G4 Lends a Hand to NestlĂ©’s Campy Butterfinger Search

Nestlé is teaming up with Comcast’s male-skewing cable net G4 to help find a fourth member of its “Butterfinger Defense League” on Attack of the Show.

Assembled to thwart rampant Butterfinger theft, the BFDL currently consists of ‘80s throwbacks Erik Estrada (CHiPs) and Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk), as well as Buffy the Vampire Slayer alum Charisma Carpenter. (The threat of petit larceny has long been a selling point for the brand; former spokesperson Bart Simpson once voiced the tagline, “Nobody better lay a finger on my Butterfinger!”)

Beginning May 13, Attack of the Show hosts Olivia Munn and Kevin Pereira will challenge viewers to make a case for why they’re best suited to become the fourth leg of the BFDL. Two candidates will win a trip to the San Diego Comic-Con (July 21-25), whereupon the newest member of the League will be sworn in by the original trio.

Butterfinger will also kick in a $20,000 cash prize. The coronation will air during G4’s live Comic-Con coverage.

Between now and the end of the promotion, G4 will run some of the best user-generated video submissions in select episodes of AOTS. While fans of the series are well-versed in Munn and Pereira’s signature brand of irreverence, would-be superheroes looking for content guidelines can check out Butterfinger’s proprietary BFDL site.

Each video finds Estrada, Ferrigno and Carpenter camping it up in their BFDL finery. Clearly developed with an eye toward exciting viral dissemination, the clips showcase their respective superpowers.

Estrada is winkingly celebrated for his sexiness (per Butterfinger, the 61-year-old actor is “a tasty piece of man-candy”), bodybuilder Ferrigno for his brute strength and Carpenter is presented as a fount of sass.

The decision to draft a consumer into the BFDL stemmed from Butterfinger’s desire to democratize the brand conversation, said marketing manager Daniel Jhung. Besides, “all great superhero teams have four members,” Jhung said.

The cheeky tone of the BDFL initiative presents a nice contextual fit for G4, said Jonathan Farrell, vp, G4 marketing solutions. “Every night, young guys tune in to watch Olivia and Kevin’s special brand of unapologetic comedy.”

The contest builds off a marketing stunt launched last month when Nestlé announced it had secured a $1 million insurance policy from Lloyd’s of London to guard against Butterfinger theft. Through April 14, the brand offered free Butterfingers to anyone who came forward to claim that their candy had been stolen—no questions asked.

“We had 100,000 people claiming Butterfinger thefts,” Jhung said. Given the success of stage one, the next step was to form the celebrity defense team.

The push coincides with a general improvement in sales. Per SymphonyIRI,  sales of Butterfinger snack-sized chocolate candies were up 9 percent to $45 million in the 52 weeks ended April 18. Those figures don’t include Walmart sales.

Nestlé last year significantly upped the brand’s marketing spending, investing $3.2 million in measured media (online not included), up from $100,000 in 2008. Zenith and Zenith Interactive brokered the G4 buy. Interactive agency Threshold, Culver City, Calif., conceived the creative approach.

In April, G4 posted its most-watched month ever with total viewers (an average of 120,000), while boosting its delivery of men 18-34 by 38 percent vs. the same period in 2009. AOTS notched its biggest delivery of the month on April 20, averaging 205,000 viewers. According to SNL Kagan data, G4 last year posted a 4 percent gain in net ad sales revenue, bringing in $72.7 million. —with Elaine Wong