You are here
ALTOONA, Pa. -- Fans of "The Office" on NBC can catch glimpses of Sheetz merchandise around the desks of Dunder Mifflin. The convenience store chain is one of the brands used through product placement on the comedy series in its attempt to be authentic and representative of everyday life in Pennsylvania, the Altoona Mirror reported.
When Dwight Schrute sips at his coffee while plotting against co-worker Jim Halpert, it's from a Sheetz cup. When Michael Scott stands in the Dunder Mifflin kitchenette and complains about Sabre corporate lackey Gabe Lewis, the refrigerator boasts a Sheetz magnet.
"It's pretty exciting," Monica Jones, public relations manager for Sheetz, told the newspaper. "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."
"The Office" began broadcasting on NBC in 2005, adapted from a British comedy of the same name. It stars Steve Carell as Michael Scott, a regional manager of a fictitious paper supply company called Dunder Mifflin, based in Scranton, Pa. The comedy details the sometimes mundane, sometimes outrageous day-to-day activities of the office's employees.
Philip Shea, property master for "The Office," said with other shows, they always have to fabricate stuff, but with "The Office" taking place in modern day Scranton, they can use local stuff. 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.
A "prop drop" was arranged at the Steamtown Mall in Scranton. "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 recalled. "This was our first introduction to the Sheetz brand."
One Sheetz store is within the Scranton city limits, but Jones said there are "probably 10 or 12 throughout that northeast corner."
The Sheetz items made their way with the other props back to L.A. and into the Dunder Mifflin offices.
"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."
More plotlines would soon strengthen the relationship between the show and the c-store chain.
"Later, we wanted to get more travel coffee cups, in case someone on the show was making a coffee run or whatever," Shea said. "Mari Potis told us about Sheetz."
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 said. "Sheetz is one of those places where everyone is, and they have great branding. When he called about a specific place for coffee, I said, 'Listen, Sheetz is right there.' I went over and got the number for corporate, got to the right people and made it happen."
The Sheetz brand has made some memorable appearances on the program to those with an eye for details. Specifically, a Sheetz magnet has appeared on several episodes, as characters gather in front of a refrigerator in the office's kitchenette.
There is no hierarchy of props, though, Shea told the newspaper. All product appearances are left to the whim of the camera. "We like to call that prop serendipity. Our show is a single camera show. There are just two camera operators with hand-held cameras. Unlike other shows, we have no idea where the camera man will shoot, so we go in before they start shooting and put stuff up, a magnet, a menu. We just place it wherever. So it's all what the camera catches. There is a lot of Sheetz stuff out there (on the set), so chances are good that (viewers) will see a local product."
Sheetz is not the only locally familiar brand that gets airtime on "The Office." There are Herr's chips on top of the refrigerator and Tastykakes in the vending machine.
Sheetz also makes an appearance on another television comedy, Comedy Central's "Big Lake," starring "Saturday Night Live" alums Horatio Sanz and Chris Parnell. It’s also set in Pennsylvania. A Sheetz store appears in the closing credits of the Comedy Central show.
"Between that and 'The Office' and other projects we've been involved in, it's good to see Sheetz represented nationally," Jones said. "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."