Apr 26 Film

The Appeal of Product Placement in Film Franchises

Fast and Furious 8 Franchise

– 26th Apr 2017 –

When Fast & Furious 8 (aka The Fate Of The Furious) hit cinema screens on April 14th it was no surprise that it would become one of the fastest movies ever to head towards the billion dollar mark at the box office.

What also wasn’t surprising is what audiences would expect to see from the 8th outing of this billion dollar franchise; nitros injected edge-of-your-seat action, multi-million dollar pile ups, furrowed brow face-offs and a blatant disregard for traffic signs. But what did surprise audiences was Dom’s (Vin Diesel) choice of beer: Budweiser and Stella Artois!

Stella Artois Product Placement Fast and Furious 8
Behind-the-scenes on Fast & Furious 8 with Stella Artois. Credit: Universal

Ever since the first Fast movies crashed onto screens back in 2001, Dom’s beer of choice has always been Corona, with numerous verbal and hands-on placements throughout the franchise, including when he first offers Brian (Paul Walker) a beer by saying, “You can have any brew you want as long as it’s a Corona”.

Why the sudden change in taste? No one really knows but Vanity Fair suspects that Dom and his crew may have cashed in when AB InBev – ironically the parent group of Budweiser, Stella and Corona – wanted to share the love and break into the franchise.

One less cynical article cites the absence of Corona as a nod to the absence of Brian, played by the late Paul Walker. Throughout the franchise Dom always drank Corona with Brian and therefore with no Brian, there’s no Corona.

Whatever the reason, the fact that audiences expected to see Corona shows how effective their recurring product placement in the film franchise has been, almost as if Corona is part of the fast family.

But Corona and Fast is by no means the first or even the longest franchise product placement deal in cinema history. With over 24 films spanning 65 years, that honour goes to James Bond and Aston Martin. In its’ six-and-a-half decades of saving the world, 007 has been behind the wheel of an Aston Martin in no less than 12 Bond films, making its first appearance in 1964’s Goldfinger and most recently in Bond’s latest mission, Spectre.

James Bond Aston Martin DB 10 Product Placement in Spectre
Daniel Craig as James Bond featuring the Aston Martin DB 10 in Spectre.

As well as the longest running franchise, Bond also holds the title for the most number of recurring placements with the same brand. While Bond’s favourite drink, Martini, has been made with a variety of vodkas over the years (Smirnoff, Finlandia & Belvedere), when it comes to champagne, for the past 14 films and spanning over 40 years of collaboration, 007 has been toasting his conquests with a bottle of Bollinger.

Bollinger Product Placement in Spectre
Bollinger Champagne in Spectre.

With product placement usually resulting in one party benefitting financially from the other, what is most surprising about Aston Martin, Bollinger, Corona and many of the other long standing meaningful franchise product placement partnerships, is that more often than not they don’t involve fees.

It is widely reported that Bollinger’s long standing relationship with Bond was the result of a handshake following a rather champagne fuelled dinner between the franchise’s original producer Cubby Broccoli and the Bollinger family in the late 1970’s.

For Corona, the 15million dollars-worth of exposure it has received from its various appearances in the Fast franchise was simply because it “seemed” right to Director Rob Cohen who recalls, “I was trying to make an L.A. saga, and Corona, to me, just seemed like this iconic, Southern California beer,”.

In the Twilight Saga, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) drove a Volvo not because Volvo outbid everyone else vying for the opportunity, but because author Stephanie Myers wrote the cars into the book and the directors didn’t wish to incur the wrath of the loyal Twi-hard fans.

Volvo took full advantage of the franchise placement by showcasing their fleet of vehicles from the C30 in the first movie, through to the XC60 and S60 in the subsequent sequels and also running numerous promotional sweepstakes, commercials and dealership activity to coincide with the release of the five film franchise, which grossed over $3.3 billion at the global box office. 

Volvo XC60 Product Placement in 'The Twilight Saga: New Moon'
Volvo XC60 in The Twilight Saga: New Moon.

Many other brands saw the benefit of partnering with the Twilight franchise and capitalising from the film’s success, including fashion label Belstaff. Having dressed Jacob (Taylor Lautner) and Bella (Kristen Stewart) in Twilight Breaking Dawn – Part 1, Belstaff worked with the costume designer to go on and dress another 12 characters in the sequel Twilight Breaking Dawn – Part 2, resulting in exposure in the films’ global marketing campaign.

Belstaff Product Placement in Twilight
Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward (Robert Pattinson) in Belstaff jackets in Twilight: Breaking Dawn – Pt 2.

“Belstaff are no strangers to franchise product placement” says Darryl Collis, Director of Seesaw Media, a specialist product placement agency that secures exposure for clients in high profile feature films and are always looking out for the next franchise. Darryl and his team are responsible for securing exposure for Belstaff in over 70 films including the critically acclaimed Dark Knight trilogy.

Not only did Belstaff appear on Christian Bale in Batman Begins but Seesaw collaborated with the costume designer to dress Bruce Wayne when riding his motorcycle in the billion dollar Dark Knight Returns. Darryl highlights “As that film became the biggest film of 2008 it really helped put Belstaff on the map”.  

Seesaw Media not only engineered the placement but also helped Belstaff promote their association with the franchise, coordinating Belstaff’s sponsorship of the world premiere in New York and the associated marketing campaign and licence which resulted in one of Belstaff’s most successful garment sales.

The Dark Knight Premiere - Belstaff Product Placement
(L-R) Actors Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Christian Bale and Maggie Gyllenhaal at the premiere of The Dark Knight, sponsored by Belstaff. Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris

Belstaff’s partnership with the Dark Knight trilogy didn’t end there and took an interesting turn with the films swan song, The Dark Knight Rises. When it was clear there was no opportunity to dress the bat-suited and booted Bruce Wayne, Darryl turned to fellow Brit actor and his just as dark character of Bane.

Belstaff Product Placement in The Dark Knight Rises
Bane (Thom Hardy) in Belstaff jacket in The Dark Knight Rises.

Darryl explains “when it comes to fashion and character, the villains usually have more style and depth than the very straight hero and Bane being a Brit and physical match for the Dark Knight, Belstaff had the perfect jacket for him”.  Seesaw supplied a Belstaff classic treated waxed, four pocket jacket which was chosen as part of the films marketing campaign, meaning the image of the jacket went global.

2017 is shaping up to be the year of the franchise and while audiences have already been treated to the 8th Fast and 9th X-Men movie, that’s just the tip of the iceberg as film studios go head-to-head.

Still to come to the big screen are the 5th movies in both the Transformers and Pirates Of The Caribbean sagas – Transformers: The Last Knight (23rd June) and Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (26th May) – the 6th Alien movie, Alien Covenant (12th May), the 15th, 16th and 17th in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, namely Guardians Of The Galaxy 2 (27th April), Spiderman: Homecoming (7th July) and Thor: Ragnarok (3rd November) with the 9th in the Star Wars saga, Star Wars -The Last Jedi rounding up the year on the 15th December.

So while there is no such thing as a guaranteed hit in the movie business, there is no denying the appeal and familiarity of a successful franchise; as long as they keep drawing the audiences, film studios will keep producing them and brands will do all they can to benefit from being part of one.