ABC's Shark Tank has become a cultural phenomenon -- a show that makes people otherwise not interested in business care about the companies making their pitch to the "Sharks."
The show, which features a panel of well-known investors including Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, allows entrepreneurs a chance to pitch their companies for a shot at investment. Some are pre-revenue start-ups while other "contestants" on the show have an emerging or even an established brand looking to take the next step.
Once the company makes its pitch to the Sharks, the panel asks questions and attempts to drill down on the actual fundamentals of the brands being pitched. And, if they like what they hear, the Sharks make investment offers -- not always on, or anywhere near the terms the company owners had asked for.
It's a game show where the stakes are real and the Sharks are actual millionaire and billionaire investors spending their own money. Just appearing on the show can bring a brand acclaim and actual sales -- even if no investment occurs. Actually getting Cuban, Kevin "Mr. Wonderful" O'Leary, Robert Herjavec, Daymond John, Barbara Corcoran, or Lori Greiner to invest (sometimes even more than one) can set a company on the path to success.
It's not unheard of for an unknown brand to appear on the show and see its sales double, triple, or grow even more overnight. Now, the show has signed a partnership with Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) to feature products from the show on a new section on the retailer's website.
How does the deal work
Amazon has launched a new store, Amazon Exclusives, which gives "customers direct access to innovative new products from popular up-and-coming brands," according to an Amazon press release. The store will offer everything from electronics accessories, to toys, sporting equipment and more. It will also feature brands from new product inventors including some products featured on Shark Tank.
"Our mission on behalf of customers is to make Amazon the destination for brands and innovators to launch and sell their products, providing our customers early access to new products," said Peter Faricy, VP of Amazon Marketplace. "We understand that helping brands gain exposure for their award-winning new products is beneficial to customers that desire to be the first to have the hot new item."
The store gives prominent space to unique items which would otherwise be buried on the Amazon website. The association with Shark Tank should be benefit the retailer and the brands being featured because exposure on the show can often crash a company's website.
If those sales are directed to Amazon, it can help the brands make a positive impression on customers and maximize the spike in interest from appearing on the show.
Does Shark Tank work?
One of the problems the show has had since it gained popularity and began running in reruns multiple nights a week on CNBC is that some companies apply to be on the show simply for the publicity boost with no intent of making a deal. Actually getting investment however comes with even more of a marketing bonanza.
"It has the most unique and powerful platform in the world, not just in investing but as an entertainment platform," Breathometer CEO Charles Michael Yim, a past Shark Tank contestant, told The New York Post. "You don't get just an investment, you get millions of dollars in marketing exposure. That's something no other VC [venture capital] in the world can do."
In general, appearing in "The Tank," can launch a company in a way that few platforms can.
For example, Wicked Good Cupcakes co-founder Tracey Noonan got 5,000 emails the day after her episode aired and subsequently saw a $250,000 bump in sales. She actually received an investment on the show and her cupcakes-in-jars business is projected to bring in $3 million in 2014, with investor Kevin O'Leary calling it his best "Shark Tank" deal ever.
"Without 'Shark Tank' it would have taken us so much longer to develop all that," she told The Post.
It's a good partnership
Shark Tank gives immediate credibility to unknown brands and Amazon offers instant sales scale. Though the partnership between the two brands is in its infancy, it has a possibility to become an important one for both, buoyed by the fact that the series has an hour of primetime television each week as well as many hours of CNBC repeats.
The deal gives Amazon access to hot, new products which people actually know about and the companies featured on the show get the equivalent of premium retail placement.
It's a deal that even O'Leary -- the sort of villain on the show -- would have to make.