How the WB Helped Sunkist Get Its Music On

October 1, 2006

The list of brands that use music as a marketing platform is long. Coke, Chevrolet, Abercrombie & Fitch and many others. The list of brands that want to find a way to create a relevant association with music is even longer. Sunkist was on the second list and took a novel approach. Instead of slapping a banner onstage and sponsoring a tour, or simply chasing music video product placement, Sunkist called The WB. The result was a program that blends the best elements of sponsorship, branded entertainment and return on investment.

The WB had broken new ground utilizing music as both a programming enhancement and a way for sponsors to add value to their associations with their show Dawson's Creek. Making music a big part of their shows continues. Music is a boon for sponsors and equally for musicians. For an artist to have one of their pieces as the theme to a series on The WB, or even to be the song that runs during the end credits, is money in the bank.

For example, One Tree Hill's theme "I Don't Want To Be" became a #1 hit single on top 40 radio for Gavin DeGraw. DeGraw's label re-released his debut album and sold over 1 million copies

The WB had credibility with fans of music. The WB was also, arguably, the only network where the brand (The WB) meant something to Sunkist's target audience. 12- to 34-year-olds watched the shows like Gilmore Girls and Smallville. Unlike other networks, The WB knew that this age group was likely to watch, or at least sample, any show on The WB.

These two strengths of The WB provided the perfect cornerstone for the Sunkist program.

One Tree Hill was The WB show that made the most sense for Sunkist. One Tree Hill stars Chad Michael Murray and James Lafferty as two estranged brothers growing up in a small North Carolina town called Tree Hill. Tree Hill High is the name of the high school which Lucas, Nathan, and their friends attend.

It's been a critics' favorite. The Wall Street Journal said "The WB's One Tree Hill, a slick prime-time drama about a small town packed with hunky teenagers and simmering family secrets, is one of the fastest-growing shows on network television." The Star Ledger crooned ""One Tree Hill is a welcome surprise...Every choice it makes from pacing to photography to music seems just about right, and the casting is inspired..."

This is an example of a hit show with teens that also has relevance to music fans. Against this backdrop, The WB created a winning program for Sunkist.

When Sunkist created their tie-in with One Tree Hill and The WB they didn't know they'd be
increasing the size of their bank account. But that's what happened. Sunkist had one objective: align the Sunkist brand with music. Allison Tarrant, who creates custom programs for partners of The WB, knew about an upcoming story arc in One Tree Hill. Peyton, a main character in the show, starts a record label. The story in the series was that the label would release a compilation album with the proceeds from the sale of CDs and downloads going to Cancer Research.

The on-air story about the release of the compilation album coincided with the "real life" release of the second One Tree Hill soundtrack release. Sunkist and The WB followed this 1-2 music release up with a 6 market mall tour. With Chad Michael Murray as a key cast member of One Tree Hill it is not hard to imagine fans turning out to "say hello." The fan response to the tour was terrific and the viewer response to the Sunkist tie-in was very strong.

The results are in. "Point Of Sale" displays increased +6.5% in March for Sunkist as the trade had a lever to activate with this promotion. All Channel Volume (ACV) sales increased +5.5% in March with convenience sales up +7.5%. Sunkist total market share of "Orange" grew +4.7 points in All Channel Volume during the month of March.

In Tarrant's view another key measure of the program's success was that Sunkist is already asking "what's next?"

Measures of Success

  • Storyline Integration: Prominent storyline integration in three episodes, including Sunkist's integral role as sponsor of Peyton's ‘Friends with Benefit' Tour. Cadbury Schweppes products used on set throughout the season.

  • Sunkist: One Tree Hill ‘Friends with Benefit' Tour, a Five Market Mall Tour with proceeds going to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

  • Sunkist's Ultimate Orange Beach Party Sweepstakes. Fan and 15 friends won a trip to Miami for a private concert and party with the cast.

  • The sweepstakes messaging/link to entry page on Original broadband content covering every stop from the tour, photo galleries, fan blogs.

  • Sunkist advertising. On-pack and POS promotional including 7-11 exclusive extension. Inclusion in television and online media campaigns

  • "Point Of Sale" displays increased +6.5% in March for Sunkist as the trade had a lever to activate.

  • All Channel Volume (ACV) sales increased +5.5% in March with convenience sales up +7.5%.

  • Sunkist total market share of "Orange" grew +4.7 points in All Channel Volume during the month of March

  • Viewer response according to IAG Research - very strong!


"Best Practices in Branded Entertainment: Case Studies and Accountability." Richard C. Sutton with Barbara Zack. New York: ANA, 2006.