Fast food chains partner with movies to generate sales

Originally published in the Wall Street Journal

Star Trek

May 3, 2009


Burger King Holdings has landed a three-picture deal with a Hollywood studio that it hopes will add star power to its menu.

The fast-food chain is teaming up with Viacom's Paramount Pictures to promote the summer releases "Star Trek," "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" and "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra," marking the first time it has worked with a single studio on such a rapid-fire spate of films.

It is also the first time Paramount has entered into this sort of multiple-picture ad partnership, says LeeAnne Stables, the studio's executive vice president for world-wide marketing partnerships, who says such deals aren't common.

One of the industry's longest-running promotional partnerships expired in 2006, when Walt Disney Co. and McDonald's ended their exclusive decade-long relationship. They still do tie-ins, but on a case-by-case basis.

Some of Burger King's tie-ins to 'Star Trek,' which stars Zachary Quinto, above, feature "Kingons," who tangle with humans for collectible glasses.

"Burger King has been an excellent partner for us because of the volume of customer traffic," says Ms. Stables, who adds that the chain's "global presence" made it a particularly appealing choice.

Movie tie-ins have boosted the fast-food chain's business in the past, says Russ Klein, president of global marketing, strategy and innovation at Burger King. Two summers ago, Burger King and Paramount were promotional partners on the first "Transformers" film, which grossed more than $700 million world-wide. Last summer, they had a similar arrangement for another blockbuster, "Iron Man."

"They have been a proven traffic driver for our business," Mr. Klein says.

While fast-food brands continue to use movie tie-ins, the medium has been a harder sell for other marketers, says Farrah Louviere, director of film for Los Angeles entertainment-marketing agency Davie Brown Entertainment. Studios are increasingly being asked to quantify how a partnership will add to the marketer's bottom line. "The conversation has changed," Ms. Louviere says.

Paramount's Ms. Stables says the studio has been able to find plenty of partners, even in today's volatile economic times. "There is no shortage of potential partners if you have good movies," she adds. In addition to Burger King, she says, companies as varied as Esurance, Kellogg and Verizon Wireless -- a joint venture of Verizon Communications and Vodafone -- have all agreed to sponsor "Star Trek."

Burger King's new "Kingon" ad is part of a deal with Paramount Pictures on its movie "Star Trek." Courtesy of Burger King.

For the "Star Trek" promos, Burger King sought to play on Trekkie fandom while still attempting to appeal to mainstream moviegoers. "Even if you are not in that hardcore Trekkie zone, it's been part of your life, it's been generationally important to pop culture," Mr. Klein says. "I think that it's actually become an amusing dynamic that can make for fun advertising."

Some of the ads feature "Kingons," half-Klingon and half-King, that tangle with humans for collectible glasses. The creatures made their red-carpet debut at the movie's Hollywood premiere on Thursday night.

The Kingon idea helps Burger King promote itself as much as the movie, says Rob Reilly, a co-executive creative director at the MDC Partners ad firm Crispin Porter + Bogusky, which developed the campaigns with Burger King. "When you find a clever way to integrate the King into it, it really seems like you're not just doing a 'Star Trek' promotion," Mr. Reilly says.

Michael Bay, who directed both "Transformers" movies, will direct a Burger King spot that ties in to this summer's installment.

The restaurant's promotional efforts also extend to its menu -- star and bolt-shaped chicken tenders for "Star Trek," a "Stackticonn" sandwich for "Transformers" and "G.I. Joe" kids' meal toys, as well as sweepstakes and online games.

Burger King's Mr. Klein says the chain's executives have "certainly noticed" the health of the movie industry despite the recession. "The box office has been one of the few durable sectors out there," he says.



Copyright © 2009 Davie Brown Entertainment

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