Hallmark Channel's Kitten Bowl is back for a fourth year, and key sponsors Arm & Hammer, Subaru and PetSmart have returned as well.
Hallmark is one of several networks that counter programs the Super Bowl and its lead up, which creates one of the biggest days of television watching all year. It also generates more ad revenue than anything else all year.
Hallmark is known for its family programming and big event strategy, and the Kitten Bowl fits that game plan, says Ed Georger, executive VP of advertising sales and digital media for Crown Media Family Networks.
"I love the Super Bowl, but for us the Super Bowl is really a full-day family event and we've always said that pets are part of the family," Georger said. "It makes sense to have a family event, a day when people are home and watching TV throughout the day and earlier in the day the family can sit together and watch our version of the game, which is the Kitten Bowl."
Georger notes that four years in, the Kitten Bowl is something viewers look forward to, and last year it attracted 4 million total viewers.
Hallmark likes airing cute kittens running around in an athletic setting so much it announced earlier this year it will launch Meow Madness. Its "Final Fur" will air the day of the men's college basketball championship game.
The Kitten Bowl works for advertisers as well, as evidenced by the key sponsors returning. "I think that's a sign that it's working for their brands. They're getting a lot of exposure and they're building on it."
In addition to commercial time, Hallmark provides Kitten Bowl sponsors elements of the many integrations seen during human sporting events.
Arm & Hammer, which is promoting its Clump & Seal Cat litter, says the Kitten Bowl helps it appeal to cat owners in a "contextually relevant environment and engage them with experiences and content," according to Elizabeth Joe, brand manager.
Joe says the extra elements of the sponsorship are important.
"In addition to traditional elements like field signage, tagged spots, and branding within the show, the Arm & Hammer sponsorship extends to include the Most Valuable Kitten award and the Arm & Hammer Clump & Seal Cat Litter Locker Room," she said. "These are two very important elements as they not only extend the brand's visibility across TV, digital and social, but also enhance the overall atmosphere and festivity of the event."
Arm & Hammer and the other sponsors will also be featured on Hallmark Channel's daytime show Home & Family in the days leading up to both big games.
During the Kitten Bowl, Subaru, which often features pet-friendly themes in its commercials, will be the sponsor of the "Slow Motion Kitten Cam" while retailer PetSmart sponsors the announcer area.
Financial details were not available, but it would be interesting to compare the ad revenues generated by the three-hour Kitten Bowl telecast to the $5 million Fox is getting for 30-second spots in the Super Bowl.
Georger said he expects Hallmark to air Kitten Bowl V next year and is putting it on the schedule of events he's getting ready to talk to advertisers about.
The kittens featured in the Kitten Bowl are all eligible for adoption and a couple have already been taken in by Hallmark Channel staffers.
The announcers for the Kitten Bowl are John Sterling and Mary Carillo. Animal adoption advocate Beth Stern is the host and former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason is commissioner of the Feline Football League.