ATLANTA -- Georgia-Pacific Corp. here is broadening its use of celebrity spokesmen and women to improve the reach and awareness of its brands.
The company has connected its Angel Soft bath tissue brand to TV personality Kelly Ripa, and has intensified its relationships between Sparkle paper towels and country music artist Lee Ann Womack, and Brawny paper towels and NASCAR driver Richard Petty. At the same time, it just inked a three-year contract between Major League Soccer and three of its value brands: Mardi Gras towels and napkins, Zee napkins and Soft 'n Gentle bath tissue.
"Our use of spokespeople is becoming a lot more impactful," said Rob Lorys, vice president, marketing, consumer products, Georgia-Pacific, whose board of directors approved in May separating the company into two publicly traded companies -- a consumer products and packaging company and a building products and distribution company.
Each of the partnerships is being used for a distinct marketing strategy. Ripa is being leveraged for cause marketing; Womack, entertainment marketing; Petty, sports marketing; and MLS, ethnic marketing.
While the company -- which also manufacturers Quilted Northern and Dixie, among other brands -- won't say if other contracts are in the works, Lorys said its use of spokesmen and women will persist.
"What you'll see from us is continued use of celebrity spokespeople in an integrated strategy that includes the Internet, consumer promotions, advertising, packaging and live appearances," said Lorys.
The tactic has had positive results, said Lorys, citing that the company has attained double-digit growth on Sparkle towels over the last few years.
That's not to say there aren't challenges. Among them: establishing an exclusive relationship with its celebrity partners. According to Lorys, a lot of "me-too" companies have tried to woo the celebrities away from Georgia-Pacific.
It's worth the effort, said Lorys, because celebrities help the company compete with manufacturers that have larger advertising budgets.
Following is a summary of the partnerships:
The co-host of "Live with Regis and Kelly" and actress in "All My Children" is the first spokeswoman for the Angels in Action Awards program, a two-year-old effort sponsored by Angel Soft that rewards children who do good deeds for their community, charity or cause.
Ripa was a perfect fit because she's high profile, a mother of two, and promotes dedication to family and community, said Lorys.
Ripa is being used in a targeted media relations effort, including public relations and a freestanding insert that reached more than 42 million households. In six weeks, Ripa generated 30 million impressions. The program will conclude in October with an event hosted by Ripa to honor this year's recipients.
The goal of the Angels in Action program is to bond with consumers and show them that Georgia-Pacific has brands it can trust, said Lorys.
"We work very hard to give our brands a soul," said Lorys.
LEE ANN WOMACK
Georgia-Pacific has worked with Womack for the last four years. The relationship began with a test program in Nashville in which Womack was featured in a country music promotion for Sparkle. The company has strengthened the relationship over the last year to include PR and advertising. It even plans to put her image on packaging.
Richard Petty was recruited because Brawny users tend to be NASCAR fans. His image was featured on three-packs of Brawny this past April and May.
While the Petty packaging didn't have a significant impact on sales volume, the promotion generated high-profile PR, including stories in the "The Wall Street Journal" and on "Good Morning America." Lorys estimates the company benefited from about $5 million in free PR.
Georgia-Pacific remains committed to the relationship. It's been using Petty in corporate advertising sports, and plans to rename the No. 44 Georgia-Pacific NASCAR car the Brawny car.
MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER
Along with featuring the MLS emblem on Mardi Gras packaging, Georgia-Pacific is tying into all MLS games through the use of signage. It also just kicked off an on-pack promotion. Consumers who send in proofs of purchase can get an MLS soccer ball. Other offers will rotate throughout the year for merchandise like team jerseys and banners.