Levis, unbuttoned and cut out of the closet

Updated: Sep 30 2008, 07:52am hrs
Decades ago, networks titled shows for the sponsors that paid the bills, among them Kraft Music Hall, Schlitz Playhouse of Stars, Camel News Caravan and Colgate Comedy Hour. Now, a familiar apparel label is teaming up with a cable channel to lend its name to 30 weeks of unbuttoned programming. The Levis 501 button-fly line of jeans sold by Levi Strauss & Co is joining with the Logo unit of MTV Networks, owned by Viacom, for a campaign called Logo Unbuttoned. Logo has signed sponsorship deals with other mainstream marketers like Orbitz, Stolichnaya and Subaru. The Logo Unbuttoned title echoes the phrase Live Unbuttoned, which is the theme of a worldwide campaign for Levis 501. The budget for the campaign, which also includes promotions, events and social media, is estimated at more than $1 million. Levis 501 will be the sole sponsor of a programme block that Logo plans to introduce on October 12, Saturday Nights Unbuttoned Presented by Levis, which will run from 1 to 3 am on Sunday mornings. The shows will be the first on Logoa basic-cable channel available in 33 million homes.

The programming will include series like The Big Gay Sketch Show, Queer as Folk and The L Word; music videos; comedy shows with Mario Cantone and Joan Rivers; theatrical movies like Fighting Tommy Riley; and short films. As up-to-date as the technology is, the naming sponsorship is back to the50s, said Brian Graden, president at Logo and president for entertainment at the MTV Networks Music Group in New York. Advertisers are looking for clear associations with a franchise or a show, promoting themselves beyond a 30-second commercial, he added.

Advertising and marketing are changing really radically, said Robert Cameron, vice-president for marketing for the Levis brand at Levi Strauss in San Francisco. Its all about engagement, he added. You want to offer something of value to your consumers, and your brand rides along.

NY Times / Stuart Elliott