When it comes to promotional partnerships, “Star Trek” isn’t known for going where no brand has ever gone before.
In the films, Captain Kirk and his crew are never seen behind the wheel of a fancy new car, using the latest cell phone or consuming junk food to help hype a brand’s products.
But Paramount’s been able to capitalize on the appeal of the sci-fi series — especially after J.J. Abrams’ 2009 reboot helped re-energize the interest of moviegoers in “Star Trek” at the megaplex.
Three years ago, Paramount lined up Burger King, Verizon and Esurance around “Star Trek,” who promote the film mainly Stateside with media support.
But with “Star Trek Into Darkness,” out this weekend, Paramount managed to rally a larger group of marketing partners around the sequel who are spending north of $100 million to roll out a massive worldwide campaign around the film — one of Paramount’s largest promo pushes to date.
On board are computer maker Acer, Mazda, Microsoft, Esurance, Chevron Extra Mile, Visa, Lifelock and Budweiser, who are supporting the film’s release with TV, radio, print, outdoor, in-theater, in-store and online media buys. well into June. Acer, Microsoft and Budweiser also had a significant presence at the film’s premieres around the world.
“Star Trek Into Darkness” marks the first time Acer has promoted a movie. It’s also the first time Microsoft has used a film to promote a variety of products, from Bing (with its Klingon translator), to its Xbox videogame console, MSN website and Windows 8 operating system.
What’s impressive is that none of the brands are in the film — typically a requirement for brands when stepping up to put their marketing dollars around a major summer release.
“It was never intended to be a placement leveraging opportunity,” said LeeAnne Stables, executive VP, worldwide marketing partnerships, Paramount Pictures. “It’s not creatively what the movie is about. For us to deliver this strong a brand partner campaign without leveraging (product placement) boils down to the global appeal of the film to audiences. That was the strength of getting these partners on board. They wanted to invest in how great this movie was.”
That includes overseas, where “Star Trek” typically hasn’t played well, with audiences associating the franchise with the TV series that featured comically cheap effects by today’s standards. The last installment earned just 33% of its $386 million haul from foreign territories.
But the sequel already is outperforming the previous pic in many territories, especially countries like Mexico, where “Star Trek” has often struggled in the past.
The success reflects the goodwill associated with the reboot that revived interest by a younger generation for “Star Trek.” And marketers are now only eager to tap into a franchise that continues to fly 47 years after Gene Roddenberry sent the U.S.S. Enterprise on its first mission.
“The success of the first film really turned that notion on its head,” Stables said. “It laid a lot of the ground work for the success that we’re having.
“The great thing about the first movie was you didn’t have to know the backstory of ‘Star Trek,’” Stables adds. “The international marketplace has changed. Audiences want to see good movies and the great commonality is people who will go to see our movie are the people who are probably going to buy (a consumer brands’) products. We’re talking to the same people.”
Altogether, Paramount lined up 89 partners around the world to promote “Star Trek Into Darkness,” with a number of regional brands helping hype the film with pricey media buys (of around $1 million or more) to cater to consumers with products popular in certain markets.
For example, in the United Kingdom, British candy brand Cadbury’s is promoting the pic through its Crunchie Blast ice cream. In Germany, the film is backed by another candy brand, Fisherman’s Friend. French clothing retailer Celio is supporting the pic, while beer brand JiteHinro is doing so in Korea. In China, it’s on packages of Want Want snacks. Chinese cell phone brand Huawei is using the film to promote its brand in Australia. And Japan’s motor oil brand Kure has launched another series of humorous ads after producing a popular campaign for “Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol.”
In North America, companies like Esurance were also able to film custom TV spots on the bridge set of the film’s U.S.S. Enterprise to better associate their brands with “Star Trek,” rather than simply rely on footage from the film in ads.
“When a brand really wins with a movie tie-in, it’s when they have taken the property and made it their own and leveraged it to the benefit of their marketing plans,” Stables said.
The variety of brands reflects the state of promotional dealmaking for studio marketing mavens these days. As brands focus on growing their businesses in individual territories, it’s tougher to broker one-off marketing tie-ins that cover the entire world.
“There aren’t that many truly global partners left with the structure where one person in the organization can make the decision to activate worldwide,” Stables said. “It’s not like the old days when you’d have a great partner like Burger King deliver a truly global campaign around the world.”
Still, Paramount was able to turn deals with brands that were initially meant to cover North America to also expand to other countries around the world, as it did with Acer and Microsoft.
“Star Trek Into Darkness” may not have a fast food partner in the U.S., but Burger King is still launching campaigns around the film in certain territories like Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan, while KFC is promoting the pic in Mexico and the Caribbean.