By Barry Janoff
January 8, 2016: Proclaiming "They can smell victory ahead . . . and I'm pretty sure they'll lick it, too," the Puppy Bowl is back for its 12th (aka XII) version, bringing with it new elements that include a virtual reality option and an official alliance with the Pro Football Hall of Fame that will see NFL legend Bruce Smith as a game ambassador.
Puppy Bowl premiered on Discover Communications-owned Animal Planet on Feb. 6, 2005 as counter-programming to the NFL's Super Bowl XXXIX pre-game broadcast, Audiences have returned over the years to see puppies — all up for adoption along with others from 44 shelters and groups in 25 states working with Animal Planet — run around over a faux football field as teams seek to "outscore" each other before the get too pooped.
This year, the Pro Football Hall of Fame comes in as a first-year partner, joining such marketers as Geico, Subaru, REI, Bissell, Milk-Bone and Pedigree.
A joint Animal Planet-Hall of Fame tactic finds the creation of the Puppy Bowl Hall of Fame, which "encourages the adoption of older shelter animals while honoring some of the legendary pups from Puppy Bowls past."
“I want to express how proud the Pro Football Hall of Fame and I am to team up with Animal Planet to introduce the Puppy Bowl Hall of Fame,” Smith, who played in four consecutive Super Bowls with the Buffalo Bills, is the NFL's all-time sack leader (200) and was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009 — and a self-professed pet lover — said in a statement. “Over the past 12 years, Puppy Bowl has been responsible for countless animal adoptions."
Animal Planet is treating its coverage of the Puppy Bowl as it might a real NFL game, releasing a series of spots showing the puppies practicing and preparing for their Big Game. A virtual reality element, presented by Geico, enables viewers to feel as if they are in the locker room and stadium with the canines
A supporting marketing campaign includes a TV spot, Internet and social media.
The overall tone, although serious about getting the pups and dogs adopted while boosting awareness of animal adopting nationwide, is tongue-in-cheek
The TV spot shows a group of dogs running dog a hallway en route to the game as a voiceover says, "The wait is nearly over. The cuties puppies have been training to play on the grandest stage. A dream come true for any athlete. Now, they can smell victory ahead . . . and I'm pretty sure they'll lick it, too."
In the end, it is all about the dogs.
"If you are considering a pet, please consider adopting from your local shelter or rescue," said Smith. "In addition to puppies and kittens, you’ll find that there are also fantastic older animals that would make tremendous additions to any home.”
Puppy Bowl XII is scheduled to air Sunday, Feb. 7 (3 PM ET) on Animal Planet.
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