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Promo partners fly to ‘Rio’

20th Century Fox signs on a record 82 brands for toon

Rio” isn’t an obvious magnet for marketers, since 20th Century Fox’s toon isn’t based on a popular property.

But a number of high-profile brands, including McDonald’s, Overstock.com, Benjamin Moore and Chiquita, have flocked to tie in with the animated pic from Blue Sky Studios that starts flying into theaters overseas in 17 markets April 8 before landing on domestic screens April 15.

Overall, promotional partners will provide more than $100 million in marketing support for the film that revolves around a domesticated macaw named Blu who never learned to fly but winds up in a series of adventures after traveling to Rio de Janeiro.

The 82 partners Fox lined up to launch various advertising, sweepstakes and in-store efforts, is the largest number of promo partners the studio has assembled globally around a pic, beating even “Avatar.”

“It’s the biggest campaign we’ve ever done,” said Anna Roca, senior VP of international promotions, feature films at 20th Century Fox.Marketers typically shy away from spending a considerable amount of coin around a pic unless they have proof it will perform, either from the success of prior installments or the sale of books, videogames or toys that they may be based on.

Yet “Rio” is proving a unique case, landing several brands that have never associated themselves with a Hollywood production in the past, like Overstock or Benjamin Moore, or expanded a tie-in to cover all of their products, the way Chiquita has done.

What helped land the companies was the pic’s title.

Overseas, Rio isn’t just short for the Brazilian city, but also is associated with the annual carnival when millions fill streets to celebrate with dancing, parades and music. In the U.S., however, Rio isn’t as well known; the equivalent Mardi Gras in New Orleans overshadows other celebrations.

“Internationally, we had a leg up because Rio means something to (partners and potential audiences),” said Roca.

Ad efforts from partners will essentially push the party aspects, music and bright, colorful imagery, with Fox hoping that the marketing messages will help educate audiences Stateside on what Rio means to the rest of the world.

“Whether the name of the movie is ‘Rio’ or ‘Blu,’ we have to define what this world is and these partners help do that,” said Rita Drucker, senior VP of national promotions for 20th Century Fox. “These partners help culturalize the film. They help us connect elements of the movie in a way that’s more meaningful than straightforward marketing can do.”

For example, Chiquita’s ads, which will include an animated spot in theaters and extensive online campaign, will use the tagline, “Every party needs a little bite,” and involve all of the company’s products, including avocados and pineapples. Ads on TV, online, in theaters and on the radio in the U.S. and Europe will feature a remix of the Chiquita banana song.

Benjamin Moore will create a palette of new paint colors inspired by the film’s characters. Company will tout its tie-in through signage inside its stores and at select Ace Hardware locations.

Even McDonald’s is promoting “Rio’s” celebratory theme with its kids’ meals (using the “Good choices to groove on” tagline) and giant branded beach balls it will mount on its restaurants’ roofs, unusual for the fast food chain. The golden arches will promote “Rio” in 108 territories, including China, where Fox just landed permission to unspool the film April 8. Ads roll out April 6.

Meanwhile, French automaker Peugeot will use the pic to celebrate its 10th anniversary in Brazil; the Gap in the U.K. and France will promote “Rio’s” bright colors to sell clothes; and a Mexican PSA will turn pic’s title, which means both river and laugh in Spanish, into a pun (“al leer, me rio”) to promote reading among kids.

Also, starting April 5, Overstock will launch a “Rio”-branded boutique on its website that showcases a variety of products themed around the movie and all the creature comforts a character like Blu may need to make the journey to Rio. Timing comes as Overstock is rebranding itself as O.co, with a large TV push. Its “Rio” tie in will also get a TV push and substantial online media buy.

What ultimately secured the tie-ins, however, was the success of Blue Sky’s “Ice Age” franchise, whose last installment, “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs,” earned a healthy $197 million in the U.S. and a whopping $690 million haul overseas in 2009.

As a result, Fox’s ad campaign for “Rio” and materials from promo partners hype that the pic was produced by “Ice Age’s” creators.

Key partners overseas also include Nestle cereals, Ferrero chocolates, Chupa Chups, Duracell and German airline Condor.

Kraft baked up a new batch of Oreos, featuring blue filling and the Blu character stamped on the cookie. The cookies will only be available in Latin America. Blue Sky created custom-animated sequences, featuring characters from the pic, for partners to use in their TV spots and online, giving them a sense of ownership of the movie in return for their involvement.

None of the partners have their products featured in the film.

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