‘Dog Whisperer’ Comes to Petco

Pet supply giant Petco today disclosed a licensing deal with Cesar Millan, a dog behavior specialist and star of National Geographic Channel’s Dog Whisperer, as part of which a new line of branded dog products will debut at Petco stores.
Named after Millan’s show, the Dog Whisperer line of over 100 products includes Castor & Pollux organic dog food ($13.99-38.99) and treats, Cott fortified water ($1.49-2.40) and Langers liquid supplements ($19.99-29.99), as well as various accessories like Timberwolf collars ($7.99-12.99) and leashes ($19.99-22.99), JLA Pets bedding ($49.99-119.99) and Planet Pets toys. The licensing deal also encompasses instructional DVDs and an online dog coaching course, developed by Millan and offered by Petco on its Web site, Petco.com.
The Dog Whisperer line will be available at more 900 Petco stores nationwide starting July 27.
Petco already carries Millan’s DVDs, books and CDs in its stores. “We find them to be very popular with dog owners and feel that a customer would want to buy products that Cesar recommends since he’s a specialist in his field,” said Rick Rockhill, vp of Petco’s merchandising division.
Millan isn’t the first celebrity to partner with Petco. Comedian Ellen DeGeneres earlier this year launched her own line of natural pet products for the retailer, called Halo. Petco offers a wide selection of organic and holistic foods from various brands. The new Dog Whisperer line would be an addition to that roster of products, Rockhill said.
In crafting the licensing deal, Millan tapped IMG, a global sports, entertainment and media talent agency. “We worked closely with Cesar in identifying, under his direction, core categories that he was interested in pursuing under his brand,” said Tim Rothwell, evp/co-managing director of worldwide licensing and consumer products at IMG. “We created an extensive licensing program, working diligently for a year on these products.”
Rothwell added that Millan offered direct input on every product, an element that will be carried out in marketing Dog Whisperer. The mix includes dedicated in-store fixtures that pull together all Dog Whisperer-branded products, in-store messaging (video in some cases) and posters, an e-mail promotion, direct mail and ads in 37 million national circulars sent out by Petco. Additionally, Millan will be prominently featured on Petco’s Web site during the launch.
“We wanted to create a sense in our stores that there is an event going on as customers pass through and see the brand everywhere,” said Rockhill.
Petco spent $19 million on advertising last year (not including online) and $4 million through May this year, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus. Rockhill would not disclose the cost of the Dog Whisperer effort, but said Petco substantially increases its marketing efforts whenever celebrity promotions are involved.
“The bottom line is,” Rockhill concluded, “when you introduce a product it’s important to believe in it, and we really feel that we can stand behind Cesar with this [Dog Whisperer] launch.”