– 27th Sept 2017 –
2016 was a record breaking year for female-led films, with The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film reporting that women fronted 29% of the top 100 grossing films of the year, resulting in a 7% increase on 2015 results.
With a slow but steady rise in female-led films, it’s no surprise that brands have been quick to capitalise on opportunities to associate with strong and empowered characters through product placement and relevant brand partnerships. We take a look at some of the successes – and fails – of these recent partnerships and propose that the time is now for more female-focused brands to capitalise on the success and popularity of films with strong female role models.
Notable female-fronted films of recent years included Amy Adams in ‘Arrival’, Felicity Jones in ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’, Mila Kunis in ‘Bad Moms’ and the ensemble of Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones in ‘Ghostbusters’; a clear sign that Hollywood is addressing the gender bias that has plagued the industry for decades.
However, despite the dominance of Jones’ character in ‘Rogue One’, with her character taking central stage of the promotional posters, the brand partners of the film were typically male/family-skewing. With promotional campaigns from brands such as Gilette, Nissan and Verizon failing to capitalise on the film appealing to a wider female audience.
CREDIT: SONY PICTURES
Similarly the ‘Ghostbusters’ UK promotional run included gender neutral brand partnerships for National Tyres and Autocare, Sony Mobile, O2 Priority and Karcher, none of which used the strong female characters to their advantage. In fact there was very little in the way of women appearing in the campaigns, with brands seemingly to prefer playing on the popularity of the iconic and long-standing franchise than its appeal to a new female generation.
2017 continues the revolution of female leads taking over the typically male-skewing film genres with Gal Gadot picking up Wonder Woman’s lasso and sword and smashing the 2017 box office. The film took a massive $800 million during the summer, becoming the third highest-grossing film in Warner Brothers history. As a result, the film’s director, Patty Jenkins is soon to become the highest-paid female director in history following confirmation that she will direct the sequel.
CREDIT: WARNER BROS PICTURES
Whilst ‘Wonder Woman’ cemented tie-ins with brands such as Dr Pepper, Lego, Nascar and a Walgreens Cosmetics line, the film generated some negative press when it was revealed that one of the film’s partners was a female lifestyle brand called thinkThin, offering protein bars, nutritional supplements etc. Naturally this caused a backlash on social media as many were outraged that the film would promote the idea that being thin is synonymous with being a healthy, strong and intelligent woman.
In stark contrast to this, the film’s promotional campaign also coincided with International Women’s day, where the film’s stars Gal Gadot and Chris Pine used the day as a platform to contribute to the pro-feminist conversation and solidify the film as leading the way for the industry to encourage more female focus and leadership. Despite his celebrity draw, Chris Pine was notably absent from the films promotional posters as the studio played to the film’s strength and made the decision to put Gadot’s character front and center of all marketing efforts.
CREDIT: WARNER BROS PICTURES
It’s not only the comic-book genre that female leads are starting to take over. This year’s ‘Atomic Blonde’ pulled the punches in this Cold War action thriller, billed as a ‘female John Wick’ and actually went on to gross more at the box office than the Keanu Reeves original. Russian Vodka brand Stolichnaya became a natural brand partner with the film’s bold and edgy tone, fitting perfectly with the brand’s current positioning. The product placement of the brand included two verbal mentions by Theron’s character, with the bottle appearing eight times throughout the film.
The campaign included an Atomic Blonde/Stoli Pandora station which generated over 31K listeners and the campaign’s display ads totalled more than 23.4 million impression,s while pre-roll videos garnered over 9 million views.
CREDIT: STOLI VODKA
2018 is set to continue the trend of female led feature films. Fans of the 2001 crime thriller ‘Ocean’s 11′ starring George Clooney and Brad Pitt are eagerly awaiting the all-female remake titled ‘Ocean’s 8′ with a high profile cast including Anne Hathaway, Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, Rihanna and many more.
All we can say about the film so far is that Debbie Ocean, played by Sandra Bullock will attempt to ‘pull off the heist of the century at New York’s star-studded annual Met Gala’ – perhaps providing a golden opportunity for luxury fashion brands given the setting. There’s still a while to wait and see which brands will partner up with the project as the film hits theatres on 8th June 2018.
CREDIT: WARNER BROS PICTURES
Also in the works is the upcoming remake of ‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels’ currently titled ‘Nasty Women’ led by Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson. The original starred Steve Martin and Michael Caine and saw two con men try to settle their rivalry by betting on who can swindle a young American heiress out of $50k first. ‘Nasty Women’ sees the gender reversed version of the 1988 comedy where the two characters will engage in a loser-leaves-town contest.
CREDIT: REBEL WILSON INSTAGRAM
Another project that will feature a strong and powerful woman is ‘Red Sparrow’, with Jennifer Lawrence teaming up with her ‘Hunger Games’ Director to portray a Russian spy seductress. Starring alongside are Joel Edgerton, Ciaran Hinds, Charlotte Rampling and Mary-Louise Parker.
With the first shots of Alicia Vikander in action as everyone’s favourite ‘Tomb Raider’, Lara Croft in the films recently released trailer, is yet just another example that goes to prove how much Hollywood sees the benefit of these female focused movies.
With the film industries support and the number of strong female role models on screen, there has never been better opportunity for brands, whether gender specific or not, to reach the core female audience.
From on screen integrations and product placement to smart and targeted promotional brand partnerships, more companies are seeing the benefits of choosing to associate with these mega franchises and push forward the message of gender equality in a typically male-dominated industry.