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Kohl’s Replaces JCPenney As Oscar’s Retail Sponsor, Battling Unglamorous Reputation

For 14 years JCPenney struggled to position itself among the glitz of Oscar night. This year Kohl’s faces the same challenge.

After 14 years of JCPenney serving as the sole retail sponsor of the Academy Awards, this year’s event will see the chain stepping away from the Oscars and leaving its slot to Kohl’s, which faces both risks and rewards for its own cross-channel marketing plans.

The Oscars, along with the Super Bowl and other big name events, is one of the biggest advertising opportunities in the country for companies who want to convert TV viewing movie fans into in-store shoppers by dint of higher brand affinity associated with high profile placement and commercials during the broadcast.

Kohl's' Will Setliff
Kohl’s’ Will Setliff

At a time when media is intensely fragmented and people are rarely all watching the same thing at the same time, live, star-studded shows like the Oscars are a rare occasion for TV to take center stage in a company’s cross-channel promotions. Despite low ratings for last years event, ABC is expecting record prices for ad time this year, at $2.2 million for a 30 second spot. Last year’s Oscars saw JCPenney pull out all the stops in an ambitious cross-channel ad campaign involving a second screen experience on a mobile app and steady ads played throughout promoting the brand.

Kohl’s has yet to announce what their specific advertising plans will be for this year’s event (aside from the fact that Kohl’s is planning having a “massive social presence” during the debate, according to Ad Age), but following in the footsteps of JCPenney may be the key the retailer needs to reach a demographic they’ve been struggling with in recent years: women.

JCPenney attempted to brand the Academy Awards last year as a sort of “Super Bowl for women,” as a way to counteract their reputation as a retailer for older people of middling taste and fashion.

Kohl’s finds itself in a similar position as a retailer known for bargain prices and not carrying high end name brand fashion labels. Similarly, Kohl’s has struggled to bring young women into their stores due to that reputation. So while viewers are drinking in images of Hollywood stars in gorgeous designer dresses, Kohl’s must walk a fine line between comfortably associating themselves with glamor of Oscar night in consumer’s minds or risking looking even plainer and less desirable by comparison.

In Kohl’s estimation, it wouldn’t matter. In a statement, executive VP of marketing at Kohl’s Will Setliff said “[i]t isn’t about the glamour, it’s about the human emotion of having accomplished something with the help of everyone — that’s the connection we want to create with the Oscars.”

About The Author
Daniel Parisi Daniel Parisi @daniel_parisi_

Daniel Parisi is a New York City-based writer and recent graduate of the University of Maryland. Daniel specializes in coverage of mobile payments, loyalty programs, and the Internet of Things.