For the launch of Michael B. Jordan’s “Without Remorse,” the team at Amazon decided to go big.
The e-commerce giant and streaming player coordinated more than 100 drone deliveries to veterans and military families, celebs and influencers in 11 countries and 14 markets across the globe. It’s the kind of effort, one that spanned time zones and language barriers, that reflected the globe-trotting revenge mission undertaken by Jordan’s on-screen alter ego, John Kelly, in the adaptation of Tom Clancy’s bestseller.
“Each of the drone drops [including those for celebs like Lori Harvey, T-Pain, Cedric the Entertainer, Wesley Snipes and Pete Wentz] was treated as an individual production, where our teams pre-arranged the drops in order to follow the legal and safety guidelines for every territory,” Amazon Chief Marketing Officer Ukonwa Ojo tells Variety. “And for some territories where air drones were not permitted, ground drones were used instead. We made sure all legal and COVID regulations were followed in order to ensure a fun and safe execution.”
Ahead of the film’s April 30 launch, the packages were distributed in cities including New York City, Atlanta, Sydney, Sao Paulo, Milan, Madrid, Paris and London.
“Planning and executing a global launch campaign of this size and scope is an enormous team effort across all our teams around the world,” Ojo says, though it might be more apt to describe the team’s mission as a calculated and highly coordinated cross-platform effort, conducted with military precision.
With the global launch campaigns for “Borat 2” and “Coming 2 America,” Amazon Studios had already put their stamp on how to launch a four-quadrant movie during the pandemic, working to reach audiences across all platforms and avenues at a time when many people were stuck at home.
But “Without Remorse” was a special case for the team, who faced the challenge of selling this a decades-old novel to a new generation of fans, many of whom might not have even been born when the book first hit shelves in 1993. Though the action film would’ve likely launched with a bang thanks to the millions of readers who loved the book, Ojo and the Amazon team worked to spotlight what makes the new adaptation stand out and to broaden its audience.
“While the Tom Clancy universe is so well known, we took the approach that we were introducing a new character to an entirely new audience given the fact this is the first time a Black actor is portraying John Kelly/Clark,” Ojo explains.
Clancy’s books have previously spawned the likes of “Patriot Games” with Harrison Ford and “The Hunt for Red October” with Sean Connery, but his cinematic heyday largely unspooled a few decades ago. Today, his work is best known for inspiring “Jack Ryan,” the Amazon show with John Krasinski playing a CIA analyst.
In order to bring “Without Remorse” to a new generation of action movie aficionados, the team focused on the familiar elements of the Clancy universe by targeting brands and collaborators in the military and veteran communities, while also spotlighting the film’s diverse cast and the global audience they represent.
“For us, that’s what really differentiated ‘Without Remorse’ from other Tom Clancy properties — this is the first time we see a Black action hero in a Tom Clancy movie, and star Michael B. Jordan is poised to be the next big action hero through this franchise,” she adds. “We also see a Black female lead with Jodie Turner-Smith portraying the head of the Navy SEAL team — another boundary-breaking role.”
And to make sure the campaign really connected, Amazon utilized its most powerful secret weapon, the film’s star and producer. As a longtime fan of the “Rainbow Six” video games and the son of a military veteran (Jordan’s father Michael A. Jordan was a Marine), Jordan has an organic connection to both the gaming and military communities, which Amazon used to its advantage.
“Michael has been an incredible partner on this campaign and film,” Ojo says, noting the star and his production company Outlier Society’s work on the project and overall deal with Amazon. “It was important for him, as well, to engage and support the military/veteran and Black communities. Every step of the way, Michael has been a great partner and creative sounding board.”
In July 2020, Variety exclusively learned that Amazon had acquired the action film, produced by Skydance and directed by Stefano Sollima, from Paramount. Once the ink was dry on the deal, Amazon Studios made quick use of the company’s variety of platforms to help promote the project.
“Shout out to our synergy team for activating and coordinating with the various internal teams across the Amazon ecosphere,” Ojo says.
Amazon first displayed their synergistic power on the biggest stage possible — when the company revealed that Jordan (who’d recently been named People’s Sexiest Man Alive) was the new voice of Amazon’s Alexa with an ad during Super Bowl LV in February.
During premiere weekend Jordan was everywhere. On April 29, Jordan was in Ladera Heights, as Prime Video teamed with Amazon Fresh grocery stores and the nonprofit organization Village for Vets to deliver groceries and meals to unhoused veterans across Los Angeles.
“When I had an opportunity to be of service, it’s kind of like my love language. And my dad being a Marine, I’ve always had an appreciation for those who serve,” Jordan told Entertainment Tonight in an interview at the distribution site.
Then it was time for the film’s virtual premiere, produced by Little Cinema, where guests included Oscar-nominated filmmaker Ava DuVernay, Kyla Pratt, Roxane Gay, Elizabeth Henstridge, Lauren ‘Lolo’ Spencer, Danny Pellegrino and Alex Shibutani, who dropped fire, military medal, muscle, explosion and shocked face emojis into the live chat while watching the film. Stars Turner-Smith and Brett Gelman joined after-party hosts Chantal Rochelle and Winston A. Marshall for virtual interviews, sharing behind-the-scenes secrets about the film, while Jordan headed to a theater in Los Angeles’ Baldwin Hills to surprise fans at one of the 50 free early screenings of “Without Remorse” hosted in predominantly Black communities across the country.
As the film launched on April 30, Jordan pulled triple duty — joining his castmates for the Twitter watch party, before logging onto Twitch for a live interview with Swagg (the ultra-popular gamer and one of the platform’s most visible Black content creators), where the pair discussed Jordan’s love of video games. After giving out a few surprises to fans, Jordan and Swagg “raided” Marine Corps veteran and up-and-coming influencer WatchToweR’s stream, meaning that they directed fans to the vet’s channel in order to watch the movie with some live commentary.
“Engaging global audiences across social platforms is a must now in creating that immediate organic word of mouth,” Ojo explains. “Platforms like Twitch and Twitter achieve that feeling of FOMO through their livestream capabilities and global reach to visually engage young and diverse audiences.”
Even for the most savvy of Zoomers, watching Jordan flip from screen to screen was particularly impressive. So how did they pull off the technological quick-change?
“Our synergy, promotions and PR teams across Twitch and Prime Video worked hand in hand with Michael’s team to make sure every detail was in lock-step,” Ojo explains. “The production team was on site with Michael, helping to coordinate all the tech, and ensuring he was where he needed to be virtually.”
She adds: “Our production teams are amazing as this past year they’ve had to be flexible and nimble enough to adapt to any situation, ensuring the content is being captured in a safe and effective ways.”
On May 3, Jordan hosted a virtual book club event on Amazon Live and Audible Live, inviting a trio of his favorite authors (Mark Greaney, Marlon James and Will Staples) to discuss the themes of their novels, as well as “Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse.”
Outside Amazon, the team launched strategic sponsorships with Omaha Steaks (who created premium Dinner and a Movie Kits for fans on premiere night); Barry’s Bootcamp (who launched military-themed workouts both in person and on their at-home workout app); and a sweepstakes and giveaway with the tactical gear company 5.11 Tactical. The film team also partnered with the men’s wellness and skincare brand Scotch Porter (based out of Jordan’s Newark, N.J. hometown) to craft a “Without Remorse” bundle of self-care products.
Overall, the buzz seems to have worked.
According to Screen Engine/ASI — which surveys over 3,000 U.S. video viewers age 13-64 weekly — “Without Remorse” was the top streaming movie for the weekend of April 30-May 2, leading Netflix’s “The Mitchells vs. The Machines” (No. 2) and “Thunder Force” (No. 6), as well as HBO Max’s latest offerings “Mortal Kombat,” “Judas and the Black Messiah” and “Godzilla vs. Kong” (which took the number 3, 4 and 5 spots, respectively). Using a separate set of measurements, Samba TV’s data indicates that “Without Remorse” got the attention of 2.3 million households in its opening weekend, which rivaled the Christmas releases of “Soul” and “Wonder Woman 1984.”
“Michael B. Jordan and this impressive cast are taking audiences by storm in ‘Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse,’ which launched to huge success and engagement on Prime Video its opening weekend,” Jennifer Salke, head of Amazon Studios, said, celebrating the debut. “We are seeing a more diverse audience and first-time streamers connecting with the film, as well as already established fans of the Tom Clancy universe.”
“Without Remorse” is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.