When Shrek Forever racked up a cool $70m in its first weekend in the US and then a month later hit £3m in presales in the UK, it wasn't just good news for DreamWorks. Having forked out for a 3D cinema ad featuring an animated Pom-Bear, Intersnack was also quids in and it hit the jackpot again when the ad ran during screenings of Pixar blockbuster Toy Story 3.
It's not the only brand to have capitalised on the massive increase in cinema-goer numbers that 3D movies has generated. Pom-Bear and Clipper Tea, which hooked up with Alice in Wonderland (see left), are among a host of food and drink brands big and small that have hitched their wagons to one of the many big 3D movies that have hit our cinema screens recently. Others, meanwhile, have tapped into successful movie franchises, getting a double hit from the likes of the latest Shrek movie, which, of course, is both 3D and part of a franchise.
With many brands no longer able to advertise to kids on TV, it's perhaps no surprise they're exploiting every opportunity they can in Hollywood (and not just when it comes to advertising on-pack promotions and movie-related merchandising and gifts have also soared). What is surprising, however, is that it is not just the brands that are directing the traffic.
Take Clipper Tea. It devised three special tea blends and provided Clipper-branded cups and promotional material at Alice in Wonderland's world premiere in London but not for a tie-up it had initiated. Disney approached the brand but unfortunately not in time for it to make as much of the tie-up as it would have liked, admits marketing manager Gill Hesketh. "Disney came to us really late so we didn't have time to do any on-pack promotion," she says. "I think they originally wanted to work with a much bigger brand they desperately needed there to be a tea brand involved."
It wasn't just Clipper's sales that benefited, according to Hesketh. "Thanks to our association with Alice in Wonderland we've been written about more than we ever were for being Fairtrade or organic," she says. "It was a 'money can't buy' proposition. We sold about 1,000 units but we are still being blogged about and still getting tweets thanks to this. We certainly got more out of it than we put in."
So did Disney. From an estimated budget of $200m, the film grossed more than $334m in the US by 4 July [IMDB]. Of course, it would be daft to attribute this to Clipper, but make no mistake, says David Pearson, director at marketing agency Filmology, film-makers and distributors need brand tie-ups as much as brands need movie tie-ups.
"A brand can add value to a film," he explains. "For the film I, Robot, the studio did a deal with Audi. The cars gave the film some authentic futuristic values it could not easily achieve on its own. Deals like this can help to improve the film's targeting. The brand can also be a big publicity driver when the film is on its way."
Major food and drink brands can lend films considerable clout, agrees Richard Pink, founder of Pink Key Consulting. "For the film-maker, one of the key things is exposure to the fmcg environment," he says. "For the promoter, it's gaining a point of difference, and attaching yourself to the biggest film you can."
Terminator Salvation and Pizza Hut
This was deadly and precise targeting by both parties. And the target was the elusive young male. Pizza Hut launched a limited-edition Terminator Pizza last year. It was such a success that the restaurant repeated the exercise with this year's The A-Team release.
Aardman Animations and Kingsmill
It was a match made in heaven for the bread brand when it linked up with the Wallace & Gromit feature-length film A Matter of Loaf and Death over Christmas, 2008. Kingsmill's licensed collectibles were a popular boost for the brand and also a useful loyalty device.
Under the Tuscan Sun/Rebranding of Olivio spread as Bertolli
Ambitious but successful repositioning by Unilever using modest resources. The movie may have been second-tier in terms of budget, but the tie-up proved to be a perfect brand match. Offering £50 Tuscan holiday vouchers and a prize draw helped spread the brand's new identity.
..and on the cutting room floor
Motherhood and Mumsnet
On paper the story of a struggling New York mom didn't sound too bad, especially when you factored in the fact that Hollywood goddess Uma Thurman was in the starring role. But something went horribly wrong. Motherhood was a flop, with only 12 people attending the first weekend of its London opening.
The regulatory environment has also driven brands like Pom-Bear towards the big screens, she says. Scrutiny especially of HFSS products aimed at children has become a lot tougher, and the ability to target your customers in cinemas is seen as a valuable opportunity.
"With regards to TV advertising, it's accepted that it isn't a medium we can use to target children," says Amir-Mohammadi. "The cinema is different because kids are accompanied by an adult so we know mum or dad or a guardian will be sitting next to the children but we want to get the brand message across to them too. Our 3D advert is a fun message and by no means a hard sell to children."
Other brands, however, can exploit both media. Müllerlight, for instance, ran an on-pack promotion offering free cinema tickets to this year's must see chick-flick, Sex and the City 2, and a movie-related TV ad campaign. The brand had already targeted fans via its sponsorship of the series on Channel Five and, says marketing manager Michael Harper, "the carefree fun and friendship championed by Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda is a clear link to our customers".
And it doesn't matter necessarily if you miss the boat when it comes to the cinema release. There are deals to be done when films hit the small screen as well. In April, Mornflake used the DVD release of James Cameron's Avatar to launch an on-pack promotion (left) offering an 'out of this world' trip to the European Space Centre in Brussels and a Sony PS3 games console as well as copies of the box office record breaker DVD. According to Mornflake marketing manager Richard Jones, the three-month national promotion helped the cereal turn in a 27% sales uplift last year [Kantar 52w/e 13 June 2010].
"As a brand, we hadn't done anything like this before," says Jones. "Affiliating the £2m Mornflake Chocolatey Squares product with Avatar a major success at the box office and winner of Academy Awards was a great fit, since both the DVD and our product target young adults."
There are opportunities with related live events, too. Last year, Disney linked up with Morrisons for a carefully choreographed illumination of London's Christmas lights ahead of the global premiere of A Christmas Carol. Three of the film's stars, Jim Carrey, Colin Firth and Bob Hoskins, simultaneously switched on lights in Regent Street, Oxford Circus and St Paul's Cathedral in front of 50,000 people.
Thanks to the arrival of 3D movies and the ongoing success of film franchises such as Shrek and Toy Story, movie-tie ups now throw up a whole host of opportunities. But care should always be exercised. Spot on brand-fit is worth nothing if the movie you've tied up with bombs.
Take the film Motherhood. Distributor Metrodome thought it had found the perfect partner in parenting portal Mumsnet. With Uma Thurman playing the wholesome lead role it seemed like a movie match made in heaven. But the movie tanked and with it any opportunity for Mumsnet to capitalise (see right).
Fortunately, it's the exception that proves the rule. Most brands and film-makers that have entered into movie marriages have cashed in big time. And the benefits often extend well beyond sales uplifts or more bums on seats.
Which is why when a certain teenage wizard hits our screens once again next month, expect to see food and drink brands under his spell too.