Disney Advertising today (Oct. 4) announced a slate of sponsors — spanning CPG, food and beverage, automotive, retail verticals and beyond — for Halloween and holiday season programming across its portfolio. The new and returning brand partners demonstrate how marketers are approaching the holiday season, which is increasingly expanding to include Halloween, and how they are tackling new trends.
"Brand marketers are thinking about how they want to show up during the holidays and when that really starts," said John Campbell, senior vice president of client partnerships at Disney. "From a consumer standpoint, we start talking about Halloween costumes right after Christmas, and we're talking about a Christmas list all-year round. We're starting to see that consumer behavior in a marketing behavior."
For Halloween, Disney has more than 30 sponsors across its portfolio, which includes Hulu, Freeform and FX. The Hershey Company signed a two-year deal that includes brand spots across Hulu's Huluween and Freeform's "31 Nights of Halloween" programming. Huluween, now in its sixth season, is the favorite event of 78% of viewers on the platform, translating to 3 billion streaming hours, Campbell said.
In addition, Disney has more than 15 new and returning sponsors for its holiday season programming. Kohl's is returning for its ninth year as sponsor of Freeform's "25 Days of Christmas" with Ford Truck in its second year sponsoring Hulu's holiday campaign. Additional holiday programming sponsors include JCPenney, Sephora, Planet Fitness, and Balsam Hill.
Along with "25 Days of Christmas," Disney's holiday programming includes CMA Country Christmas, Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve with Ryan Seacrest and — in what Campbell describes as the company's own "gift" — both NBA games and Monday Night Football on Christmas. The demand for Halloween and holiday sponsorships is coming from both endemic and non-endemic brands.
"Either you're just coming to draft off of all the amazing content and be a part of what we're doing, or we're really creating something custom — we have the levers on both of those sides," the exec said. "But either way, we're looking to really create a campaign [that] infuses creativity and technology."
As an example of the latter, Campbell pointed to last weekend's "Toy Story Funday Football," which animated the Atlanta Falcons and Jacksonville Jaguars game in the style of the Pixar classic in real time. The company's in-house creative consultancy, Disney CreativeWorks, works to create custom content, like a "Spooktacular Charcuterie Board" made of KitKat and Reese's that will be promoted on Freeform.
While many brands returned as sponsors this year, some are beginning to sign multi-year deals not around sports, as is usually the case, but around tent pole event programming. Campbell says brands are trying to do a "bit extra" with their efforts this year, especially on streaming platforms that allow for more innovation.
"Marketers are really looking to align with content that people care about … but also go further down into that purchase funnel," he said. "That's where we've done a lot of work with our ad platforms, teams and some of our vendors to figure out what our commerce suite looks like."
Building out its ad and commerce offerings is crucial for Disney during a tumultuous period for the entertainment giant. The company in August saw its stock hit its lowest level in nearly nine years as CEO Bob Iger looks to turnaround the company that he returned to in 2022 less than a year after retiring.
Key to Iger’s efforts is Disney building out its ad-supported tier on Disney+, which Campbell says will start to look and feel a lot more like Hulu. But even as consumers deal with subscription and ad fatigue, Disney research says holiday-related ads do well on its platforms, with 86% of Disney viewers having a positive opinion of the ads, 55% claiming that the ads help them purchase something for the holiday season and 63% researching a product or service they saw.
"We know it's working because consumers are telling us through our research that they appreciate the added experience, versus something that's disrupting their lives," the executive explained. "It's helping them in their everyday life. That's part of the reason why we have so many brand partners coming back to us, for sure."