Since 1952, the 32-foot glazed donut atop Randy’s Donuts in Inglewood has greeted travelers who land at nearby LAX. Beginning Monday, it’s getting a makeover. ABC is turning the local landmark gold to promote the premiere of The Golden Bachelor, a spinoff of its popular dating show featuring the first senior bachelor in franchise history. For about a week, Randy’s will sell a limited-edition Golden Bachelor donut and offer “Golden Hour” pricing in the evening. Across town, a Midas-touched Mel’s Drive-In and Pink’s Hot Dogs will serve up specials and steep discounts, too.
In Hollywood, it’s easy to tell if a network thinks it can lay a golden egg: just look at how much promotional muscle it puts behind a show. From the moment ABC execs announced 72-year-old Gerry Turner as the first Golden Bachelor, it’s been clear they believe they’ve got a hit on their hands.
“We’re prioritizing Golden Bachelor in a meaningful way,” says Shannon Ryan, who as president of marketing for Disney Entertainment Television oversees marketing, publicity, and communications for ABC, Hulu Originals, National Geographic, and several other TV brands. She and her team are hosting Golden Bachelor screenings at more than 200 retirement communities; rolling out senior-inspired discounts at national brands including UberEats, 1-800-Flowers, and Cinnabon; and tapping so-called “granfluencers” on TikTok and Instagram to get the word out about the show. They’re also planning to promote Golden Bachelor at USA Pickleball tournaments this fall and will work with Best Friends Animal Society to support senior pet adoptions. Ryan adds, “We are really hoping to engage a broad audience with this show.”
The idea for Golden Bachelor has been floating around ABC for years. But a few things happened to give the show a primo spot on the fall TV schedule. First, they found Turner. “It really had to be the right person at the right time,” says Rob Mills, who leads unscripted and alternative entertainment at Walt Disney Television. Then came the writers strike—which along with the actors strike that started in July has paused nearly all production on scripted shows, including ABC breakout Abbott Elementary. Suddenly there was an opening.
“We were sitting in the scheduling room in May trying to figure out what to put together for the fall schedule, and we thought, what better time to do this show,” Ryan says. After all, seniors have been having a bit of a moment. Martha Stewart graced the cover of Sports Illustrated at the age of 81, films like 80 for Brady are finding big audiences, and two 70-something comedians star on Hulu hit Only Murders in the Building. “About a quarter of all Americans are over the age of 60,” Ryan says. “This is a huge portion of our audience, and there is no reason that this love story should not be told.”
Ryan’s enthusiasm for the show has been crucial to getting it off the ground, too. She joined Disney when it acquired most of 21st Century Fox in 2019 and has been championing the idea of a senior bachelor since the minute she walked in the door. “There were a lot of great things that came over as part of the Fox acquisition, but one of the best was the people, and at the top of my list is Shannon,” Mills says.
Ryan watched Turner’s casting video early in the process and was completely won over, calling him “so relatable and reputable and charming.” Her team, she says, worked closely with Mills as production got off the ground because “we wanted to be very thoughtful in the marketing of the show to make sure it reflected the tone of what they were making.”
That thoughtfulness comes through in ABC’s early promotional spots. In the clip introducing the grandfather from Indiana to the world, a tongue-in-cheek voiceover celebrates his age: “ “He posts his thirst traps in a leather-bound album. His DMs have postage. He gets the early bird special any time he wants. If you call him, he’ll answer the phone. He doesn’t have gray hair, he has ‘wisdom highlights.’ Florida wants to retire, and move to him. He’s Gerry.” To introduce the women who will vie for his love, they released a nearly three-minute video set to Cher’s “Believe.”
The online response to the spots —which have outperformed the marketing for every previous Bachelor installment—suggests that ABC’s calculated risk could pay off. And it’s giving executives hope that even though their marketing is leaning into the golden part of Golden Bachelor, it’ll have broad appeal. “There’s something very timeless about this love story,” Mills says. “If you were ever going to let your kids watch an installment of The Bachelor, I think this would be the one.”
Ryan is also hoping that fans will gather together to watch the show. “Communitizing is a word we’re using,” she says. “There’s no better example of that than what we saw this summer with Barbie and Taylor Swift, where people really rallied to come together for a shared experience. While Golden Bachelor is definitely different from those, it does feel like there could be a sort of multi-generational appeal.” That’s why ABC will host viewing parties for retirees in about 25 markets, and why they’re tapping into the pickleball phenomenon— among seniors, especially, and Golden Bachelor contestants, in particular—with promotions at official tournaments like the National Indoor Championships in Atlanta.
Though the marketing budget for Golden Bachelor isn’t as big as it might be for, say, a new Thursday night drama, Ryan says it fits with her larger strategy of creating individualized campaigns for each show. “The goal is always to try to get people to tune in and watch, but it’s also really to create that emotional connection with our audience,” she says. On a young, female, digital-first show like Hulu’s The Kardashians, that meant hosting an influencer event in Malibu. On Abbott Elementary, ABC focused on highlighting the work of school teachers.
ABC won’t know until the September 28 premiere of Golden Bachelor whether the marketing push has paid off. But Ryan says she already knows it’s working with one key focus group: her mother and mother-in-law, who are both in their seventies. “I showed them both the first promo that revealed Gerry, and my mother-in-law—who’s single and from Indiana—said, ‘Is it too late to try out for this show?’”
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