Integration partners key as ‘Biggest Loser’ returns

General Mills, Subway return for promotional opportunities

When it comes to brand partnerships, NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” set the pull-up bar high for its latest season.

As the weight-loss competition show returns for a 14th cycle, so do many of the brands that lend their name, services, products and messaging to the skein. General Mills, Subway, Planet Fitness, Brita and Jennie-O Turkey have signed back on as integration partners for this season, and Walgreens has joined the brand slate in a more involved role than in previous cycles.

Vivi Zigler, topper of Shine 360 and Digital at Shine America, the shingle that produces “Loser,” is quick to note that brands are put through a “very rigorous process” before being given the OK to join forces with the “Biggest Loser” franchise.

“The sponsors on this show are more than media or integration sponsors,” Zigler explained to Variety. “They are trying to do more. It isn’t just a media buy for NBC, since these brands are able to activate themselves and make a difference.”

“Biggest Loser’s” subject matter makes it a gold mine for marketing opportunities and merchandising, as diet and fitness remain fixtures of the pop culture dialogue, particularly at this point in the calendar, when New Year’s resolutions are still fresh in consumers’ minds.

The launch of “Biggest Loser’s” Challenge America campaign, which calls viewers to weekly health challenges like “Cut the Junk” and “Eat Right on a Budget” with complementary site Biggestloser.com, offers brands an expanded opportunity to integrate themselves into the “Loser” franchise this season.

“Health is a broad-based topic. You can’t throw a rock in the media and not hear about a new study on weight loss,” Zigler said. “Challenge America allows the show to be broad based this time, reaching out to new groups.”

Subway, for example, will be promoting Challenge America in its restaurants, and General Mills will include Challenge America messaging on its product packaging. Planet Fitness will offer Challenge America participants who have registered on Biggestloser.com an exclusive, lower rate to join the gym.

This season’s focus on childhood obesity has also led to a new spin on “Biggest Loser’s” marketing front.

Brita will give a $10,000 grant and hydration stations to the schools and communities of “Biggest Loser’s” three youth participants to promote health and wellness. While the teens and tykes on season 14 of “Loser” won’t be competing in the weight loss competish like the adults, they will participate in brand partnerships, including Seventeen magazine’s “Body Peace Project,” which encourages a positive body image.

NFL Play 60, the league’s youth health and fitness campaign, will also promote a healthier lifestyle this season.

“Brands know that ‘Biggest Loser’ is a great environment for them,” Zigler said. “They’re excited. They carry that excitement into their stores, services and products. That’s a unique aspect of this show.”