Eco-conscious marketers support film

Universal may be hoping to mint some green at the box office when “Evan Almighty” bows June 22, but in the meantime, the studio has partnered with a host of environmentally conscious marketers to promote the comedy through a green initiative.

Roughly $25 million in marketing support is being provided by U parent GE (through its Ecomagination campaign), Sheraton Hotels & Resorts, Travelocity, Environmental Defense Fund, Bear Naked, L.A. Zoo, San Diego Zoo, BP Solar and Dell Computers to help U launch its Get on Board eco-awareness campaign and give audiences tips on how to help slow the effects of global warming — while letting them know “Almighty” is hitting theaters.

That’s on top of the tens of millions U will spend to open the film.

Effort is Hollywood’s latest effort to “go green,” following this year’s Golden Globes and Oscar kudofests, moves by productions to cut their carbon emissions, and efforts by celebs and biz insiders to get the word out about global warming.

“Almighty” campaign includes the Web site Getonboardnow.org, launched by U and the Conservation Fund on Earth Day in April, which encourages visitors to reduce greenhouse gases and plant trees, as part of the “Almighty Forest,” for a $5 tax-deductible donation. Contributors will have their name included on the pic’s DVD.

More than 15,000 trees have already been planted by the Conservation Fund because of the donations, representing the restoration of nearly 40 acres of forestland.

Burger King and Coca-Cola, although not official partners on the pic, have also planted trees as part of the project.

“Almighty” pushes the environmental message in its plot, providing a pivotal reason why God, played by Morgan Freeman, asks the character of Evan Baxter (Steve Carell) to build a critter-filled ark.

During its production, pic’s cast and crew adopted such eco-friendly practices as recycling building and other materials and riding bicycles on set in Los Angeles, Virginia and Washington, D.C., in order to reduce the production’s carbon footprint.

The practice was prompted by director Tom Shadyac, who is also the founder of bottled water company HtoO (Hope to Others), which donates 100% of the company’s profits after taxes to charities worldwide.

In the past, Shadyac has passed on promotional partnerships around his pics, including “Liar Liar” and “Bruce Almighty,” fearing they would over-commercialize the productions.

“Tom has never been very interested in a lot of third-party promotions,” said Stephanie Sperber, executive VP, Universal Studios Partnerships. “That’s not the kind of person he is. But when we were looking at what to do with ‘Evan,’ it naturally suggested itself as an environmental film. The story, the filmmaker and the way the film was made is a fantastic communication platform and we wanted to take it to the consumer and do some real good in addition to promoting the film.”

First promos from marketers, who were highly visible at the pic’s preem Sunday, bowed May 15 and are expected to run through mid-July, with the Get on Board Web site set to remain online for another two years.

Partners will also back the DVD release later this year.

The companies aren’t typical promotional partners for films. But the environmental message lured them in.

“Even brands that don’t typically participate in film promotions were engaged through this strategic approach,” Sperber said. “The strategy all along was to think outside the box and work with partners that aren’t your typical promotional partner.”

In addition to making donations to the “Almighty Forest,” partners have other marketing plans as part of their tie-ins with the pic.

For example, GE Ecomagination will run in-theater spots on 13,000 screens in AMC, Regal and Cinemark theaters that revolve around “Evan Almighty’s” eco-conscious production.

“Almighty” is the first film tie-in for GE Ecomagination, which communicates what the conglom’s businesses are doing to become more eco-friendly and how other businesses can do the same and still turn a profit.

Sheraton will provide guests with a free in-room screening of “Bruce Almighty” that will include behind-the-scenes content, hosted by John Goodman. Dell.com will also feature “Evan Almighty” content.

The Environmental Defense Fund will create a PSA to air on broadcast and cable TV outlets. The zoos are supporting the pic through the San Diego Zoo’s magazine, radio spots and in the L.A. Zoo’s map and signage. BP Solar and Bear Naked have launched sweepstakes.

Longtime U promotional partners Volkswagen and MasterCard are sitting out “Almighty,” given that the companies are usually interested in tying in with pics in which their products can prominently appear. “Almighty” didn’t offer those opportunities.

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