SBJ/July 24 - 30, 2006/This Weeks News

‘Nights’ places sponsors out front

Will Ferrell’s character, Ricky Bobby, wears a uniform adorned with Wonder Bread and Nextel logos, he races against the Perrier and Old Spice cars, munches on a Checkers burger and Domino’s pizza, and sits down to dinner with a container of Country Crock on the table.

Country Crock and Checkers are two of the brands
that are activating around Will Ferrell’s new movie.
No wonder he begins the blessing by thanking his sponsors.

The movie “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby,” which hits theaters Aug. 4, plays to many of NASCAR’s most enduring stereotypes, especially the practice of emphasizing sponsors. Hardly a scene goes by without some company benefiting from the placement of its brand.

“This is one of the most pervasive product placements we’ve seen in some time,” said Larry Vincent, senior vice president for Octagon’s music and entertainment division, which did not have any ties to the movie. “You could end up calling it the product-placement movie of all time because of the subject matter. A movie about NASCAR lends itself so well to branding that it feels natural, it actually makes the film more real.”

Just as Aston Martin was recognized as James Bond’s car of choice, Wonder Bread likely will benefit from being known as the sponsor of Ricky Bobby’s fictitious No. 26 car. For Wonder Bread, whose parent company, Interstate Bakeries, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in September 2004, its placement in “Talladega Nights” could be a boon, just as it has been for other products.

Reese’s Pieces might have enjoyed the most prolific success with product placement, experiencing a 65 percent jump in sales after appearing in “E.T.” in 1982. Red Stripe sales increased 50 percent in the United States in 1993 thanks largely to exposure in “The Firm.”

Wonder Bread made its way into the pre-eminent spot in “Talladega Nights” through the help of Norm Marshall & Associates, an entertainment and marketing agency, which negotiated the deal with Sony Pictures. Wonder Bread’s brand equity — it’s been around since 1921 — and national appeal as the best-selling white bread in the United States made it the right fit for a highly coveted position.

“Sony was looking for an all-American brand, and Wonder Bread was a strategic fit,” said Devery Holmes, president and chief marketing officer at NMA. “Many, many potential partners were reviewed, and practically everyone who was approached wanted to be in the movie. … You need the brands to bring the NASCAR world to life.”

“They were looking for an American iconic brand that would work,” said Stan Osman, Interstate vice president of marketing. “It’s an opportunity we all saw.”

Wonder Bread’s deal with Sony Pictures, like others in the movie between the studio and product, involved no cash. It’s simply an exchange of exposure for exposure, which is common in Hollywood.

Sprint Nextel, as the sponsor of NASCAR’s Cup Series, would have enjoyed a prominent spot in the film without any effort, but executives with the global wireless provider decided to shoot for a more significant on-screen presence. The payoff for Sprint goes well beyond the exposure; it has developed exclusive mobile content that includes ring tones, call tones, video vignettes and screensavers. The company also has promoted the film and its mobile content with a series of TV and radio commercials that will run through much of August. Those ads include exclusive content of Ferrell’s character not found in the movie, which was a vital piece of the negotiations for Sprint.

“We’ve never done anything this big in a promotional manner,” said Laurie Thompson, Sprint’s director of entertainment marketing. “It was all tied to NASCAR and comedy, so it was perfect for us.”

Two of the biggest activators from the movie, Checkers Drive-In Restaurants and Country Crock, were introduced to Sony by NASCAR, and they have integrated Ricky Bobby into their promotional campaigns.

Country Crock, a Unilever brand, is promoting the movie with 1,500 pallet displays at most Wal-Mart supercenters and hundreds of grocery stores. The brand also went on-site at four racetracks to hand out “Talladega Nights” posters.

Checkers uses Ricky Bobby prominently in its Fully Loaded Sweepstakes, which offers consumers a chance to win a Ford F-150 truck and other prizes. Without the national footprint that other companies own, Checkers worked a little harder to convince Sony Pictures that it was the right fit. Its TV ads featuring Ricky Bobby have been running in 45 markets since last month.

“We don’t have the deepest pockets, so we have to be more strategic,” said Rich Turer, vice president of marketing for Checkers/Rally’s, which overall in 2006 will spend $40 million on nine promotions. “NASCAR introduced us to Sony and it was up to us to navigate the deal. The disadvantage was that we’re just mostly in the Southeast and the Midwest, but we overcame that with our activation plans and added value. We work hard to look bigger than we are.”

Talladega Rights

NASCAR sponsors involved
in the movie:
Prominent non-NASCAR sponsors
in the movie:
Sprint Nextel
Wonder Bread
Old Spice
Checkers / Rally's
Country Crock
Discount Tire
Bass Pro Shops


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