August 3, 2006

“Talladega” in high gear with brands

By Gail Schiller

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - With "Talladega Nights:
The Ballad of Ricky Bobby" -- a comic look at the world of
NASCAR and its corporate sponsors that opens Friday -- Sony
Pictures has handed such advertisers as Wonder Bread, Old Spice
and Perrier an unprecedented vehicle for brand integration.

Not only do the film's stars, Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly
and Sacha Baron Cohen, appear throughout much of the movie with
the logos of their fictitious NASCAR sponsors plastered all
over their uniforms, but Ferrell and Reilly also have shown up
in uniform on late-night talk shows and the MTV Movie Awards.

In addition, the movie's main stars are featured in their
NASCAR uniforms in nearly all of the movie trailers, posters,
print and Web ads and TV commercials from Sony as well as its
promotional partners. Ferrell even stars in uniform as Ricky
Bobby in dedicated commercials for Sprint Nextel, sponsors of
NASCAR's Nextel Cup series.

Wonder Bread, Old Spice and Perrier are featured on nearly
all the licensed product for the movie from diecast cars to
apparel and accessories in a merchandising campaign meant to
replicate those of NASCAR drivers. Products featuring
"Talladega" characters Ricky Bobby, Cal Naughton Jr. and Jean
Girard are being sold at tracks and at retail outlets alongside
merchandise for such real-life NASCAR drivers as Tony Stewart
(who actually is sponsored by Old Spice), Jeff Gordon and Dale
Earnhardt Jr.

"The level of integration on- and offscreen in 'Talladega
Nights' is unprecedented," said Aaron Gordon, president of
entertainment marketing firm Set Resources Inc. "I can't
remember ever seeing this much product placement displayed,
from the commercials to the trailers for the film to the
publicity and press events. It's pretty incredible, and it's
pretty unheard of. Everything that has to do with the film has
heavy brand integration, and that certainly is a new and great
thing for the brands involved."

To top it all off, none of the brands had to pay for their
placements. With Ferrell and "Talladega" co-writer and director
Adam McKay writing Wonder Bread, Perrier and dozens of other
brands into the script to poke fun at the over-the-top
corporate sponsorship in NASCAR races, the filmmakers needed
the brands' involvement just as much, if not more, than the
brands wanted to be in the film.

Sony and NASCAR executives said Ferrell and McKay chose
Wonder Bread as Ricky Bobby's sponsor because it is an iconic
American brand that represents fun and fit with the character,
and Perrier because they needed a French brand to sponsor
Cohen's character, Jean Girard, Ricky Bobby's nemesis.

According to a Sony Pictures representative, the studio
never asks for integration fees on its films but instead seeks
backend promotions.

In the case of "Talladega," Wonder Bread's parent company,
Interstate Bakeries, committed to an in-store and on-pack
promotion in tens of thousands of supermarkets nationwide.

Interstate Bakeries, currently in Chapter 11, did not have
the financial means to do a larger-scale promotion, but Sony
Pictures executive vp worldwide consumer marketing George Leon
said its promotion alone was worth millions in marketing
support. Entertainment marketers said what Interstate received
in return was worth millions more than it spent.

Old Spice spent about $2.3 million on TV spots, print ads,
online banner ads and activation around NASCAR racetracks --
the money had been set aside to promote Old Spice's association
with NASCAR but was then used for the movie promotion.

Perrier did not do a backend promotion.

Among some of the other dozens of brands with mentions or
prominent placements in the film are Powerade, Applebee's,
Domino's Pizza, Coca-Cola, Country Crock, Checkers Drive-in
Restaurants and NASCAR sponsors Tide and M&Ms.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter