The Publicist

Appetite growing for branded entertainment partnerships

Appetite growing for branded entertainment partnerships

Want some cream or sugar with your coffee? How 'bout some back-end points on a movie release? In a piping-hot announcement sure to blow the froth off rival studio execs' double decaf lattes, Starbucks and Lions Gate Films are joining forces in a cross-promotional effort involving the unthinkable: profit sharing.

While high-profile Hollywood summer releases are typically brand-partnered with consumer products, such as soft drinks or fast food, the Starbucks/Lions Gate deal - specific to the film Akeelah and the Bee - is unprecedented in the extent the two companies will cross-promote and share box-office profits. (Note: In Hollywood, "profits" are like ghosts: rumored to exist, but seldom, if ever, documented.) Starbucks will promote the movie in its 5,500 US and Canadian outlets, presumably by displaying posters, standees, or trailers. Let's hope Starbucks doesn't go so far as to name a new drink after the movie. "CappaBEEno" anyone?

Branded and/or partnered entertainment is all the rage now. Football games and TV shows are downloadable on iTunes; movie theaters show ads for TV shows and CDs. It's all about maximizing exposure and "platforms" and minimizing financial risk.

On a different level, some partnerships result from a logical synergy that evolves organically, such as that of the Food Network (FN) and Paramount on Last Holiday, a movie I worked on last year.

FN initially joined the project during pre-production as a food consultant, and its role expanded into partnerships involving its cooking staff and star chef, Emeril. Bolstering the effort was FN's test kitchen location in New Orleans - where the movie was partly shot - and the key role of cuisine in the storyline.

Susie Fogelson, FN marketing VP, who worked with Paramount to develop the joint campaign, says, "What began simply as product placement barter for consultancy grew into a full branded entertainment partnership. We are always looking for ways to leverage the star power of our chefs and find media extensions for our brand, so this presented a perfect opportunity to spread our message of 'food as entertainment.'"

The campaign includes web links and cross-promotional internet spots, an hour-long "making of" special about the film's food preparation, and a slate of personal appearances - such as Queen Latifah on Emeril Live. Together, they cooked up a tasty recipe for success: Last Holiday had a $13 million opening weekend.

Lawrence Mitchell Garrison is an LA-based freelance publicist and writer

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