It looks like Kellie Pickler loves her some Cracker Barrel.
The restaurant chain is integrated into Thursday night’s episode of CMT’s I Love Kellie Pickler as part of a multi-platform sponsorship deal.
On the show, the singer and her husband, Kyle Jacobs, eat at Cracker Barrel to celebrate his parents’ 44th wedding anniversary.
The choice of eatery is appropriate because one of Kellie and Kyle’s first dates was at Cracker Barrel. They tell the story of how they sat in the chain’s iconic rocking chairs talking and missed being called when their table was ready.
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Pickler also has a merchandising deal with Cracker Barrel, which sells her line of home goods items.
Cracker Barrel has billboards and spots during the episode. CMT has also shot video of Pickler at the restaurant answering questions in a series of #AskKellie videos that will be posted on Instrgram. The web video is being promoted via the network’s social media handles.
"Cracker Barrel has been a CMT sponsor, but never to the point of us actually creating a custom campaign like we have here with an integration and ancillary branded content pieces,” said Adam Steingart, CMT’s head of integrated marketing.
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The restaurant chain had been talking to the network about expanding their relationship with Pickler and the channel for about a year and a half, Steingart said.
“Production has been looking to find a way to put Cracker Barrel authentically into the story,” Steingart says. “It really worked out for us this go around because their flight just aligned with the show. It was a very serendipitous moment.” Steingart declined to say how much Cracker Barrel would be spending on CMT. “They really stepped up their relationship with us this year, specifically as it relates to Kellie,” he said.
Steingart expects the branded content to be well received because it is low key and authentic.
“Cracker Barrel was on board with this. We didn’t have to hammer home that they were inside Cracker Barrel. Nothing was forced. It was a very authentic moment with Kelly in one of those iconic rocking chairs that they have at every Cracker Barrel you’ve ever gone to just talking,” he said. “I think these things work best when you work with a partner who understands how best to engage with the consumer.
Pickler’s participation is also important.
“She’s been a great spokesperson for the CMT brand, very sponsor friendly and just game to do anything. And she does it in a very natural way [that] never feels forced so we’re very happy with her,” Steingart said.
About a year ago, CMT did an integration with Sonic. When she was on American Idol, Pickler told a story about how her first job was at a Sonic restaurant. The network has Pickler go to a Sonic, lace up her skates and relive her experience there.
She was also involved in a sponsorship deal with Ram. Ram relaunched its brand with country music fans with a rising star program and Pickler was one of those stars.
After this week’s custom campaign, will Cracker Barrel be back for another helping?
“At this point we’re anticipating that everything is going to be successful and we’re always having ongoing conversations with folks over at Cracker Barrel like all of our other partners,” Steingart said. “Once we get through this we’ll go back and regroup with them to see how we continue and evolve our relationship with them.”
Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.
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