Kohl's Hitches Its Star to Oprah's New Network, Hoping Some of Her Magic Rubs Off

Last Updated Aug 26, 2010 2:33 PM EDT

Kohl's (KSS) is getting in on the ground floor of the Oprah Winfrey Network with a reality show sponsorship, a move intended to give it a conspicuous role before the daytime diva's emotionally invested audience.

Kohl's big idea is to sponsor one of the first big OWN initiatives -- a televised competition among talk-show host hopefuls intended to identify Oprah's potential successor. This is potentially terrific exposure for Kohl's, which stands to benefit from on-air placements as well as a close identification with the show that could stand it in good stead if any contestants break out as personalities in their own right.

Oprah has already spun off several well-known characters -- Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz among them. More to the point for Kohl's, Oprah's interior designer pal Nate Berkus managed to leverage his position into a home-furnishings collection at Linens 'N Things before that specialty retailer bit the dust -- and from there moved his product line over to HSN, formerly known as the Home Shopping Network.

On top of all that, the retailer will participate in a series of short, co-branded vignettes created as part of series promotion that will air both within the show -- dubbed Your OWN Show: Oprah's Search for the Next TV Star -- and as part of other programming. Kohl's stores even will hold show auditions.

Oprah and Kohl's offer the public a similar pitch, that they want to help women balancing family and career make their lives better. Where Oprah offers the familiar ministrations of Dr. Phil and the home stylings of Nate Berkus, Kohl's offers brands consumers know, such as Dana Buchman, a Liz Claiborne brand, or labels it has developed to meet specific tastes, such as Avril Lavigne's Abbey Dawn for rock-inspired teens.

The potential for a mutually beneficial relationship is there, and certainly Kohl's would expect the occasional endorsement from Oprah in return for its support. Any special gratitude Kohl's derives from devotees for helping launch Oprah's network can only make the retailer a more attractive shopping destination for them.