Marketers typically shy away from pairing up with films unless they’re based on an existing — and already popular — property. But with hits like “High School Musical,” “Camp Rock” and “The Cheetah Girls,” the Disney Channel Original Movie has become enough of a brand magnet on its own.
To help hype the release of next month’s “Teen Beach Movie,” Disney Channel has lined up Best Western and Honda, who will both launch pricey nationwide ad campaigns for the surf-rock musical. The hotel chain’s campaign will also stretch into Canada.
The film is essentially Disney Channel’s homage to the beach-set musicals of the 1960s like “Beach Party” and “Beach Blanket Bingo,” that starred former Mouseketeer Annette Funicello, as well as “Grease” and “Austin and Ally.”
Directed by Jeffrey Hornaday (Disney Channel’s “Geek Charming”), “Teen Beach Movie” revolves around high school friends who find themselves transported into their favorite movie, “Wet Side Story.” David Lawrence (“High School Musical”) produced the score.
Retailers including Walmart, Target, Toys R Us, Kohls, Kmart and Disney Stores also are ready to fill store shelves with “Teen Beach Movie” merchandise, with each getting their own product lines that spans apparel, home decor, dolls, bedding, lunch kits, books, stationery and school supplies aimed at 6-14-year-olds.
Taking a bet on an unknown property is risky — especially with merchandise featuring characters kids don’t yet know. But Disney Channel has been able to tout the success of its previous pics and popularity of stars it has cast in “Teen Beach Movie” to attract partners.
Over the past 11 years, Disney Original Movies have ranked as TV’s top film among tweens. Nearly six years after its premiere, “High School Musical 2” is still the No. 1 scripted cable TV telecast of all time with 18.7 million total viewers.
The “Teen Beach Movie” cast also includes Ross Lynch, Maia Mitchell and Grace Phipps, stars of Disney Channel hits “Austin & Ally” and ABC Family’s “The Fosters” and “The Nine Lives of Chloe King.” Ross also headlines the band R5.
Those elements enticed Best Western to return and promote a Disney Channel film for the sixth time (it started with “Camp Rock”), while “Teen Beach Movie” will mark Honda’s fourth (that kicked off with “High School Musical 2”).
“When you have companies coming back four and six times, it’s because it worked,” said Rita Ferro, executive VP, Disney media sales and marketing. “It’s a Disney Channel Original Movie and that’s a franchise for us that’s consistently been the number one movie on cable year after year.”
Both Best Western and Honda will launch TV, radio, online, mobile and social media ads, and sponsor sweepstakes for the film, which premieres on Disney Channel on July 19. The film bows even earlier on July 15 to registered users of the WATCH Disney Channel app on mobile devices and WATCHDisneyChannel.com.
As part of its deal, Honda will get a sponsored by credit on the film, repeats and its planned sing-along special. The automaker will also create a co-branded destination on DisneyChannel.com, which will promote the company’s Odyssey minivan.
In addition to its planned marketing, Best Western will sponsor episodes of “Austin & Ally,” to extend its association with Lynch, and a portal on Disney.com that will enable kids to create mashups of “Teen Beach Movie” content to share with friends.
SEE ALSO: Disney Renews ‘Austin & Ally’
Best Western will also erect standees of “Teen Beach Movie’s” characters inside its hotels, and hand out key cards featuring images from the film, while using the Aurasma app will place images of guests in scenes from “Teen Beach Movie.”
The partners’ ad campaigns are expected to turn through early August. The brands do not appear in the film because of limits on product placement in kids programming.
Working with brands enables the companies to target family audiences that watch the films together. Not only can they put their brands in front of parents, who control a household’s spending, but also six-14-year-olds who increasingly influence where families vacation and what cars mom or dad buys.
In addition to the increased revenue a film can generate, marketers also help Disney Channel spread the word about a new film beyond its main media buys and Disney operated platforms. Honda, for example, will also buy TV time on non-Disney owned cable or broadcast channels.
The movies “aren’t only about kids,” Ferro said. “It’s about the cross-family audience. The audience reach is so broad. It’s an entry point for multiple generations.”
The partners should also be able to benefit from their tie-in with the homevid release, as well, which will debut exclusively at Walmart on July 19, and at most other retailers on July 30, close to its TV bow.
A soundtrack becomes available July 16 from Walt Disney Records that features 12 songs plus three instructional bonus tracks offering up dance lessons.
Disney Channel also is producing a 10-city “Teen Beach Movie Beach Party” event tour at Simon Malls, Radio Disney events in 31 markets across the U.S., and is tossing out seven foot “Teen Beach Movie” branded beach balls at One Direction and R5 concerts across the U.S.