Beginning Saturday, the company is launching a month-long promotion blitz in Panama City Beach, Fla., that will place its CK Calvin Klein brands in front of about 600,000 college students during their spring break vacations, and not just on billboards.
Airplanes will fly the length of the beach for five hours a day dragging 60-foot-long CK banners; the staff of a local nightclub will be outfitted entirely in CK; concerts will be sponsored by Calvin Klein; deejays will plug CK Watches as the “official timepiece of spring break,” and Travis, the face of Calvin Klein underwear and jeans ads since October, will be on hand signing autographs and judging swimsuit contests. Calvin Klein’s logos will also be stamped on beach balls, bandannas and water bottles, hotel occupants will receive CK postcards at check-in and nightclub guests will receive admission hand-stamps in the shape of a CK that smell like its fragrance.
While Calvin Klein may have naturally enjoyed a lot of inadvertent product placement at spring break festivities in the past, considering the prevalence of pants-dropping and general underpants exposure among college revelers, the Panama City Beach promotion marks its first intentional spring break campaign. The company worked with YouthStream Media Networks to facilitate the various components of its campaign and sponsorship of concerts, beach and nightclub events being orchestrated during the month.
The brands are expected to get a huge amount of grassroots exposure with a demographic that often shuns traditional department stores and malls in comparison to a relatively nominal cost. While the company did not break out the cost of the campaign, the bulk of its expenses are expected to be from product giveaways, which will mostly be handled by CK licensees that are providing free prizes such as 400 pairs of sunglasses, 500 women’s and 200 men’s underwear, 200 watches and thousands of other items.
YouthStream, which is one of the largest college event promoters in the country, was also retained by the Panama City Beach Chamber of Commerce to facilitate sponsors and organization of its spring break activities. The resort, according to Debi Knight, president of the local chamber, was rated the top spring break destination in the world and one of the top-10 beaches in America by the Travel Channel and, because of its location in the northwest corner of the state, just east of Pensacola, boasts easy access to vacationers throughout the country. The city is also the state’s second largest automobile destination, ranking after Orlando.
Its spring break festivities have drawn a number of sponsorships in recent years, like an appearance by popcorn pro Orville Redenbacher and promotions from Kelloggs, Reebok, cell phone companies, clothing and computer stores and Internet firms all looking to reach an affluent, college age demographic. Levi’s, DKNY and Tommy Hilfiger have promoted their brands at spring break celebrations in the past in similar ways, although in Klein’s case, the brands might appear to take over the entire city. At the Spinnaker Beach Club, for instance, access to the VIP lounge on Wednesdays and Sundays will be gained by guests who wear Calvin Klein underwear or jeans, which would only be appropriate considering the entire room will be decked out in CK images, right down to the barware, napkins, matchbooks and cups.
“In this day and age in the media, everybody has already done everything,” said Kim Vernon, senior vice president of global advertising and marketing and head of CRK Advertising, Calvin Klein’s in-house ad agency. “Other people have done spring break, but nobody has done it as thoroughly as what we are doing in Panama City Beach by taking the time to integrate our products into the whole mix. There will be other sponsors there, but I don’t think they’re even going to be noticeable. We will have completely taken over the city.”
The promotion will also extend throughout the CK brand empire, with a focus on its men’s and junior jeans and underwear, plus other events for CK One fragrance, CK swimwear, watches, eyewear and socks. Most of its beach and daytime activities like concerts and contest judging will be centered around “The Spot” — a beach installation built by YouthStream with a performance stage, deejay booths, decks and activity spaces. The Spinnaker Beach Club is about 10 feet away. In total, CK brands will be associated with some 20 activities and contests, including CK Jeans on the “Main Stage at Spinnaker” and Calvin Klein Swimwear’s construction of a special “beach pavilion” made of canvas that matches one of its signature prints for the spring season.
Among the contests in the works are underwear or bikini fashion shows, or more challenging events that may, for instance, require contestants of opposite sexes to race to change into one another’s swimsuits.
“The whole spirit of spring break is to have fun and relax,” Vernon said. “It’s a great supplement to image branding and traditional media campaigns to bring the product to the people, and this particular demographic doesn’t necessarily shop in traditional department stores or malls. In this situation, you have a chance to do a lot of sampling, a lot of branding and to integrate a lot of the product into what they’re doing every day.”
Following the Panama City Beach festivities, Calvin Klein will continue working with YouthStream on a number of initiatives targeted at promoting the brand on 150 college campuses. CRK has initially placed Calvin Klein ads on kiosks on 24 high-population campuses, including Northeastern University, Kent State, Rutgers, Clemson, Florida State and several other state universities.