CKE Restaurants brands Carl's Jr. and Hardee's have received a social media lift since debuting the Southwest Patty Melt commercials starring 2012 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue cover model Kate Upton.

According to the company, Upton was signed for the ads before she found out she was the cover model. Once the Sports Illustrated announcement was made, however, Upton's stock rose significantly, and the restaurant chain's commercials generated more than half a billion impressions worldwide.

"For two moderate-sized, regional fast-food chains, Carl's Jr. and Hardee's have established a pretty amazing track record over the years of working with celebrities who are just hitting their pop culture zeniths when they appear in our advertising, and some would even go so far as to say that our ads helped propel them there," said Brad Haley, chief marketing officer for Carl's Jr. and Hardee's. "But, our timing with Kate Upton, unquestionably, tops them all. From Paris Hilton to Kim Kardashian, our ads often achieve iconic status thanks to the huge public interest in our stars as well as the way we portray them on film."

Media coverage of Upton's participation in the Carl's Jr. and Hardee's ad for the Southwest Patty Melt currently stands at 627 million impressions. The online-only 60-second director's cut of the ad has been viewed more than 3.6 million times. The 30-second Drive-In spot and two behind-the-scenes videos bring the total views to nearly 4.5 million. Fans in 220 different countries around the globe have watched the various videos.

The ad campaign was created by CKE's agency 72andSunny, which was handed the company's creative assignment in December without review.

"We just want to thank Kate for all that she has achieved with us and we wish her well in her career, which we expect to be a long and successful one given her talent, looks and charm," added Haley. "... We are now in the enviable position of being approached by celebrities who want to appear in our ads because of the pop-culture buzz they generate. I can't think of any other fast-food brand that would be viewed that way by rising stars."

According to national research firm BrandIndex, Hardee's saw a 24-point jump in impression score for the brand among 18-to-34-year-old males.

Additionally, the 60-second version of the ad took the top spot on the Ad Age Viral Video Chart on March 8, and was at No. 10 the following week.

Other stats to consider:

  • More than 120,000 new Facebook fans for Carl's Jr. and Hardee's since the ad launched;
  • 104 percent increase in site visits over the previous week to Hardees.com brand site after the 60-second director's cut video was posted;
  • 83 percent increase in visits over the previous week to Carlsjr.com brand site after the 60-second director's cut video was posted;
  • More than 5,000 tweets have mentioned the product, Kate @KateUpton, the ad and the brands @CarlsJr and @Hardees; Those 5,000 tweets reached more than 12.4 million Twitter followers and had a 94 percent approval rating.

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