Sunglass Hut International, the nation's leading sunglass retailer, and The Weather Channel have partnered in a summer-long effort that leverages each other's assets.
In the deal, Sunglass Hut becomes the official marketing partner of Rays Awareness 2002, a television and Internet program that began last year.
“I think the message for us, from the Sunglass Hut perspective, is to make sure that you buy the highest UV-protected shades you can find,” said Kristy Rucker, marketing manager at Sunglass Hut, Cincinnati.
An alliance of this sort becomes critical as summer kicks in and Sunglass Hut competitors like Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Target Corp., Sears Optical, Pearl and sporting goods chains start pushing their eyewear.
The deal through Labor Day weekend calls for extensive cross-media promotion carrying both Sunglass Hut and The Weather Channel logos.
Sunglass Hut, for instance, will place Rays Awareness tri-fold brochures on the counters of 1,700 company stores, including Watch Station and Watch World. Customers will leave each store with a brochure in the shopping bag.
Totally educational, the brochure discusses skin and eye cancer. It explains that more than 1 million people will be diagnosed with skin cancer this year. More than 50,000 people will discover they have melanoma, the most common skin cancer. One person dies from skin cancer every hour.
Readers are offered safety tips, directed to the weather.com and sunglasshut.com addresses, among others, and a telephone number. Weather.com/rays is the official page of the Rays Awareness campaign.
Supporting this retail effort is a summer catalog that went out in late May to about 9 million names in the Sunglass Hut database. The book includes three-quarters of a page on tips for being safe in the sun.
In further direct marketing, Sunglass Hut will drop two e-mails, one by month's end and the other by the end of August. Around 600,000 e-mails will be sent with each drop to the same audience in the Sunglass Hut file.
“We felt that we could help The Weather Channel reach more people because we have a very logical place: Most of the people who come in are looking for sunglasses and are going to be out in the sun and exposed to the UV rays,” Rucker said.
“For us,” she said, “[The Weather Channel] reaches a target audience that allows us to position us as a leader of quality optical lenses and sunglasses. At the same time, we can let people know that they do need to buy quality sunglasses that have maximum protection.”
Atlanta-based Weather Channel will include Sunglass Hut in on-air public service announcements. Still frames of the logo will pop up on the channel when the meteorologist talks about the summer weather and eye-care tips.
Online, Sunglass Hut's logo was placed on weather.com/rays June 11. The many topics discussed on this location include sun safety facts, skin protection features and news, a healthy-skin message board, video features and a sun safety adviser based on ZIP code or city.
“As we develop our international sites, we're evaluating the appropriate sun safety messages for each location,” said Robyn Coward, senior brand manager of consumer marketing at The Weather Channel and in-charge of the Rays Awareness program.
Coward said the Rays page gets about 40,000 page views monthly. Overall, weather.com receives an estimated 14 million unique visitors and 350 million page views monthly.
“The idea was to align the media assets of our Web sites and our network to broaden the consumer reach of the message,” she said.
But there will be no live linkage from weather.com to sunglasshut.com.
“We did discuss that, but they didn't want to be involved in an exchange of dollars,” Coward said. “They were given the option if Sunglass Hut wanted to purchase some incremental advertising to leverage their partnership. They did have the opportunity to pay for that linkage.”
The association with Sunglass Hut has already caught the eye of other marketers who want to partner with The Weather Channel.
“We've been approached by a couple of skin-care companies, and we've been asked by a couple of retailers for us to consider them for the 2003 campaign,” Coward said. “So we're now in the process of looking at all of these proposals.”