Unilever Signs On as Sponsor of Today Show’s ‘Cooking School’

MSNBC-owned TodayShow.com has launched a new recipe site and mobile application, backed by Unilever as the exclusive sponsor.

Today Show host Matt Lauer promoted the new food and recipe site, dubbed Cooking School, during this morning’s show. The site allows visitors to search for previously aired “Today Kitchen” segments, look up recipes, and learn cooking tips and techniques not shown on the Today Show or other popular cooking programs.

As part of the one-year deal, Unilever brands like Bertolli, Country Crock, Hellmann’s, Ragu and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter will appear in video segments and recipes shown on the site.

Randy Stearns, East Coast deputy editor for MSNBC.com, said Cooking School is actually an extension of what has been a long-running feature on the Today Show.

“Recipes online for the Today Show actually predate MSNBC.com. It’s the most fundamental thing we’ve ever done,” Stearns said, referring to the days when the show would send postcards containing recipe and ingredient instructions to viewers who requested them.

The new site, Stearns added, builds on that function by linking mobile, online and broadcast media. For instance, a viewer watching the Today Show may search the Cooking School for a dish he or she saw being prepared on the show and then download the recipe to the Cooking School mobile application. The app allows smartphone users to compile recipes and ingredient lists for when they go shopping.

Cooking School is looking to differentiate itself by offering tips and suggestions for mastering the art of gourmet home cooking. It goes beyond doing “the ordinary” to something “beyond what you’d get in a recipe book,” Stearns said.

Food-focused sites with new and improved features have proliferated with the growing eat-at-home trend. In May, Unilever teamed up with Cooking Light to produce Web videos showing how pantry staples like Ragu, Hellmann’s and Country Crock can be used to create affordable, everyday dishes.

Bertolli brand building manager Hy Nguyen, for instance, sees the current partnership with the Today Show’s Cooking School as allowing the brand to “bring the restaurant-quality positioning of Bertolli sauce to life—via a mobile application and video webisodes.” It enables the brand “to deliver custom content to our home chefs,” Nguyen said.