Summer promo mojo: Studios and marketers make sure movies blossom everywhere

As we continue our series about “Cine-marketing,” which has tracked audience engagement and presented exclusive feedback from Ken Thewes of Regal Entertainment Group, we now take a look at what gets people into movie theatres in the first place—the films.

While all stakeholders involved with movies—from making them to showing them—have long been doing their best to promote and market, Film Journal International feels that this summer is particularly rife with ideas and innovations that third parties are bringing to the table. The admittedly subjective overview of activities that this author has selected ranges from the tried-and-true like sweepstakes and joint advertising to new ways of connecting via codes and direct ticketing. Products that have aligned themselves with summer movies include cars and insurance, sandwiches and burgers, bananas, blueberries and diapers.

Let’s start our search for super-promos with the official kickoff to the season. As a sequel, and like so many others, Iron Man 3 comes with a built-in set of previous supporters including Hasbro, Lego, Verizon FiOS, Audi and, of course, Marvel. What added extra zest, however, was that this represents the first of Tony Stark’s adventures to be distributed by Walt Disney Studios. So the mighty Mouse House put the combined marketing muscle from all its TV and cable assets, along with the games, publishing and consumer-products divisions, to work and even mounted a first-ever Iron Man technology exhibit at Disneyland.

Credit the Disney team for also partnering with four-wheel vehicles, off-road and street motorcycles—alongside “the premier online resource” for new and used cars—to advertise a western. Talk about reimagining a classic like The Lone Ranger. From June 24 through July 14, fans who visited were not only treated to special footage but also offered the chance to get one of 4,000 promo codes worth up to $13 toward a ticket to the film (plus another 1,000 worth $3). “In this collaboration with Disney,” reasoned, “shoppers who love drama in the movies can go see The Lone Ranger in theatres; those that hate drama when car shopping can go to”

The marketing director of Kawasaki had similar reasons. “This is an opportunity for Kawasaki to generate a great deal of excitement around product categories that are a perfect fit for the film’s characterizations. We appeal to the same type of independent, adventurous, rebellious individuals depicted by the film’s stars.” Under the heading of “Live The Legend,” the power-sports manufacturer provided ample video proof by connecting horses to horsepower and taking The Lone Ranger into a thousand dealerships to (cowboy) boot.

Many, many more Subway restaurants followed in their footsteps. Their “Partner Up and Win Adventure” sweepstakes featured the Utah Office of Tourism as an additional partner, with winning codes found on Lone Ranger cups and avocado sandwich wrap stickers. Tweeting standee photos on-site earned bonus entries to the sweepstakes. The July 2013 collaboration with Subway marked the second year in which “the world’s largest restaurant chain” promoted Disney-distributed titles, after 2012’s Brave, Frankenweenie and Wreck-It Ralph. Throughout June, Subway had already turned into “The Official Training Restaurant for Monsters Everywhere.” After giving away reusable Monsters University backpacks with its kids’ meals that offered winning codes for seeing the latest Pixar success (“Your Ticket to Fresh”), MU Alumni also showed up in Subway advertising spots.

Coincidentally, June is not only the “Awareness Month” for our Ratings System, but also for National Potty Training. That made a perfect fit—pardon the pun—for Kimberly-Clark’s Pull-Ups Training Pants to “take the ‘Scare’ out of Potty Training.” And, yes, there is an app for that too, with potty timers enhanced by character calls from Sulley and Mike. Parents are advised to call out, “What does a little monster take?” and the child is prompted to respond, “A potty break!” (Their words, not mine.)

In a more obvious but equally effective “strategic collaboration,” Disney’s Planes features a cameo by a character inspired in part by the Boeing 777-300ER, the newest addition to the fleet of American Airlines, replete with the newly developed flight symbol and stripes on his tail. In return, American’s marketing department promised, “We have a lot of great things planned for this summer, including exciting trip promotions and in-airport activities,” as well as commercials with Disney’s Planes flying high. (American Airlines passengers will also enjoy an inflight version of the movie in October, “one month earlier than other airlines.”)

Staying with children and families for the time being, our 2013 movie marketing wizards happily welcomed repeat performances of yellow Minions and blue Smurfs in support of their respective summer sequels. While Steve Carell chose Ellen DeGeneres to make his very first appearance as the despicable Gru, Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment selected Cheetos and Land O’Frost to award “One in a Minion” VIP trips to Hollywood and Orlando, Florida, that include lunch with the super-villain’s mischievous assistants. Working with “the nation’s largest family-owned packaged lunch meat company” (Land O’Frost products are available in supermarket and mass-merchant locations that account for almost 90% of U.S. sales), Despicable Me 2 lunch boxes obviously made a good match to be raffled off via codes on specially marked packages.

Meanwhile at “The World’s Greatest Toy Store,” May marked the beginning of “Minion Mayhem” (which is also the name of the Universal Studios park attraction in development) by launching the largest selection of Despicable Me 2 action and interactive figures, plushies, games and more. The Toys“R”Us stores and website were the only U.S. retail outlets to have the all-new line of toys, including a Minion missile launcher and a Minion mobile. The banana-scented Fart Blaster is destined to become a favorite, since Minions love Chiquita, after all. Not to mention Despicable Me-themed versions of Monopoly and Operation board games. (Why didn’t anyone at Hasbro and Universal think of Battleship?)

On the promotions front, the Minions partnered with Progressive Insurance, amongst several others, while the crew of Starship Enterprise entered into a multi-tiered journey with Esurance, giving away 500 tickets a day for a total of 30,000 to see Star Trek Into Darkness. The provider of direct-to-consumers auto insurance supported the second Starfleet launch with a national advertising spot, streaming radio and digital campaign (the television and in-theatre spot was produced by a division of J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions. Exclusive content on its Facebook page offered outtakes, behind-the-scenes footage and the “Vulcanizer” interface, which “magically” transforms people into Vulcans when they upload their photo.

While Mazda came onboard as the official automotive partner for Star Trek Into Darkness, the folks at Audi hired the two Spocks to mock the competition. Audi engaged Zachary Quinto and Leonard Nimoy in a German car war of their own. Though not officially connected with the Paramount picture, almost 6.5 million views of this entertaining video put Audi into the driver’s seat with two summer blockbuster movies, Star Trek and Iron Man 3.

Universal tied in Chrysler’s Dodge and SRT (Street and Racing Technology) brands to drive moviegoers into theatres with a series of commercials that showed “How to Make Your Car Fast and Furious”. Dodge also partnered with the “Car Town” Facebook game on a special promotion, in which Fast & Furious 6 tickets purchased at Regal Cinemas and on Fandango were automatically entered to win the Dodge Charger SRT8 that our hero Dom drives throughout the latest film in the $2.2 billion franchise.

Further advancing ticket purchasing power and web traffic alike, Universal doled out a daily dose of Fandango Movie Cash as Despicable Me 2 prizes in “Search of the Missing Minions” on any one of over 20 partner websites of NBCUniversal. In another example of harnessing the power of blockbuster ticketing,, “the world’s leading group of digital coupon sites”, offered 7,500 of its trademarked Super Coupons “to help drive…deal-seeking movie buffs to U.S. theatres over Memorial Day weekend.” In addition to getting $7 off a single ticket purchase, which organizers reminded us actually amounted to “60% off the national average price,” there was yet another trip to Hollywood to be won.

In support of their pictures and the box office, Paramount and Warner Bros. offered ticket specials as well, though obviously at a higher price point. Whereas the Man of Steel flew into an early and exclusive deal with Walmart, the stereoscopic spectacle of watching World War Z at five Regal IMAX and/or RPX locations required nothing short of a Mega Ticket. Its $50 charge came with small popcorn and a nifty package of collector’s custom RealD glasses and limited-edition poster as well as the HD digital download/stream when the actual movie becomes available to the home. (In support of Man of Steel and circuit per-caps, Regal gave away a large popcorn for free with a $20 purchase of a limited-edition General Zod shirt.)

Beginning May 18, tickets for the advance screening of Man of Steel went on sale in more than 3,700 Walmart stores in addition to tons of Superman merchandise on offer. Additional ticket perks, which Nikki Finke’s estimated as having generated $12 million at the box office, included coded offers for priority purchase of the subsequent Blu-ray combo pack or HD digital download with exclusive content, a free digital comic book by David S. Goyer and the “augmented reality” app that unlocks features when pointing one’s smartphone at signage in-store. “This program marks the first time in entertainment history that a studio has partnered with a retailer to provide such an opportunity for fans,” the two partners noted.

Overall, the experts at industry magazine AdAge estimated that the Superman reboot netted some $160 million in promotional support from over 100 global partners. After contemplating the act of shaving courtesy of Gillette, for example, and donning Clark Kent-inspired glasses from Warby Parker, fans could be starring in their own manly superhero video on Twizzler’s Facebook page. Additional food tie-ins came from Kellogg’s, with super burgers and buns served up at Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s.

Meanwhile, 20th Century Fox and 475 Red Robin restaurant locations jointly unleashed their “Blockbuster Fun” for another superhero. According to the partners, “The collaboration allows movie fans of all ages to experience the world of The Wolverine in a unique way, remixing the classic American passion for superheroes with epic offers that take ‘Dinner and a Movie’ to a whole new level.” In addition to special menu creations such as the Berserker Burger and a Kuzuri Style Tavern Double (with samurai slaw, ginger garlic wonton strips and cilantro), Red Robin rewarded opening-weekend ticket-stub holders with a $3 discount on their restaurant order. Purchasing a $25 Red Robin/Wolverine gift card came with a free ticket altogether. Guests also entered for a chance to win a trip for two to Japan for the “ultimate Wolverine experience.”

Fox created equally distinct experiences around The Internship, including one that highlighted “some of the best jobs that only Miller Lite can bring to life”. Expanding upon the comedy’s plotline, four friends were selected for a cross-country road trip in the fully customized “Internship” RV, which the brewer extensively chronicled on before ending it on the red carpet in Los Angeles. During that same premiere, Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn’s co-star Josh Gad presented a totally transformed look thanks to “The AXE Effect.” The marketers at Fox and Unilever came up with an entire playbook of ads with scenes from the movie. “Whether it’s impressing a new boss or chatting up a cute co-intern, AXE Hair is working with the film to show guys how having the right look can help them”. (Again, their words, not mine.)

The promo powers at equally huge Proctor & Gamble (who also make Gillette products) unveiled a “first-of-its-kind advertising campaign” for Cover Girl cosmetics. Inspired by The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, it actually features newly created products from their upcoming “Capitol Collection.” Though not opening until the end of November, the sequel’s official makeup partner was announced during the Cannes Film Festival. For searching and surfing, Lionsgate partnered with Internet Explorer to create the “groundbreaking, definitive online destination for fans” to find all of the Hunger Games content they could possibly want and letting them “track every development in the franchise”.

Paramount Pictures and ooVoo, “the fastest growing video chat app” with over 75 million registered subscribers, selected one lucky winner (and up to 100 friends) to see the world’s fastest-moving zombies at a “World War Z Hometown Screening”. As part of their overall licensing program for the film, Paramount and Bioworld rolled out “a robust in-theatre merchandise program highlighted by mobile pop-up stores” in select Regal and Muvico locations alongside similar arrangements with Cinemark, Starplex and ShowBiz Cinemas. Meanwhile, all 660 Hot Topic stores offered movie-themed storefront window displays in support of their World War Z retail exclusive. partnered with Café Press for branded apparel, gift and novelty items that complement a limited line of products based on fan-generated art. Toys, games, apparel and accessory, collectible, costume, publishing and online licensees are all part of the marketing and merchandising mix.

Meanwhile, The Smurfs are the stars of what Sony Pictures Consumer Marketing called “a global promotional campaign that stands among the largest the studio has ever produced.” Valued at $150 million, “the studio is going beyond the traditional promotional partner approach,” it was announced, “to offer a multi-generational lifestyle-based program that takes Smurf enthusiasts from the fashion runway to social-media channels, and from mass-merchant and department store-based programs to quick-service restaurant experiences, allowing consumers to interact with the Smurfs in ways they never have before.”

Involving more than 100 retail, licensing and promotional partners that “Stacked Much Higher Than Three Apples” throughout North America, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Australia, Ne w Zealand and Latin America, The Smurfs 2 has truly covered the world. As if there were any doubt about their appeal, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Sony Pictures Animation organized the second “Global Smurfs Day” with a series of “family fun and special events.”

Attracting plenty of media coverage on June 22, over 40 Smurf “ambassadors” from 28 countries gathered in Paris, where most of the animated action takes place, while the Smurfs themselves visited iconic locations elsewhere around the globe. Moscow’s Gorky Park was covered in Smurf-blue flowers, and city signage at Australia’s Surfers Paradise Beach was actually changed to Smurfers Paradise for the day; several Smurfs were spotted leaning against the Leaning Tower of Pisa and taking over the Great Wall and other locations across China, Sony’s travel agents reported. They also visited children’s hospitals in Finland, and painted Portuguese neighborhoods and South African daycare centers and orphanages in blue. Joining Neil Patrick Harris at The Grove retail center in Los Angeles, the Smurfs’ “timeless message of harmony with the environment” was highlighted with a public service tie-in between the Ad Council and the U.S. Forest Service. In addition to inviting children and their families to “Discover the Forest”, Sony also orchestrated a nationwide tour of “America the Bluetiful” where families could meet the Smurfs as they cleaned up local parks and planted trees, and encouraged us in other ways to “bluetify” the country.

Although we know there can never be enough of a beautiful thing, especially when it comes to promoting movies, we close our review with the only officially licensed remedy. If reading up on all those promotions has left you slightly hung over by now, instead of wanting more, please don’t blame this author or the studio marketeers. Check on your box-office receipts instead and enjoy a “Get Up & Go” boost with The Hangover Recovery Shot. Cheers!

You’ve Been Smurfed!

In view of our special focus on NAC this month, we collected a Smurfy list of yummy food and snacks that proves once and for all that moviegoers can eat and have their Smurf too. And, yes, the right food coloring can turn your popcorn blue.

Beginning with the biggest bite, The Smurfs 2 is McDonald’s “most anticipated promotion for 2013,” Sony Consumer Marketing assures in its impressive line-up of more than 100 partners worldwide. “With a focus on positive nutrition messages for children,” the classic Happy Meal will highlight fruits, vegetables and dairy along with unique Smurf toys. North America’s Smurf-food celebration offers fun packaging, in-store activities and displays, 16 Smurf characters and a special appearance on McPlay, the new Happy Meal app. Restaurants across Europe take families on a search to find Smurfette through special in-restaurant activities, displays and premiums. Special blue menu items and a competition highlight McDonald’s activities in Australia and New Zealand. Across Latin America, their restaurants provide special displays, unique toys and several digital components.

Haribo, who have been producing a line of yummy-gummy Smurfs in Europe for many years, are introducing the treats in America for the first time. (Can’t wait!) A multi-market European promotion includes a 45-second 3D cinema spot running in France, U.K., Germany, Poland and Italy. Additional support includes Smurfs 2 messaging on over five million packages of candy and matching displays at point-of-sale in more than 8,500 stores.

Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt is going blue across America with a limited-edition Smurfberry flavor. It’Sugar, one of the largest specialty candy and gift retailers, sells a line of Smurfs-branded candy bars. Buddy Fruits created three multi-pack Smurfs-themed products and three blended fruit and skim milk four-packs, supported by in-store displays as well as a sweepstakes in which a family can win a trip to Paris. And Gourmet Trading Company returns as a promotional partner, with the Smurfs and a sticker featured on millions of packages of their blueberries countrywide.

In Europe and the Caribbean, Capri Sun teamed up with Sony Pictures for a gift-with-purchase promotion. Consumers can also enter a sweepstakes to win tickets to the local premiere or private screenings of the movie. The program will be supported with a custom TV spot in Germany and Netherlands and a five-second TV tag in the other markets. Additional support includes over 13.8 million Smurfs 2-themed packages, and point-of-sale presence at more than 15,000 stores. Also in Germany, Stars and Rice yogurt added a blueberry flavor for a limited time while running an on-pack sweepstakes to win tickets to the German premiere supported with a TV spot and 1.5 million film-themed packages sold in 5,000 supermarkets. An additional 4,000 outlets will get Smurf messaging on four million packages of Milkana cheese.

Chupa Chips and Ferrero, other multi-territory licensees, created lollipops with Smurf packaging and delivered many millions of Kinder surprise chocolate eggs, supported by a “huge advertising campaign” across the board, including TV.

Based on information provided by Sony Consumer Marketing, June 13, 2013.