Star Wars: go beyond “logo slapping” to “brand integration”

"Crap marketing that leads to bafflingly stupid creative executions" is how Professor Mark Ritson describes many of the sponsorship tie-ins for the new Star Wars movie, ‘The Force Awakens’, is his latest Marketing Week column. No, come on Mark. Tell us what you really think 🙂 Below I explore what's crap about so much sponsorship, and how to do it better.

1. "Logo slapping"

As Mark explains, "Big-name companies have been climbing over each other to blow their budgets on branding arrangements with the new (Star Wars) movie." These budgets are needed to sign the sponsorship deal and then to "activate" this association, though communication and promotion. However, in many cases the output from the sponsorship is "ludicrous or pointless", owing to a disconnect between the movie property and the brand in question. Examples Mark gives of "ridiculous Star Wars-associated paraphernalia" include Star Wars nail varnish, a Star Wars-themed Google calendar app and Star Wars macaroni and cheese." There may be a temporary uplift in sales, if the movie is a hit, but limited long term brand equity benefit. 

I call this sort of marketing "logo slapping": the brand name is simply slapped on the product. There is a lack of synergy between the entertainment property and the partner brand. At a basic level this is to do with the product itself. Star Wars is set in the future in “a galaxy far, far away”, so  the brands can't star in the movie, as Mark points out. Second, is the fit in brand values between. With Star Wars and Google I guess there is some link to do with technology. But, I do struggle to see the link between Cover Girl and Star Wars (Max Factor, "The Make-up of make-up artists" would have made more sense.

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If you want to have a laugh and see an even worse example of logo slapping, check out this one: Double A paper – the official photocopying paper of “Transformers – Dark of the Moon”.  

2. "Brand integration"

There are a few examples of brands that have gone beyond logo slapping and even product placement to what I call "brand integration". Product placement is where the brand is simply featured in a movie, often being forced in: James Bond rather awkwardly drinking Heineken on a remote island in Syfall, when you would expect him to be sampling the local brew. Much more powerful is when the brand is actually woven into the narrative of the movie and plays a starring role. Yes, you've guessed it, I'm thinking Aston Martin and James Bond. This is the ultimate example of brand integration, where Aston Marin enhances the Bond movie, and Bond adds value to Aston Martin. This is shown by posters for the Spectre movie putting the DB10 car front and centre.

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3. Ownable and replicable brand properties

There is another step that takes you even higher to branding heaven: creating an ownable and replicable brand property. This is even rarer. An example is Carling Black Label's "Be the Coach" property, that I posted on here. The leading South African beer brand took over from Vodacom the annual sponsorship of an annual pre-season soccer match, between the two top clubs (Orlando Pirates and Kazier Chiefs). Rather than just doing a logo slapping exercise, the brand team created an world-first activation where consumers could pick the team for each side, and vote for a live substitution during the match. This property was repeated over multiple years, with more than 20 million entries per year. It helped enhance brand image and drive sales, winning a prize for best global mobile marketing. 

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In conclusion, I agree with Mark when he warns you to "Resist the dark side of brand partnerships". Instead, be more demanding and strive for brand integration or, even better, the creation of an ownable and replicable brand property.