Idol Signs Three Major Sponsors

Fox has re-enlisted Ford and Coca-Cola as primary sponsors for the second installment of hit talent show American Idol
and added a third major sponsor, AT&T Wireless.

Sources say the trio will pay record sums for reality-show ad packages: close to $20 million each. That buys them fully integrated sponsorship packages that include product placement, weekly product interstitials woven into the content, and an array of unique promotions that viewers will start seeing when the second American Idol begins to take form Jan. 21.

A couple of years ago, sponsorships for the CBS reality show Survivor, the previous record holder, had been priced at the $12 million to $13 million range.

This year, in addition, two advertisers have stepped up to purchase secondary sponsorships, which include similar features to those for the big backers but are smaller in scope. Those "associate" sponsors, as Fox refers to them, are P&G brand Clairol's Herbal Essences and Old Navy, the retail clothing chain.

Jon Nesvig, president of Fox advertising, would not confirm the price tag but says Fox limited the sponsorships to five. "If you put too many integrated ad packages into one program, it really starts looking a little cumbersome."

The five sponsors take up a little less than half the total commercial spots in the series. The rest of the time is tied to reconfigured upfront packages with some scatter time available as well. Most but not all of that time is already sold, says Nesvig.

Ford is expanding its presence in the second installment with the "Ford Focus Room," where contestants hang out before and after auditions to share their feelings with viewers. Ford vehicles will be showcased throughout the series.

The program will once again feature the Coca-Cola Red Room, and regular "Coke Behind the Scenes" features will pop up periodically.

AT&T Wireless will introduce viewers to an array of new products. Under its deal, it will also bring exclusive show-related content to its 20.2 million wireless-phone subscribers.

Clairol will supply contestants with hair-care products, and the finalists will get makeovers.

Old Navy featured five of last year's Idol
finalists in holiday TV spots and is creating a major promotional tie-in to the show. Details to follow.