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'Bachelor' Pilot Pete’s Vintage Sylvan Commercial Goes Viral


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John Fleenor/ABC via Getty Images

Peter Weber, better known as “Pilot Pete” and the current "Bachelor" on ABC, starred in a Sylvan Learning Center commercial when he was a kid in 2005, a fact that recently went viral as the commercial resurfaced via Twitter.

The ad shows Weber playing a student named Mark who receives tutoring help from the learning institution. He presents his improved report card to his onscreen mother by sliding the sheet of paper to her via skateboard. There are plenty more cheesy moments and smiles to go around in this commercial, but "Bachelor" fans are of course eating this up—along with the Sylvan Learning Center.

Ranked No. 251 on the Franchise Times Top 200+ list, the tutoring service and instructional center became a franchised business in 1980 and now has 510 units in the U.S., but sales growth dropped off 4.3 percent in 2018. With the increased media attention and visibility, Sylvan plans to capitalize on this opportunity by playing off that nostalgia and letting people know it's still around, said Chief Marketing Officer Amy Przywara.

“We’ve gotten a lot of buzz and we’re hoping it turns into business,” Przywara said. “We definitely have had more organic sharing of our brand this past week than we have had in a long time.”

Sylvan’s franchisees have also been getting hits in their local markets over the past week, such as being on television or in newspaper articles.

“We’ve taken more of the approach for this one to let it happen truly organically and enjoy the fun that comes along with it,” Przywara said.

Sylvan is not a brand that comes up regularly in pop culture. Occasionally, its mentioned in a joking way—such as when celebrities mispronounce words and people say they should’ve gone to Sylvan Learning Center. In those cases, Sylvan plays along and responds that although its curriculum is really for children K-12, it can help anybody if there is a problem.

Przywara started her career at Sylvan in 2002, so she remembers the campaign they called “Skateboard” and how well the ad performed. The resurfacing of the commercial also caused Przywara to reflect on how much marketing has changed in the past 15 years. Sylvan used to run $80 million ads on Nickelodeon. Now it's transitioned to being a digital marketer and using Google and social media like everyone else.

“We’ve gone from producing 60-second TV ads to producing 6-second videos for mobile phones,” Przywara said.

As for the future, Przywara said Sylvan grew in sales and units in 2019 and is using that momentum as well as the commercial to launch into 2020.

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The latest news, opinions and commentary on what's happening in the franchise arena that could affect your business.

Laura MichaelsLaura Michaels is editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3210, or send story ideas to lmichaels@franchisetimes.com.
 
Beth EwenBeth Ewen is senior editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3212, or send story ideas to bewen@franchisetimes.com.
 
Nicholas UptonNicholas Upton is restaurants editor at Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3226, or send story ideas to nupton@franchisetimes.com.
 
Mary Jo LarsonMary Jo Larson is the publisher of Franchise Times Magazine and the Restaurant Finance Monitor.  You can find her on Twitter at
 twitter.com/mlarson1011.
 

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