Back in 2002 HERO received a call inquiring about our services. The call was from Tom Sullivan, founder of Lumber Liquidators. He wanted product placement representation for what was then a small chain of thirty-five hardwood flooring stores. Though there was no real product placement model for a brand of this type, we believed that if we put the right amount of effort and creativity into the account we could succeed. Eleven years later, Lumber Liquidators is a publicly traded company with 255 locations and HERO is still on board. In fact, Tom himself said, “(HERO) helped turn Lumber Liquidators from a no name company to the largest supplier of hardwood flooring in the US.” So, how did we do it?
As with any brand HERO represents the first thing we did was evaluate the assets the brand could provide to productions. Of course the flooring itself was obvious, so we immediately went to work on home improvement shows, a program category that was just getting started. Beyond just providing flooring and negotiating verbal mentions, HERO arranged for location shoots, truck delivery shots and branded apparel exposures. To date the brand has appeared in dozens of home improvement shows airing on the DIY, Bravo, CMT, Univision, The Food Network, HGTV, ABC, etc.
But the unique onscreen hits would extend much further than simply trading hardwood flooring for exposure:
-HERO forged a relationship between the brand and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition that spanned nine seasons and resulted in over 1.8 billion impressions. The relationship between the brand and the show grew so close that Ty Pennington became the obvious choice as one of the brand’s spokesmen. The brand’s relationship with the HGTV hit, Property Brothers became so close the twins made a promotional visit to one of the stores.
-Having a fleet of branded tractor trailers offered opportunities of their own. Independent of any flooring use, the trucks scored wide body exposure in such films as Get Smart, Wild Hogs and Guess Who?.
-While keeping tangible assets like the trucks, the stores and the flooring itself working, HERO simultaneously exploited digital art files. The great thing about digital assets like signage and even TV commercials is that they can be copied indefinitely for no cost and, in any cases, delivered electronically. The Lumber Liquidators logo is frequently seen in real world sports arenas and stadiums so it would stand to reason that it would be seen in fictitious versions like the rink in The Tooth Fairy and all over the arena in Dodgeball. William Shatner even called it out as a sponsor in the latter. The digital files kept the exposures coming with signage in The Amazing Spiderman, a taxicab hat in The Adjustment Bureau and a NYC sidewalk advertisement in Wall St. 2.
-A digital file of the brand’s TV commercial put them in front of viewers of Sex in the City 2, Monster’s Ball and Stephen King’s The Dead Zone.
-HERO makes it our business to learn about every promotional component our clients implement. For instance HERO learned that Lumber Liquidators sponsors a NASCAR truck team. So when we discovered a new home improvement show called NASCAR Angels we saw another potential fit. While the show usually dealt with offering deserving guests car repairs they couldn’t otherwise afford, the episode that featured Lumber Liquidators chronicled the repair of a trailer… with hard wood floors. As a bonus, the brand’s sponsored driver, Todd Bodine appeared on camera!
-Another creative approach to exposure involved the brand sponsoring a bowling team in the Pierce Brosnan / Sarah Jessica Parker feature film, I Don’t Know How She Does It. In real life Lumber Liquidators already sponsors the Pro Bowlers Association so spotting a bowling league opportunity in the script was a natural fit. HERO provided digital logos, the costume designer branded the apparel and we scored a perfect strike on screen with team Lumber Liquidators receiving both visual and verbal recognition.
-Then the miscellaneous exposures along the way like Kiefer Sutherland drinking from a Lumber Liquidator’s mug in the feature film Mirrors, a fictitious branded gift card bought by Andy in Weeds and even a flooring giveaway on Let’s Make a Deal.
In product placement, like life, the way to success often requires seeing beyond the obvious. For Lumber Liquidators and HERO, embracing this philosophy has resulted in a very long and successful relationship.