As I eagerly count down the hours before going to see The Dark Knight Rises tonight (to the amazement of one colleague who couldn’t comprehend the idea of going to the cinema on a Friday night after a long week at work), I couldn’t help but notice the number of brands looking to ride the wave of hype surrounding 2012’s most eagerly anticipated film.
By my latest count, no fewer than 15 brands have partnered up with Warner Bros and it is interesting to see which have or will achieve cut-through. The obvious danger for brands getting involved in movies is the potential backlash from fans who don’t want to be ‘sold to’ when they go to the cinema, and dislike obvious product placements that can detract from the story, rather than improve the overall fan experience (the key to a successful brand partnership). The films themselves also risk being accused by fans of selling out if they go too far (see the James Bond franchise), but it seems that so far Christopher Nolan’s trilogy has managed to remain both ‘cool’ and a commercial success, with no accusations of selling its soul. It will be interesting, however, in the coming weeks if any of the ‘friends of Gotham City’ start to get a few enemies.
Amazingly, Warner Bros have managed to tie up deals with two car brands – Chrysler in the US and Nissan in the UK. The Chrysler deal is expected to include some product placement (hopefully I won’t be distracted tonight trying to spot their vehicles) and they have also encouraged fans to create their own Dark Knight movie trailer, to be posted on the brand’s Facebook site, with Nolan himself choosing the best commercial to be aired on National TV. Whilst UGC is not a new phenomenon, this is a nice way for Chrysler to build on the hysteria surrounding the official trailer (which, to date, has over 23m YouTube hits) and gives the true Batman fans the tools to create their own content.
Nissan’s striking press ad was designed by illustrator Gabriel Hardman, who developed the storyboards for the film and brand also used Blippar’s augmented reality tool to give fans the chance to win premiere tickets.
My main concern, however, for any car brand getting involved in the Batman movies is that there is really only one car that the fans care about, no matter the marketing, so it is going to be difficult for anyone to compete with the Batmobile, let alone with this movie’s flying gunship.
Both Nokia and Mountain Dew have created limited edition products surrounding the films, with both brands offering fans exclusive film content – clearly banking on the partnership driving sales. It will be interesting to see whether there are really fans who care about the film enough to tie themselves into a long-term phone contract to get Nokia’s handset (unlikely to be quite so desirable this time next year), and the true test will be whether the phone can compete with the iPhones and Samsung Galaxys of this world. Obviously committing to trying a new flavour of Mountain Dew is much less of an ask for the consumer…
My favourite Batman brand partnership however is undoubtedly Under Armour’s sponsorship of the Gotham Rogues American Football team, and their subsequent product range. This is a great example of a subtle, and, most importantly, natural bit of product placement (in what looks like an amazing scene from the trailer) allowing the brand to launch a potentially lucrative new clothing range (which I’m sure many of the thousands of Batman geeks will be keen to buy, myself included).
This is all well and good, but as I shun the call of the pub tonight, I look forward to leaving my marketing hat at the door, and escaping into the world of Gotham City.
By Matt Kiernan on July 20th, 2012