me.  (See also part I of this compilation:  “Spot the Placement; Place the Spot”)

  • How I Met Your MotherTed has already used Bing (the search engine) twice before the first commercial break.  Once to look up the route from their bar to a steakhouse where Woody Allen is eating and then to look up the website where people rate their professors. (October 11, 2010)
  • Big Bang TheoryFresca, Fanta, Fiji Water– in the lunchroom at work – all other beverages have no labels; Fiji water especially well placed – full on label exposure.However, watching episodes a year after I wrote this bullet, it seems that the product placement was there when the episode was new but not for repeats.  Is that possible (see below)
  • America’s Got Talent, June 22-ish, 2010 – Filmed at Universal Theme Park in Orlando.  As with Ugly Betty below, lots of opportunities for shameless promotion and touring of the park, e.g., the host on the rollercoaster or next to the Jaws shark.
  • Reality shows are fantastic venues for product integration.  The book “Buyology” has some great examples, however, about how brands can overshadow each other in programs like “American Idol.” 
  • Rules of Engagement, June 7th, 2010 – Kiehl’s moisturizer on Audrey’s nightstand. Could be for character definition. In any case, awfully prominent, as in the only thing on the nightstand, just inside the shot and positioned so that you could read the label.

    What do you think? Is Kiehl’s helping to define Audrey’s character, or is CBS helping to promote Kiehl’s?
  • Colbert Report, June 8th, 2010 – Colbert wearing a lab coat with a big Lexus logo on the back during piece about Consumer Reports.
  • Colbert Report, June 7th, 2010 – Microsoft’s Bing search engine agreed to donate $2,500 to a charity of Stephen’s choice every time he said the word, “bing.” The show raised $100,000 for the Gulf of America Fund.

  • Ugly Betty and the Atlantis Paradise Island resort – the December 4th episode was one long, albeit beautiful, advertorial for the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas, interrupted only by, well, ads for the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas. There was even an entire scene designed around the famous water slide. If it weren’t for the MEMORABLE footage of the dastardly but oh so hot Connor Owens wearing minimal wardrobe, it might have been too much. Ugly Betty is a great vehicle for brand integration. And I understand that the Latin American version, which takes place in an advertising agency, milks the product placement cow even more completely.
  • Big Bang Theory, September 21, 2009 – new Diet Pepsi can – 3rd act of “Big Bang Theory.” The can is – for me – one of five characters in the scene. 
  • Big Bang Theory, September 22, 2011.  Interesting to me that they drink Fiji water in the cafeteria but always have it facing the other way.
  • Millionaire Matchmaker: 2011 NYC season – interesting interstitial in which she goes on a shoe shopping binge at Jeffreys.  Seemed natural at first; then it made me wonder.  She likes dropping names.  She went with her stylus/make up artist friend.  I suspect she was promoting her as well.  Reality TV – the advertising gods gift to brand integration.
  • Chips Ahoy cookies in the new Planet of the Apes film.  A key plot element. (September 30, 2011)
  • Boardwalk Empire – Canadian Club. I saw a beautifully done window “billboard” on the glass of Beacon Liquor next to the Beacon Theater – has the appearance of being etched into the glass. (October 1, 2011) Arresting – at least to me – and despite unfortunate placement of window pane.  However, evidentially controversial:Through a marketing partnership with Canadian Club, which HBO calls “a brand authentic to the period,” the pay-TV network has been placing Boardwalk Empire displays and window signs in some real-world liquor stores and wine shops. The campaign also includes bar events, such as re-created speakeasies featuring a special cocktail menu. According to HBO Vice President of Brand Marketing Chris Spadaccini, the in-store displays feature crates of liquor with Canadian Club product and branding for the show. Some liquor store signs for the series have the appearance of being etched into the window glass.”Window displays are essentially street-level billboards, so these types of advertisements are helpful in reaching a broad audience,” Spadaccini said in an email about the ad campaign.But that approach — using liquor stores to target a wide range of consumers — marks what’s wrong with the campaign, according to David Jernigan, associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and the director of the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth. “These are sources that children pass on the way to school. They can’t be turned off,” Jernigan says of the window displays, adding this campaign marks the first time he’s heard of a TV show advertising in liquor-store windows”See full article from DailyFinance:
  • Yes… but they’re not showing alcohol in the displays, just club soda.  Thoughts? 
  • Glee and the Gap: The Feb. 8 episode of “Glee” had an extensive musical scene set in a Gap store

  • Revenge TV Show promoting itself within bars and restaurants in the Hamptons – where the program is set
  • I don’t believe that premium channels like Showtime sell product placement opportunities.  However, if they did, I would spot a lot – including Dexter’s altercation with a Nescafe coffee machine.  (Is Nescafe still around?)
  • Colbert, Colbert, Colbert.  He is the king of product placement.

For more examples, check out: Spot the Placement, Place the Spot

Geo-Tagging: What Are Thou To Me? – Part III

You have now entered Part III my ongoing journal of my life with foursquare – tracking the personal, sociological and historic milestones associated with the rapidly growing service/game/application.  Check my archives for Chapters I and II.

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

Foursquare is losing its allure as the time it takes to check in increases. If I can’t check in before the subway train arrives, then spending my time on the platform waiting for foursquare to load is not a good use of my time. I understand that check-ins have gone from one per second to 100 per second, so I’ll be patient and wait for the foursquare team to catch up, but the situation definitely reduces the fun factor and the usability quotient.

One of these days, I’ll start a new entry about the commercial applications of foursquare and location tagging. In the meantime, here is an interesting example from May 3rd of what Pepsi is doing. Recall from a prior posting that the beverage manufacturer’s Bonin Bough said on a SMAC panel that if a startup like foursquare has an attractive concept, Pepsi will not dismiss the venture as too small but rather might find a way to bring it to scale. In this case, it looks like Pepsi has gone rogue:

Pepsi to Roll Two Geo-based Loyalty Efforts for Mobile

By Brian Quinton

Beverage maker Pepsi has announced that it will roll out two location-based mobile campaigns to offer discounts and loyalty points to consumers who use them to patronize nearby restaurant partners.

In the first, slated to launch in mid-May, the beverage maker will roll out Pepsi Loot, an iPhone app that will use the geo-location abilities of users’ mobile phones to identify and direct them to nearby restaurants that serve Pepsi beverages, both chains such as Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, IHOP, Popeye’s, Dairy Queen and Arby’s and also participating independents with Pepsi on the menu.

Users who find these locations, or “Pop spots”, with the app and go there will then be encouraged by both mobile alerts and in-store signs to “check in”. Users that check in at three pop spots will earn “Loot” loyalty points that can then be redeemed for music downloads from Universal Music Group, behind-the-scenes video content for mobile phones from Loot featured artists like Jamie Cullum and Katherine McPhee, or discount and free-food offers from Pop Spot member restaurants.

Thursday, June 3rd

56 people were checked into Bryant Park yesterday afternoon. That’s crazy! I wonder how many people are at this one square block park at any one time. A sign of warm, sunny, weather and a reflection of how fast Foursquare is spreading on this little island called Manhattan.

Tuesday, June 8th

Starcom MediaVest starting to show up on a regular basis as top trending venue during the day. 15 people today at 11am.

I have been wondering whether the Cirque du Soleil that is currently resident at the Beacon is something I would want to see. Yesterday, when I checked into a parking meter near my home, I got a pop up from Anna O. recommending it – though she did comment on the clowns, and I am more interested in the performance/acrobatics/skill elements of CdS. I will text for more info. That also reminded me that I should check the “Tips” from the Beacon for more info. The only potential downside is that people tend not to leave negative tips, so it will be a bit biased.

Slowness of checking-in continues to be a downer. I guess it’s understandable given that foursquare is nearing 1.6 million users

See interview with founder Dennis Crowley from the Mashable social media Summit

Monday, June 14th

DVR’d Dennis Crowley’s interview with Maria Bartiromo. Need to watch and/or record it before Time Warner Cable comes by to fix my cable service.

72 people were checked into the Twitter Conference (TWTRCON NY10) this morning. 50 people were checked in at the Tony’s last night. Sometimes 4SQ alerts me to a place for me to go, or motivates me to get somewhere – such as the Internet Week Expo – but sometimes it’s too late to make plans for it, or I just don’t have the access, which sometimes makes me sad – I admit. Green eyed FourSquenvy.

I realized that it’s probably not a good idea to check in somewhere that it’s illegal to be such as Central Park at 1am. In theory, the Park police could monitor it. I know that they leave tips about venues within the Park.

I sincerely believe that foursquare could be the next facebook. According to what I’ve seen thus far of Dennis’ interview, they do not yet have a working biz model, but are building up the audience, participation and data to have a truly powerful monetization machine (in my own words).

Tuesday, June 15th

It must be summer in Central Park because I’ve seen Delacorte Theater (Shakespeare in the Park) and Summer Stage trending over the last week.

Wednesday, June 16th

Today is the day that someone other than myself checked into my apartment! It was the second place she had ever checked-in, the first being the cafe where we had tea. This hereby justifies – in my mind – my creating a venue for my apartment building.

Thursday, June 17th

This evening a friend emailed about a party at Bar 420.  Aha.  That must be the bar I saw trending – for an instant – back in March!

I would like to have a party that’s big enough to trend.  At this point, I could accomplish it with 5-10 people, but by the time my birthday comes around, and my smartphone-phobic friends sign-on, well…

Wednesday, June 23rd

It seems there was an earthquake in Canada-Michigan this afternoon that was felt as far as New York.  Surfing around Twitter, I was able to ascertain the time of the quake.  1:41pm.  Where was I then?  Well, my foursquare history answered the question for me!  I was coming out of the subway on West 72nd Street.  That explains why I didn’t feel it.  The NY subway always feels like an earthquake.


Life as a Game – The Visions of Dennis Crowley and Jesse Schell

Now that foursquare is cracking down on “cheating,” it won’t let me officially check in at the fruit stand outside my apartment. Instead, my iPhone informs me that I am too far away from the cart. Is it possible that I created the venue from inside my apartment? I don’t believe so. Unfortunately, the functionality of foursquare is limited by the GPS and other geo-location capabilities of the handheld devices.

On a related note, the founders of foursquare suspect that Dodgeball, their first geolocation game, was ahead of its time. When it was created, the means of checking in was text messaging.

I am now foursquare friends with one of its founders, which means that I can see how he personally utilizes it. Thus far, he seems to check-in predominantly at social venues or when doing something social or interesting with the 4Sq team. When Dodgeball was created, the initial purpose – I am told by a woman I met at Lower East Side birthday gathering – was to invite others to join you at a location. It has now become, she feels, about announcing where you are. And, she sadly mused, the initial function will become less useful as the base gets broader.

When Dennis spoke the other night, he said that he was greatly inspired by Nike Plus in developing foursquare and by the idea of (a) making life a game and (b) providing virtual rewards for real actions. What is the value of getting a badge… well, really nothing except that “I did and you didn’t.” And the impact of creating a badge is that the foursquare game influences the real life actions of its players. As I observed personally in my first blog about using foursquare, the Gym Rat badge can be earned by working out 10 times. That motivates people to work out. The pizza badge is earned by checking in to a certain number of pizza venues.

In addition, foursquare can be programmed to provide badges or rewards or recognition for the shout-outs that accompany your check-in. For example, if a sports fan made a Celtics comment in his or her shout-out, she earned a Celtics badge. So many possibilities…

By the by, Dennis’ comments about making life a game and influencing real life behavior via these kinds of rewards systems have a lot in common with Carnegie Mellon Professor Jesse Schell’s “Beyond Facebook” talk at G4 Dice 2010 about a world of game development which will emerge from the popular “Facebook Games” era.

Games, says Schell, are invading the real world — and the runaway popularity of Farmville and Guitar Hero is just the beginning. The future, he predicts, will be one in which 1-ups and experience points break out of the box, as it were, and into every part of our daily lives.  His talk definitely worth viewing.

The Disruption of Book Publishing – This Too Must Change

Digital technology is disrupting long-standing business models across all sectors of media, entertainment and information including, of course, book publishing.

Traditional book publishers are finding the competition for leisure time increasingly intense as digital entertainment options and adoption skyrocket.  Even those who continue to appreciate the value of reading a good book are consuming books in new ways including eBooks; Kindle, iPad and Nook readers; and other mobile devices.

The definition of what a book is and is not is in flux as publishers experiment with multi-media and interactive offerings such as Fourth Story Media’s Amanda Project.  This collaborative fictional mystery for girls is told across a variety of different media including an eight-book series and interactive website where girls can become a character in the story and contribute to the books.

A second example is the recent collaboration between Hyperion Books and ABC Television.  Hyperion Books is a general-interest book publisher within the Disney-ABC Television Group. Cognizant of opportunities and imperatives to redefine traditional publishing models, Hyperion has had several successful initiatives.  These include a highly successful integration with ABC’s Castle television series in which a mystery novel by the show’s protagonist was published serially online before being printed and distributed via traditional channels.

In the non-fiction realm, Flatworld Knowledge has developed a highly disruptive model that allows students and educators to define the way in which they would like to consume and interact with textbook content and do so in accordance with their individual budgets, study habits and other preferences.  And then there is the market for self-publishing and publishing on demand.

The pace of change is picking up speed as Digital Natives, who are used to a “where I want it, when I want it, how I want it” lean-in participatory and social media experience mature – and as the general population becomes more digitally immersed.

During a discussion at the WIMIFuture of Publishing” conference, I asked one of the panelists whether the impetus for creating these types of innovative solutions had created a need for people with less traditional publishing backgrounds and more digital expertise and insight.

I also brought to his attention the work of Campfire (, a Triple Play Client founded by the producers of The Blair Witch Project. Campfire has applied that kind of interactive storytelling to the marketing space, creating multi-faceted narratives that inspire consumers to proactively unravel stories.  Examples include the “Art of the Heist” and “Beta 7.”  While these programs were developed as marketing campaigns, the interactive mindset provides a good stimulus for creative thinking about the opportunities facing book publishers.

Spot the Placement, Place the Spot

As promised in a previous blog posting, I have created a repository for potential product placement (aka brand integration…) spottings:

(1) My Name Is Earl – a few weeks ago — QVC open heart necklace

(2) The Wrestler – no obvious product placement; possibly Tylenol or RAM trucks

(3) Sierra Mist on Colbert, Jan 8, 2009 (as you may know, he makes his placements “humorously” obvious)

(4) Elle Magazine on Ugly Betty. This is an ongoing plot element. Is it possible that HFM is paying for this? – Jan 8, 2009

(5) in Zohan: Sony Erickson phone, possibly Moishe’s moving (local brand?), possibly Sony, itself. – Jan 6, 2009

(6) In “Taken:” Audi automobiles. Somewhat subtle in that the cars were moving so fast that the grill was a little fuzzy, but still obvious to those of us sensitive to this kind of thing. Confirmed in the credits. Positioning consistent with Super Bowl ad, and cars looked good in silver. Audi and Hyundai are two brands taking advantage of the reduced clutter in automotive TV advertising. It will be interesting to see how it plays out., February 27, 2009

(7) Stephen Colbert, March 11, 2009 – Sierra Mist

(8) Frito Lay on The Daily Show – March 2009 – Jon Stewart suggests sponsored medals of honor. Frito Lay is owned by Pepsi; there seems to be a bundled purchase incorporating brand mentions on both Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert shows. I remember when sales executives could not fathom the idea of value added packages a la the magazine world. It was 2003.

(9) Stephen Colbert, first week in April — mention of Sierra Mist during interview with head NAA (Newspaper Association of America) – suggested that newspapers incorporate product placement, e.g., “Obama, while enjoying a refreshing Siera Mist…” (Note that, like Doritos, Sierra Mist is owned by Pepsi. Doritos officially sponsored the “Hail to the Cheese Stephen Colbert’s Nacho Cheese Doritos 2008 Presidential Campaign Coverage.)

(10) “United States of Tara,” April 5, 2009 — Gene Stuart (Nathan Corddry) asks Kate (Brie Larson) for a Sierra Mist – is it coincidental that Sierra Mist is showing up on Colbert and Tara — do they have a brand placement strategy, or is it coincidental? Or does Sierra Mist suggest a particular type of personality for Gene — different than a Coke kind of guy?

(11) “ER,” April 2009: In exchange for an undisclosed amount of money from the Gates Foundation, ER’s producers agreed to a plot line centering on a kidney transplant for one of the leading characters. Promoting organ donation is one of the Gates Foundation’s causes.

(12) Viacom, April 2009 — The Gates Foundation struck a deal called “Get Schooled” with Viacom (MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, BET, etc.) in which the networks will incorporate messaging that promotes education and healthy living.

(13) Jon Stewart, April 15, 2009 — uses Tostitos and Buick as hypothetical brand sponsorship. (The Tostitos brand is owned by Frito Lay, which is owned by Pepsi; Colbert’s Pepsi chip of choice is Doritos.)

(14) Procter & Gamble – in-school sexual education programs and materials: Old Spice, Always, Secret brands.

(15) Stephen Colbert – Pepsi (I think this mystery has been unlocked long ago.)

(16) Hasbro has upcoming films based on its Transformers and G.I. Joe brands set for release this summer, and Monopoly, Clue and even Stretch Armstrong films are in development. In addition, Hasbro will pay Discovery $300 million for a 50% stake in a new network which will replace the existing Discovery Kids (60MM homes), making Hasbro the first kids’ marketer to create a branded cable network. (Ad Age)

(17) KFC Grilled Chicken – “Gary Unmarried” – May 6, 2009 — not even a little bit subtle. 2 bags, one bucket – huge branding/logos. 60 seconds of dialog about the chicken and the “herbs and spices” including, “doesn’t taste like KFC.” “It’s the new Grilled KFC.” The KFC thread follows us throughout the episode including a follow up discussion about the new grilled chicken between Gary and his brother on the floor of a Las Vegas casino.

(18) Stephen Colbert — Sierra Mist, Sierra Mist, Sierra Mist – consumed 5+ cans over the course of the hour and even offered it to his guest – an expert on healthful eating… That said, Colbert does not sell out as he makes fun of the beverage industry’s objection to the currently proposed soda tax.

(19) The Chinese Ugly Betty is evidently out of control with Unilever brand placement of its Dove products. Because the show is set in an ad agency rather than a fashion magazine, there are extensive opportunities for brand integration – much along the lines of our “Mad Men.”

(20) Starbucks sponsorship of MSNBC “The Morning Joe” for $10MM (June 5, 2009)

(21) G-Force film in Gary Unmarried episode July 2009 – Gary given the nickname “G-Force” followed within minutes by an ad for the film in the next pod of commercials.

(22) Desperate Housewives – Sprint (Edie’s shopping bag) and Lexus (nearly an infomercial by Bree)

(23) During season 6 (Jan. 16 May 23, 2007), American Idol featured 4,349 product placement occurrences. As of March 31, 2008, the number of placements featured during season 7 was surgingAmerican Idol had already racked up 3,291 occurrence (Product Placement News)

(24) Product integration/media buy for final episode – $3MM for 2 minute integration and 30 second spot (iMedia podcast – but I’m blanking on the brand at the moment)

(25) When an athlete, e.g., Tiger Woods in U.S. Open, wears a sportswear brand, the manufacturer enjoys a 10% bump in sales. (July 20, 2009)

Read more at “Place the Spot; Spot the Placement.”

Is Shopping a Sport? Heck, yeah.

I have to say I do love sports — but I refer to my own brand of sports – which has little to do with pigskin or cowhide.

For example: Shopping. Today’s retail environment is a wonderful climate for shopping. A bittersweet benefit of the recession. In the last month, I have purchased two Missonis from Intermix — as much as 75% off — and four DVFs from her flagship store in the Meat Packing District — 60% off. It’s all about the hunt, the kill, and the trophy. The trophy is the dress, perhaps, but more importantly the tag that says: $795 marked down to $203.

But I’m not just a “girly girl,” as a friend who has seen two of the dresses likes to say. I also relish the Samsung flat screen purchased for $880 online – no tax or shipping — vs. the same tv for $1100 at Best Buy. Thank you, CNET!

Another form of hunting: Parking spots in NYC. Walking home from watching the fireworks tonight I saw a prime spot on 74th Street between Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues. A huge spot that’s good until 9am on Friday. I was car-less at the time, but I made sure to point it out to an SUV on the prowl down the block.

Similarly, parking garages. I recently moved from one that was $233 to one that is $180 — and one subway stop away. (Again, a side benefit of the unfortunate blight of Wall Street.) This is in comparison to the $300-500 monthly cost for something closer to my apartment.

A third form of hunting is something I like to call “brand integration spotting.” I may make this a regular blog segment – or set up another site – or perhaps Twitter or Facebook with periodic brand-spots. And I invite you to contribute your own spottings. Example: I saw “The Day the Earth Stood Still” tonight and am SURE that LG paid for some product placement — we had several seconds looking at a phone with a huge LG logo. As did Honda — our fair (and flawlessly made up) heroine was spotted by the armed forces driving a small grey Honda. How trendy!

I think this could be a really good game for the new year. One needs to differentiate between: (a) paid placement — usually a somewhat unnatural period of time looking at a logo or product (b) happenstance product usage, e.g., a quick glimpse of a Citizen watch in the movie and (c) brands, etc. that are used for plot-specific reasons, e.g., a shot of Giants stadium with a sign promoting their 2008 Superbowl victory. Was the scene in which there was a brightly lit Pepsi ad in Times Square a placement? (I think it was Pepsi.)

Then of course, there is the manhunt. At any party or social event, it’s fun to see how many shiny pretty fish you can catch even if you end up having to throw them back because they’re too young… or so I’ve heard.