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    Ranking "Survivor's" Most Hilarious Product Placements Through The Years

    The castaways are eating Doritos, drinking 7UP, and shopping at Sears.

    Survivor (the greatest reality TV show of all time) is BACK after a looooooooooooong COVID delay.

    CBS / Via giphy.com

    Obviously, the world is jazzed up, so to celebrate this glorious occasion, I thought we should take a moment to appreciate a wild and wonderful part of Survivor history: PRODUCT PLACEMENT.

    CBS / Via giphy.com

    Survivor is no stranger to making a quick buck on the side with some in-game advertisements, so I went back through all 40 seasons to find the product placement deals.

    CBS / Via giphy.com

    And for your pleasure, I have ranked them all by just how strange/out of place the promotion is.

    CBS / Via giphy.com

    I used three factors in determining this ranking: 1) Is the product a natural fit to appear on Survivor in the first place? (A line of machetes would make a lot of sense, but a challenge sponsored by Lego would not.);  2) How strange was the presentation of the product on the show? (Is it a basic reward, or does it get brought into the show in some other way? Also, how many times is it featured on the show?); 3) How helpful would the product actually be to the Survivors? (Food is more important than a new speaker system.)

    Without further ado, the ranking:

    CBS / Via giphy.com

    26. Reebok

    The cast of Survivor: The Australian Outback decked out inn Reebok apparel
    CBS

    For the first four seasons of the show, Survivor was sponsored by Reebok, meaning that castaways were largely outfitted in the sportswear brand. Just take a look at how many Reebok logos you can see in The Australian Outback cast photo above. This product placement makes so much sense because if you were living in the wild for 39 days (or 42 days in the case of the Season 2 cast), you'd naturally want to wear clothes made for the outdoors. This wardrobing theme quickly went by the wayside as contestants seemingly were given nothing but underwear/bathing suits in the middle seasons and are now dressed in strange outfits meant to signify tribe colors and profession. (Green tribe account, I hope you've got some green sweater vests and chinos in your wardrobe!)

    25. Pontiac Aztek/Tent

    The Pontiac Aztek parked alongside a river
    CBS

    A prize won by Colby in Season 2, the oddly ugly yellow SUV does actually make a good bit of sense to give out as a reward on Survivor. That is because this car has a "trunk that turns into a tent" feature. How useful is this in real life? Who knows? But if you were trying to hock this on a television show, Survivor was the closest thing to a camping show you had at the time. If you are someone who bought an Aztek and used it for camping purposes regularly, please reach out because I'd love to hear about how that went. This seems to be the precursor to people who lived out of their vans. 

    24. Boy Scouts of America

    Lill Morris wearing her Boy Scout uniform in a confessional
    CBS

    So, not technically paid product placement, but the Boy Scouts of America got a LOT of air time in Pearl Islands thanks to Scout Master Lill wearing her uniform the entire 39 days. Again, a Boy Scout guerrilla marketing campaign makes sense, as Survivor is all about living in the woods and being resourceful, which is what I gathered the Scouts are about from my six-month tenure as a Webelo (my parents made me quit when they realized they'd have to chaperone a camping trip).

    23. Home Depot

    Jerri Manthey opens a crate with The Home Depot written on it while Ethan Zahn and Jenna Lewis look on
    CBS

    In Season 8 (All-Stars), tribes participated in a reward challenge that involved creating the best shelter in 24 hours using a set of tools and supplies provided by Home Depot. Sort of a strange challenge in the pantheon of Survivor challenges, but the product placement makes sense. Castaways' lives would be much easier if they had good tools, and we see how well the tools work in action on the show. Nicely done, Home Depot publicity team. 

    22. Outback Steakhouse

    The Outback Steakhouse menu with Survivors eating in the background
    CBS

    Of all the product placement food rewards in Survivor's history (of which there are many and we will get to them all on this list), I think the repeated Outback Steakhouse collab makes the most sense. First off, there is a whole season of the show called The Australian Outback (so, synergy even though Outback didn't sponsor that season). Secondly, the robust menu at Outback seems like something that would actually give the castaways sustenance. If I had eaten nothing but rice, coconut, and rat for three weeks, then a steak, a baked potato, and Bloomin' Onion would be incredibly nourishing and filling. So not necessarily survival related, but it makes sense nonetheless. 

    21. Applebees

    Servers wait with cocktails next to a large Applebees sign
    CBS

    In Season 39 (Island of the Idols), the tribes compete for an Applebees reward. As with Outback, this food seems like something you'd want if you were malnourished. Also, they got some vaguely tropical drinks. Applebees itself doesn't really have any wilderness branding, so it's slightly more out of place, but not by much. 

    20. Charmin

    Three rolls of Charmin toilet paper
    CBS

    Charmin pops up in Exile Island, China, and Tocantins for various rewards, and while on the surface it seems out of place, if you're pooping in the woods for six weeks, some TP would be a WELCOME addition to camp. In Exile Island, one tribe even wins a whole Charmin package, including an outhouse (which a contestant then gets drunk and falls asleep in). Charmin should get back in touch about more deals, especially after the whole Darnell aqua-dumping sequence in Kaôh Rōng

    19. Herbal Essences

    A bunch of Herbal Essences Bottles in a basket
    CBS

    In Micronesia, the tribes competed for a spa day sponsored by Herbal Essences, and I think this is a similar type product placement to Charmin. The contestants are DIRTY, so any kind of shower/shampoo/soap is much appreciated. I feel gross after one day without a shower, let alone two weeks that involve mud wrestling competitions. This reward would surely make anyone orgasmically happy. 

    18. Sierra Mist

    An icy bucket of Sierra Mist bottles
    CBS

    Of the various beverage sponsors, Sierra Mist seems like the most natural choice presented in the most natural way. It is cool and refreshing, and I'd imagine nice to sip on in the Marquesan heat. The PepsiCo drink was part of a reward in Season 4 that also included chicken, quiche, bean salad, and dessert, so the Sierra Mist made a natural addition. Tasty and refreshing.

    17. Mountain Dew

    Jeff Probst watches blindfolded castaways carry basket near a barrel of Mountain Dew
    CBS

    For whatever reason, PepsiCo's more highly caffeinated sister lemon-lime beverage was the drink of choice in the show's earlier seasons. It pops up multiple times in Australia and Africa. I think all the caffeine in Mountain Dew would wreak some havoc on a body without much food in it in a way that Sierra Mist wouldn't. I'm getting a big coffee-on-an-empty-stomach-jitters vibe. Also, the Mountain Dew was presented as a prize in and of itself with a whole challenge being branded with the logo in Australia. It was paired with chips once, but idk, Mountain Dew and chips just don't seem that filling or Survivor-themed.  

    16. Cars

    Jeff Probst rides in a new car with Lex van den Berghe
    CBS

    Aside from Colby's Aztek, another dozen GM and Ford vehicles were given out to contestants as reward prizes in the early seasons. In fact, they were given out so much that a "car curse" was created and addressed on the show itself since the winner of the car never went on to win the million dollars, despite it being awarded late in the seasons' runs. Winning a car on a reality show does make sense in a game show kind of way, but the cars always felt a bit out of place in the desert/jungle, especially when they weren't trucks or SUVs (and, of course, didn't have tents attached to their rears).

    15. Snickers Bar

    Jeff Probst holds a Snickers bar
    CBS

    Winning an Outback Steakhouse meal has an appeal that winning a single king-sized Snickers bar does not. Yes, the Snickers has nuts and is probably one of the more filling options if we're talking candy, but all-in-all, it's still a weird prize. Kathy Vavrick O'Brien won it on Marquesas along with a scuba diving trip (again a strange pairing). I think this would actually be nourishing and nice to eat, but a tad out of place. 

    14. Doritos

    Jeff Probst holds a red plate with two Doritos on it
    CBS

    Not as out of place, however, as Doritos. If you are looking for sustenance, Doritos are really not going to do it for you, especially when paired solely with Mountain Dew. Like, why have a challenge reward being the food you gorged yourself on at your neighbor's seventh grade birthday party and then proceeded to throw up in their toilet in the middle of the night? To add insult to injury, when the Doritos/Mountain Dew reward challenge is announced in The Australian Outback, each tribe is given ONE CHIP to share among themselves as a taste. Like, not each person gets one chip. The tribe gets one chip. Whose idea was that? So stupid. 

    13. Coors Light

    Rob Mariano and Kathy Vavrick-O'Brien cheer Coors Light
    CBS

    If there is one thing I would not want after not eating for several weeks, it would be light beer. No calories. Instantly drunk. Incredibly hungover. No thank you. In Marquesas (the king of product placement), Kathy and Boston Rob are treated to a merge feast that included pizza and 30 cans of Coors Light. Drinking 30 cans of Coors Light sounds like some kind of vile medieval torture device under any circumstance, let alone when you're starving. I realize that it seems celebratory, but I think I'd take the Sierra Mist if given the option.

    12. Bud Light

    Jeff Probst and Kelly Wiglesworth cheers Bud Lights
    CBS

    Bud Light is basically the equivalent, except in the OG Survivor: Borneo, Kelly Wiglesworth wins a reward that consists of a SINGLE BOTTLE of Bud Light. Like, at that point, just give me a cold Dasani. And it turns out that the contestants thought this was a crummy award as well and basically mutinied, host Jeff Probst recalled. So food and drink rewards always make some sense, but this one seems ill advised. 

    11. 7UP

    The 7UP Oasis
    CBS

    Sticking with the lemon-lime soda theme, the Sierra Mist/Mountain Dew competitor 7UP made an appearance in Season 24, One World. What makes the 7UP appearance more strange than the other soft drinks is how far they went in the promotion. Yes, the castaways win the soft drink, but they are also going to a cabana dubbed the "7UP Oasis," where everything is presented in that yellow/green color scheme. Also, the tribe got to bring back unlimited (presumably lukewarm) 7UP back to camp. 7UP is not necessarily a strange sponsor, but the intrusive nature of its presence bumped it up the list a few spots. 

    10. Sears

    A wooden Sears catalogue
    CBS

    Now we're getting to the product placement deals that are truly head-scratchers. What does Sears, a department store, have to do with people stranded on a desert island? Not much that I can think of. But they were sponsors of the show, so in the marquee Season 20, Heroes vs. Villains, a reward is that castaways get to pick prizes out of a Sears catalogue. I guess yes, if you were on an island you would appreciate receiving things that Sears sold (before it went out of business RIP), but otherwise this sticks out like a sore thumb. 

    9. Mars Chocolate

    A line of glasses holding Mars Chocolate products
    CBS

    Okay, yes, we did already talk about the lone Snickers prize, and I said that it wasn't that strange. And yes, Snickers is owned by Mars, so it does make an appearance here. The thing that makes this Mars product placement in Season 30, Worlds Apart, so baffling is that the whole reward is just eating Mars candy at a "Chocolate Hut." I love chocolate as much as the next guy, but how much chocolate can you eat? And on an empty stomach? This is not a prize at all. This is a secret punishment. 

    8. Pringles

    Several cans of Survivor Trivia Pringles next to Mai-Tais
    CBS

    Like Doritos, Pringles made an appearance several times on the show. Unlike Doritos, however, Pringles managed to turn itself into one of the strangest and most iconic reward prizes in the show's history. In Palau, one tribe earned Pringles and mai tais as a reward. Have those two items ever been paired together in the history of our universe? Such a strange combo. And to make matters worse, the Pringles were a special Survivor trivia-themed chip. Whose idea was it to print Survivor trivia questions on Pringles and then think that a great reward for malnourished contestants would be to give them the trivia potato chips and pineapple rum drinks? This is a combination only seen in a "we're moving cross-country tomorrow and we've got to clean out the pantry and bar cart" level of desperation. 

    7. Gulliver's Travels

    Dan Lembo sits in a large chair during a Gulliver's Travels themed challenge
    CBS

    Survivor has done a movie night several times in the show's 40 seasons, but prior to Nicaragua, it had always been a pre-released movie that fit with the season's theme (like Out of Africa or Lord of the Flies). In Season 21, however, the producers opted for a new release tie-in with contestants competing in a Gulliver's Travels–themed challenge before winning an advance screening of the Jack Black/Jason Segel comedy. This is weird and blatant product placement. The only think I can say for the combo is that Gulliver is at least about traveling to a deserted island. 

    6. Visa

    Jeff Probst holds a Visa Card
    CBS

    Why? Why? Why would you need a credit card while living off the land in a place with no stores and when you have no money? There is absolutely no thematic reason why Visa should be a product placement sponsor for this show. And yet, here we are. In the early seasons, Jeff and Co. were shoehorning Visa into a number of challenges, including one where contestants got to online shop for their family with Visa and one where contestants went through the charade of using "Jeff's Visa" to pay for a boating trip. Madness (although they did leave waiters some big tips). 

    5. Sprint

    Jeff Probst holds a Sprint cell phone
    CBS

    Equally baffling is why you'd need a phone. If you're not calling someone to get you off the island and then paying them with a Visa, these are two things you don't need. And yet Sprint was a longtime sponsor of the show, rewarding fan favorite contestants with monetary prizes for a number of seasons. While Sprint always appeared during the finale crowning of the show's Miss Congeniality, they also worked it into episodes in bizarre ways. Sometimes contestants would get video messages from home. Other times they'd get to take pictures with the phone's camera or receive challenge clues via text. Really never made a lick of sense. 

    4. iMac

    Elisabeth sits down at an iMac computer while Jeff stands behind her
    CBS

    If the castaways didn't need a phone on the island, they certainly didn't need a whole home office setup complete with an iMac. And yet, here we are in the Australian bush typing away on AIM. Contestants got a chance to message with their families (and then go on that Visa shopping spree) in this reward challenge laden with product placement. Honestly, I'm shocked they didn't get Starbucks on board to sponsor the coffee at this "internet café."

    3. Coca-Cola

    Jeff Probst stands next to a wodden fridge filled with Coke
    CBS

    Okay. Getting a reward of Coca-Cola on Survivor is not that weird. Getting an electronic fridge full of Coke to take back to your lean-to in the Amazon Rainforest is unhinged (especially when that whole camp would burn down days later).  Making it all the weirder, Survivor's set design crew decided to take a perfectly normal fridge and cover it with pieces of crates and old wood so that it looked more Survivor-y. Just such a bizarre reward. I rewatched the episode from Season 6 and was just agog by how weird the whole thing was when they could have just as easily given them a reward of pizza and Coke and called it good. 

    2. Marshalls

    The Marshalls Lounge
    CBS

    At least with Sears, we got to see some Sears products. And at least with the 7UP Oasis, there was plenty of 7UP to be had. When Marshalls sponsored the Marshalls Lounge in Season 34, Game Changers, the reward winners just went to a lounge to eat burgers that had a Marshalls sign above the table. Marshalls is a discount department store that sells clothes, perfumes, and home goods. Nothing that they sell really would make sense on the island, and even if it did, we didn't get to see much of it aside from a few pillows. Marshalls truly just paid for some name placement here. The connection is baffling. 

    1. Jack and Jill

    A theatre marquee that reads "Now Showing Jack and Jill"
    CBS

    Easily, far and away the most mystifying and notorious product placement deal in the show's history is the Adam Sandler film Jack and Jill. The film is part of another movie night reward in South Pacific, but really there is no connection whatsoever between the show and the Razzie-winning film. The movie is not survival-related. It is not set on an island. It didn't star a past contestant. Who greenlit this idea and then coerced the Survivor contestants to give such glowing reviews of the film? We can only hope and pray to the father, son, and House of Gucci, that we'll ever get a product placement deal so ludicrous again. Perhaps a Dear Evan Hansen movie night?

    You can stream all 40 seasons of Survivor plus Season 41 (airing Sept. 22) on Paramount+. Get a membership today for $4.99 a month or sign up for a one week free trial

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