Marketers whip up a storm of Indiana Jones tie-ins

Fans and marketers alike seemed to have been whipped into a frenzy in anticipation of the May 22 opening of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

The fourth installment of the Indiana Jones franchise comes to the big screen nearly two decades after the third, but boasting the ingredients of a summer blockbuster:

•A prime spot on the film release calendar on the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend.

•Lots of summer movie action, from car chases to Indiana Jones wielding his trademark bullwhip.

•The creativity again of famous filmmakers George Lucas as executive producer and a writer, and Steven Spielberg as director.

•Harrison Ford back in the role of adventurer/archaeologist Indiana Jones. Spanning the age range, however, co-star Shia LaBeouf was 2 years old when the third Indy film opened in 1989.

Last month, an online poll of more than 5,000 users of movie ticket-selling site Fandango.com, voted Kingdom of the Crystal Skull as the summer's "most anticipated" movie. The fact that much of the plot has been kept under wraps has further piqued consumer interest.

Hoping that the big-budget release from Paramount Pictures would have fans jonesing for all things Jones, brands including M&M's, Dr Pepper, Expedia, Burger King and Kraft Lunchables have launched big-budget marketing tie-ins.

"We believe this is going to be the biggest movie of the summer," says Jaxie Alt, Dr Pepper brand marketing director. "We wanted to figure out a way to be a part of it."

Later this month, Dr Pepper, will run Web, print and TV ads that promote its link with the movie. Cans and bottles will have pictures of Indiana Jones. And buyers of 23 cans will get a lot more of a "pepper-upper" (as the Dr has billed itself) than they expected: an iPod Nano preloaded with the movie franchise's musical theme.

Marketers signing up for the 2008 movie say Indy still resonates with younger consumers, thanks to cable airings and DVDs.

"There's such a franchise and history with this movie, so even if you're in the younger demographic, you've heard of it," Alt says.

The past three movies — 1981's Raiders of the Lost Ark, 1984's Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and 1989's Indiana Jones and the Last Cru-sade— won seven Oscars in total and reaped nearly $1.2 billion in worldwide box office.

Some promotional partners:

• M&M's. The Mars Snackfood US brand has launched limited-edition M&M's Mint Crisp Chocolate Candies. The candies, which are made with semisweet chocolate and have a crispy rice center, are white and green to reflect the "jungle feel" of the movie, says Michele Kessler, Mars marketing vice president.

TV ads show M&M's spokescharacters swinging from ropes and plunging down a cavern. Print ads feature a new M&M's character who resembles Indiana Jones.

Creating him actually took a lot of work, says Susan Credle, executive creative director at M&M's ad agency BBDO New York. "If you go too far, it doesn't look like an M&M — but if you don't go far enough, it doesn't look like Indiana Jones."

• Lunchables Maxed Out. The Kraft lunch line aimed at tweens will feature images of Indiana Jones, as well as LaBeouf's Mutt Williams character, on 15 million packages.

Darin Dugan, Lunchables marketing director, says 21-year-old LaBeouf, who also starred in Transformers, will appeal to tweens and "is a very strong emerging talent."

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