Lifetime is stepping up its marketing efforts for Project Runway ahead of the design competition's season 10 premiere, undertaking several new initiatives this year, including a "virtual runway" installation that's said to be the first of its kind in the U.S.
Tim Nolan, senior vp marketing, creative and brand strategy at Lifetime Networks, told The Hollywood Reporter that the marketing budget for the show this year is bigger than in previous seasons, though he declined to give specific figures or say by how much.
"For a cable TV launch of a show, it's a significant commitment," he said. "It's one of our three tentpoles, and it's a show we're still wildly crazy about investing in. To complete in the competition show [arena] you have to be competitive with your budget. It's also important to recognize that it's season 10 and that we've had the same talent for 10 seasons and recognize their commitment to the show."
Nolan said the extra money is mostly being spent on TV spots this year but pointed to several new initiatives to celebrate the show's decade on the air (it started out on Bravo before moving to Lifetime with season six in 2009).
Among them is a 20-foot-long interactive installation on the High Line, an elevated freight rail line transformed into a public park on Manhattan’s West Side. Passersby can walk the "virtual runway" and get nods of approval or disapproval from host Heidi Klum, mentor Tim Gunn and judges Michael Kors and Nina Garcia.
The installation will be in place from Monday-Thursday between West 15th and West 16th Streets, and a VIP red-carpet private even twill be held at the High Line on Tuesday.
"We wanted to capture something unique and dynamic for the new season," Nolan said, adding that execs reached out to several agencies. The idea of the interactive installation came from U.K.-based Civic Entertainment Group and Nexus Interactive Arts. Nolan said this is only the second of its kind in the world (the first was on display at a trade show in Asia).
"Everyone wants to be a fashionista, and everyone would love to have that experience of being on the runway," Nolan said. "This will let fans experience Heidi pointing and nodding in approval or turning to Tim Gunn, who might have his fingers on his chin in disapproval. It's quite a feat to be able to get all the talent to pose and shoot and be installed inthis gigantic 20-foot screen."
Beyond Manhattan, another marketing initiative will let fans frequent a nearby pop-up Project Runway booth to pose for what the show is calling a "Make It Work" moment and share them via social media channels. The photo shoot backdrop hits Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and Boston.
"The most iconic piece of our runway is the scrim, where models walk behind and create shadows," he said. "Fans can stand in front of a white scrim, have their photo taken and send it to their families."
Meanwhile, the reality competition has inked a partnership with Lord & Taylor as the show’s new retail sponsor. The specialty department store chain will supply the 16 designers with its usual wall of handbags, accessories and shoes to complement competition looks each week. Previous retail sponsors of the reality competition include Macy’s, Bluefly, Banana Republic and Piperlime, while Neiman Marcus sponsors the All Stars seasons.
Additionally, L&T's Fifth Avenue flagship store will proctor an upcoming challenge and feature the winner’s collection in its location. The episode will air Aug. 30.
“The mission of the show is very much in alignment with Lord & Taylor’s legacy of launching the careers of major American designers,” Bonnie Brooks, president of L&T parent company Hudson’s Bay Co., told WWD. The flagship location will also host past and present Project Runway contestants during this year’s Fashion’s Night Out.
Among other promotional efforts, the fashion competition last week released Project Runway: The Show That Changed Fashion, featuring behind-the-scenes features and interviews with the judges and mentors. Klum, who penned the paperback's introduction, signed copies of the official commemorative book Friday at the Barnes & Noble on 46th and Fifth in New York.
As part of a buzz-generating campaign, the recently rebranded network sent out "bedazzled" scissors to key influencers in fashion and entertainment asking them to send a picture of them "making it work" -- one of Gunn's catchphrases. Lifetime says the "retweets" generated more than 6 million impressions. Parallel to that, the network used images of Klum and Gunn posing with scissors that were posted on billboards and in kiosks. (Watch a behind-the-scenes video of Klum's shoot below.)
"Our marketing hook for this season is, 'it's all about the scissors,'" Nolan said. "It's the classic tool, and this season, it's 'cut or be cut.'"
Meanwhile, a "Make It Work in NYC" sweepstakes will gives fans the chance to win tickets to the Project Runway finale, $10,000 cash and a first class trip to New York.
The 10th season of Project Runway premieres at 9 p.m. EST on Thursday. EST. Parenthood actress Lauren Graham and famed costume designer Patricia Field of Sex and the City and The Devil Wears Prada serve as guest judges for the show’s first runway show in Times Square.