Bravo Bakes in Twitter, Blogger Buzz for Top Chef Campaign

grubst3Bravo is targeting sweet-toothed Internet users with a covert dessert campaign in the lead-up to tonight’s premiere of the second season of “Top Chef Just Desserts.” The cable channel is running unbranded ads featuring closeups of fudgy cookies oozing with ice cream and tarts topped with fresh raspberries, and creating buzz by asking Twitter users to respond to questions about sinful treats, and sending gooey gifts to influential bloggers.

Bravo has partnered with digital agency 360i on a social promotion targeting foodies and dessert lovers. Using an element of surprise, it seeks to turn this already devoted fan base into evangelists for the pastry chef competition show.

Whether or not these dessert fans will tune in to the premiere remains to be seen, but, at the very least, Bravo has seen a bump in its social channels as a result of the campaign: According to a rep, @BravoTopChef has gained 1,100 followers and the Top Chef Just Desserts Facebook page now has an additional 18,000 likes, bringing it to nearly 98,000. The campaign launched August 10.

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First, Bravo has placed unbranded display ads spotlighting dessert graphics on websites like Grub Street, Menupages, and Foodbuzz. The ads link to Bravo’s Facebook page, where they can enter a sweepstakes to win free desserts for a month, watch a preview clip, and learn about the show. Top Chef Just Desserts has nearly 98,000 likes on Facebook.

According to Julie Riven, VP of marketing at Bravo, desserts hail from vendors like Crumbs Cupcakes, Jacques Torres Chocolates, Baked, and Dylan’s Candy Bar.

Bravo is also mining Twitter in this campaign, tweeting four questions each day about desserts such as “Brownie or Blondie?” and “Are cupcakes over?” And, the channel is asking users to respond with a #justdesserts hashtag. The @BravoTopChef handle has 37,000 followers.

“Followers who participate are, for the most part, unaware that they are actually entering a sweepstakes,” added Riven.

Twenty of these Twitter users are selected each day to win prizes like iTunes credit, movie passes, cupcake kits and Top Chef cookbooks.

And, finally, Bravo is surprising bloggers celebrating various life events with giveaways like cupcakes from Baked by Melissa. “For the special occasion surprises, 360i’s Influencer Marketing team compiled a master list of influencers and took note of who was celebrating what. These milestones ranged from adopting a new pet, to getting a promotion and even just taking a vacation,” Riven said. “We sent cupcakes to their day job offices for them to share with their friends and colleagues. This was more targeted to bloggers and influencers in the entertainment space.”

The network is also providing Top Chef University memberships and KitchenAid mixers to foodie bloggers in celebration of the show’s return. The aim here is to earn lasting awareness and affinity with food and baking bloggers, Riven said Riven.

“By sending them kitchen tools, we not only give them a reason to turn their TVs on to Top Chef Just Desserts and see where the gift is coming from, but we also provided them with tools that would fuel their passion – direct from the Top Chef kitchen.”

All in all, it adds up to more than 270 gifts bestowed.

Riven said the challenge here was to “leverage these influencers and generate excitement so that they would spread the word and share their passion with their friends and fan base.”

And, as far as Sarah Hofstetter, 360i’s SVP of brand strategy and emerging media, is concerned, Bravo is doing exactly what it should be doing to re-engage the 1.5 million viewers who tuned in to the finale of the show last season.

“Beyond raising awareness, Bravo is creating relationships and building loyal communities of viewers who are excited to connect with the network before, during and after their favorite shows air – something that is increasingly powerful as TV consumption habits continue to shift with consumer behavior,” said Hofstetter.

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