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Viacom Plots SpongeBob Marketing Blitz

Richard Tedesco
Promo Magazine
January 20, 2009

What started out as an amusing cartoon a decade ago is turning into a major marketing franchise for Viacom, which unveiled T-shirts and a jewelry line last week to kick off a merchandising campaign around its iconic SpongeBob SquarePants character.

Nickelodeon and Viacom Consumer Products has collaborated with Humanity, a cause-driven clothing firm, to create five SpongeBob T-shirts tied to Nickelodeon’s ongoing Big Green Help campaign. The shirts, part of a water conservation campaign, “SpongeBob and You Save the Big Blue,” made their debut as celebrity gifts at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah over the weekend.

The shirts celebrating the cartoon character’s 10th anniversary will be in retail outlets at a $98 price point later this year.

A $75,000 12-carat diamond-encrusted SpongeBob pendant was to be auctioned off at the Sundance Festival as the first blush of a product line being developed with Simmons Jewelry for release later this year. A live SpongeBob cast reading was staged as a prelude to the auction.

The SpongeBob merchandising campaign is one of Viacom’s top business priorities for the year, according to Hal Snik, NCVP senior vice president of domestic licensing. He said that all segments of the diverse media company would be involved.

“These are just the first of many new partnerships that we’ll be announcing with SpongeBob,” Snik said. “We’re trying to find relationships for products like those with Humanity or Simmons [Jewelry] that are special, hand-crafted, unique and high-end.”

The T-shirts, adorned with crystals and images of marine life, feature SpongeBob next to a garbage can labeled, “Save the Big Blue.” Some sales proceeds go to the Natural Resources Defense Council and the National Wildlife Federation.

NVCP has also partnered with Simmons Jewelry to create a line of jewelry and watches, also to be sold in retail stores later this year with prices ranging from $25 for enamel pieces to $300 for gold and silver adornments.

While the core audience for SpongeBob is kids aged 2-11, Viacom is well aware of its adult appeal and intends to play to that audience with its marketing around the character this year and next year.

“This is sort of the beginning of the second decade of SpongeBob,” Snik said.

A documentary about the development and history of the cartoon series will debut later this year across all of the MTV networks. Nickelodeon also plans a two-day SpongeBob marathon in July, when it will air more than 100 episodes of the animated series.

Paramount Pictures will also likely play a role by screening a SpongeBob short in movie theaters sometime this year.

 

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