Subaru Suits Up for Kitten Bowl Debut

As the Broncos prepare to tackle the Panthers in Super Bowl 50, some advertisers are betting on kittens.

On Super Sunday, Hallmark Channel will air its third annual Kitten Bowl. Subaru, a new advertiser for Hallmark Channel, has signed up as a sponsor of the feline event, joining returning sponsors Reckitt Benkiser, Church & Dwight, Little Debbie and PetSmart.

The Super Bowl is TV’s biggest draw, but some competing networks have come up with stunts to interest viewers and advertisers on the big day, including Animal Planet’s 12-year old Puppy Bowl and National Geographic Wild’s Fish Bowl.

Last year’s Kitten Bowl drew 2.2 million viewers and was up in most key demos. “We’ve found that Super Bowl Sunday is a day when families stay home and the TV is on,” said Ed Georger, executive VP for ad sales at family-friendly Hallmark Channel.

The Kitten Bowl worked like catnip during the upfront for Hallmark, which had some fun creating unique packages for advertisers that mirror those used during real major sporting events, including unique digitalonly programming.

While ads on CBS’ broadcast of the Super Bowl are selling for more than $5 million for 30 seconds, last year spots on the Kitten Bowl sold for between $7,000 and $8,000, while Puppy Bowl spots sold for $12,000 to $13,000, according to advertising research and analytics fi rm SQAD.

Subaru, which often features pets in its advertising, will also be the sponsor of the Kitten Bowl’s slow-motion replay camera. In addition to the Kitten Bowl, Subaru has an ad schedule on the network that will run a couple of quarters, Georger said.

Church & Dwight, which sells kitty litter under the Arm & Hammer Brand, will have signage up at the Kitten Bowl stadium and will be the exclusive partner for updates from CatCenter, a news and highlights show modeled on ESPN’s SportsCenter.

Little Debbie, a brand with a lot of history, will sponsor nostalgic looks back at great moments in Kitten Bowl History. Reckitt Benckiser, which makes Resolve carpet cleaner, sponsors halftime. “We know we might have some cleaning up to do,” says Georger.

The retail sponsor is PetSmart, which is a big booster of pet adoption, a key theme of the Kitten Bowl. The network says that all of the 90 cats that participated in the fi lming of the game were available for adoption and have joined families.

“Across the board, one of the things that works for these advertisers is they all have direct messages to the passionate pet owner, much like a sporting event would have a connection to the passionate sports enthusiast,” says Georger.

Hallmark Channel says it delivered a rich audience of pet owners. For Kitten Bowl II, 81% of those watching were pet owners, compared to 60% of all fi rst-quarter cable viewers. And 64% of the Kitten Bowl audience were cat owners. Game viewers were 129% more likely to be cat owners than the average cable viewer.

Hallmark Channel will be promoting the Kitten Bowl during its live Home & Family show, which will have segments on animal adoption featuring host Beth Stern.

The Kitten Bowl is part of Hallmark’s year-round event programming strategy. The network is coming off a successful Countdown to Christmas and is in the midst of what it’s calling its Winterfest campaign, featuring original movies on Saturday nights.

The channel moves into February with Kitten Bowl and a Valentine’s Day event. After that, its original series When Calls the Heart and The Good Witch return, leading into wedding season in June

Jon Lafayette

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.