For Sheetz, It's Just Another Day at 'The Office'

Retailer hits product placement motherlode at Dunder Mifflin

SCRANTON, Pa. -- When Dwight Schrute sips at his coffee while plotting against Jim Halpert, it's from a Sheetz cup. When Michael Scott stands in the Dunder Mifflin kitchenette and complains about corporate lackey Gabe Lewis, the refrigerator features a Sheetz magnet. The convenience store is one of the brands used in product placement on NBC's The Office in its attempt to be authentic and represent everyday life in Pennsylvania, according to The Altoona Mirror.

"It's pretty exciting," Monica Jones, the public relations manager for Sheetz, told the newspaper. "[image-nocss] People think it's really cool to see our brand and our stuff on the show. Our guys think it's great to get some exposure and have more people touched by the brand."

Altoona, Pa.-based Sheetz Inc., with more than $4.5 billion in revenue for 2010 and more than 13,500 employees, operates more than 380 convenience locations throughout Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia, Ohio and North Carolina.

The Office debuted in 2005. It stars Steve Carell as Michael Scott, a regional manager of a fictitious paper supply company called Dunder Mifflin, based in Scranton, Pa. It also stars John Krasinski, Rainn Wilson, Jenna Fischer, Ed Helms and B.J. Novak, among others.

Philip Shea, the property master for the show, told the Mirror, "It's a 'mockumentary' that takes place in a real town, with nothing fictionalized. With other shows, we always have to fabricate stuff, but with The Office taking place in modern-day Scranton, we can use local stuff. It's a wonderful thing."

Before the start of the show's second season, Shea and his crew flew from Los Angeles, where the show is filmed, to Scranton to find actual items and brands to recreate the city on the small screen. "It adds that realism and authenticity," he said. A "prop drop" was arranged at the Steamtown Mall in Scranton, where Shea gathered "whatever props people wanted us to get on the show."

"We thought a couple hundred people would show up throughout the two days we were there, but when we first got there, 400 people were waiting in line," Shea said. "This was our first introduction to the Sheetz brand."

Jones said that there is one Sheetz store within the Scranton city limits, but "probably 10 or 12 throughout that northeast corner."

She added, "The first time, [the show's crew] didn't contact us," Jones said. "They used something, and someone saw it. We thought, 'Hey, they gave a nod to Sheetz; let's send a bunch of stuff as a thank you.' I loaded up a whole box of T-shirts, pens, mugs and stuff, and little by little, they placed them throughout the show."

Mari Potis told Shea and the crew about Sheetz, said the report. Potis, the membership director of the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce, has been working with representatives of the show for seven years. "I love Sheetz, and they were looking for very specific branding," Potis told the paper. "Sheetz is one of those places where everyone is, and they have great branding.... The show wants branding, very specific branding, and Sheetz is a great company to provide that branding."

Sheetz is quite grateful for the national exposure, Jones said. The brand has also made an appearance in the closing credits of Comedy Central's Big Lake, also set in Pennsylvania, said the report.

"Between that and 'The Office' and other projects we've been involved in, it's good to see Sheetz represented nationally," Jones told the Mirror. "It's one more way our brand personality gets out there; we're not just a gas station, we're a cool store. People like seeing things from their hometown represented. It is still exciting for me to see the place where I work and our stuff represented."

Sheetz is not the only locally familiar brand that gets airtime on The Office, according to the report. "There's Herr's chips on top of the refrigerator," Shea said. "Kate Flannery [who plays Meredith Palmer] is from Philadelphia, and she's a huge fan of Tastykake, so there are Tastykakes in the vending machine." (See related story on Tasty Baking Co. in this issue of CSP Daily News.)