ST. PETERSBURG — Two merchandising wizards, HSN and Disney, have teamed up to promote Oz the Great and Powerful, which arrives in theaters March 8.
The St. Petersburg-based shopping network has spent nearly two years creating a large-scale sales event centered around the movie, a prequel to the Wizard of Oz. Employees worked with designers to develop products based on the Oz theme and created video clips about the film and its stars.
On Friday, Disney brought a hot air balloon to HSN's office in St. Petersburg to tout the partnership and build buzz for the fantasy adventure film. On Sunday, the balloon heads to Florida's East Coast for the Daytona 500, where Oz star James Franco will serve as grand marshal.
The marketing deal benefits both parties. HSN gets its name widely associated with a Disney blockbuster. Disney gets exposure to an audience likely to watch the movie: women ages 35 to 54 and mothers with PG-age children.
"What we have in common with Hollywood is that we're both story tellers," said Bill Brand, HSN's executive vice president for programming, marketing and business development. "We both inspire customers with our stories."
The partnership will culminate with a live sales event March 1 and 2 featuring 400 Oz-inspired products made just for HSN. TV hosts will pitch the Oz products nonstop for two days.
The shopping network partnered with 50 brands, including Naeem Khan, Badgley Mischka, Adrienne Landau and Steve Madden, to design jewelry, clothing, beauty products and home accessories around the fantasy movie theme. Items are grouped into collections sorted by the three Oz witches: Theodora, Evanora and Glinda. Items range from a Heidi Daus "Emerald City" crystal ring for $79.95 to a Raven Kauffman Couture Feather Bag for $395, with price points catering to the more affluent customer already loyal to the designers.
None of the products are toys.
HSN started selling the products online this week and has already sold out of a few items. In addition to buying Oz merchandise on the website, customers can watch short videos about the making of the movie, take a quiz to determine their witch style and create Pinterest board inspired by their favorite witch. It also has a link to buy movie tickets on Fandango.
"It's about creating an interesting way to shop and deepening customers' relationship with us," Brand said. "It's building one-of-a-kind experiences that they can't get elsewhere."
The Oz partnership marks HSN's fifth major movie partnership. Its first, in 2010, was Eat Pray Love, followed by The Help, Snow White and the Huntsman and Footloose.
The latest is the most extensive so far, in terms of products and number of designers with products. HSN employees visited the movie set to shoot behind-the-scene videos with filmmakers and stars and attended the premiere in Hollywood Feb. 13. Next week, HSN employees will have a private screening to familiarize themselves with the movie in order to better assist callers with questions about merchandise.
The movie events, along with HSN's live music concerts and TV show promotions, are part of the company's "entertainment integration strategy" to keep existing customers and attract new ones. Promotions like Oz lift sales, TV viewership and Web traffic, said Brand, who did not have specific numbers. The film's March release was particularly ideal because it comes during a shopping lull between Washington's Birthday and Easter, months away from Christmas.
The Oz partnership comes at a positive time for HSN. This week, the publicly traded company reported net sales for 2012 were $3.3 billion, up 6 percent from 2011, thanks largely to the success of digital sales.
At a conference last month, CEO Mindy Grossman said creating new content for online shoppers increases time spent on the site and builds customers' trust in the company and its products. HSN's free online arcade games reached 100 million game plays in the first 11/2 years.
"It's a reason for them to interact with us without us just wanting them to buy something from us," she said.
Susan Thurston can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 225-3110.