Nickelodeon Refreshes Brand for First Time in 14 Years—and Brings Back Splat

The 'Portal to Fun' campaign launches today with the first of five spots

For the first time in 14 years, Nickelodeon has a new look.

The network will spend the rest of 2023 rolling out a new brand identity and refreshed on-air look that’s designed to invoke nostalgia and return to its history.

“It was time for us to really look at the brand, and look at our audience, and talk with our audience and revisit all the pieces of Nickelodeon,” Sabrina Caluori, evp of global kids and family marketing at Nickelodeon and Paramount, told Adweek.

The “Portal to Fun” campaign launched today with the first of five spots. “Quartet” shows a bored kid at a family dinner, who then notices the orange splat above them on the ceiling. After sticking their head through the splat, the kid finds a barbershop quartet performing.

Nick found after internal research that the “core DNA” of the brand still resonated with kids today, according to Caluori.

“We take that to the best and the mess of being a kid,” said Caluori. “We did learn that, what’s fundamentally different now than when the brand was initially taking shape, is kids’ relationship to their parents and parents’ relationship to their kids.”

Research found that kids and their parents are looking for more ways to connect, and Nickelodeon saw an opportunity.

“That was an exciting unlock for us because it meant while we can continue to be the best and the mess of being a kid, we can use that to actually bring kids and families closer together, which they are longing for in this time,” said Caluori.

The marketing executive has been with Nickelodeon for less than two years and, as a self-described Nick kid, can personally relate to the familial relationships the new campaign brings.

“It’s the first brand I ever had any passion for as a kid, and now I’m a mom of three kids who are in the demo,” said Caluori. “It’s been really exciting for me to be able to look at the brand and look at everything that we’re doing through the eyes of my kids while also ensuring that everything that we’re doing still spoke to the Nick kid inside me.”

The balloon graphic represents a frame from one of the new network IDs.


In the splat zone

To create the new identity, Nickelodeon partnered with six U.S. and international agencies. The company asked the agencies to come back with a spot that used the new brand work and represents Nick’s energy and identity through the lens of its most notable IP—SpongeBob, Paw Patrol, Blue’s Clues, Baby Shark, Loud House and Monster High—making sure there is a moment of the iconic Nickelodeon slime.

Nick started the refresh looking to set the foundation of the identity by figuring out what elements of the brand originally made it iconic.

The results? The color orange, the splat, the mnemonic (which Caluori sang for Adweek) and the unique brand voice.

“We started there and revisiting those, and saying, ‘How do we bring those elements back to the core of our identity creatively?’” said Caluori.

The first step came through Nick’s internal marketing team and its creative partner Roger. Once that was determined, the IP went out to other animation houses around the globe.

All five spots will run across Nickelodeon’s linear and digital social platforms in three phases.

The network teased the first phase during the Kids’ Choice Awards in March. There, observant viewers may have noticed Nickelodeon brought back its iconic “splat” and wove the new look into design elements throughout the broadcast and weekend-long coverage.

The second phase begins today with the launch of “Quartet.” And expect a second spot, “Rollercoaster,” to debut later this week. This spot depicts a kid in a waiting room who sees the orange splat, and then sticks their hand through, only to be dragged along a crazy rollercoaster ride—ending in, you guessed it, splat.

All five on-air spots depict the splat as a “Portal to Fun,” hence the brand campaign name. The brand wanted to ensure it “personified the splat,” so it used real kids, in partner with agency Callen.

“It’s this portal to an outrageously good time,” said Caluori. “So when you see the splat, you know something incredible is going to happen.”

The third marketing phase begins in July and will run through the end of the year when Nick’s new branding look and feel debuts internationally in the U.K., followed by Latin America and further markets.

Why now?

The refresh comes ahead of a big upcoming slate for Nickelodeon, including theatrical releases for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Paw Patrol, as well as upcoming Paramount+ films like Good Burger 2 and Zoey 102.

“We have these movies that have some of the callbacks that we’re referencing and reinforce everything that’s great about this studio, but that are directed at either families or this more ‘adult’ Nick kid,” said Caluori.

To help further the marketing push, starting at the end of this month, Nickelodeon will be on the ground at 400 schools around the country, reaching 250,000 kids—and kids can vote to slime their favorite teacher. There will also be two large events coming in Philadelphia and D.C.

Nickelodeon was among the brands Paramount spotlighted at its upfront dinner for clients in late April. Paramount ad sales chief John Halley told Adweek that after the success of its decision to exit its usual upfront week presentation this year, the company is “not going back” to its traditional approach.

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