LOS ANGELES (AdAge.com) -- With increased frequency, brands have been called on to help curb production costs, share the marketing responsibilities and even tell the stories of some of the biggest studio movies of recent years, including the "Transformers" franchise, "G.I. Joe" and "Up in the Air." But for independent films, it's a much more difficult task to attract name brands without the ability to pair them with A-list talent or a top-tier studio.
"Crooked Arrows," a sports film set in the world of lacrosse that goes into production this spring, will try to help change that. The independent movie, produced by J. Todd Harris ("Jeepers Creepers"), Mitchell Peck (the upcoming "Priest") and Adam Leff ("Valentino: The Last Emperor"), will feature a major integrated sponsorship from Reebok,* which will use the film to promote its 9K product line of lacrosse equipment and apparel, along with its 10K lacrosse sticks. The film's producers secured a bulk of their financing and guaranteed distribution for a nationwide release of at least 250 theaters in 2011, which assured Reebok their sponsorship would be seen.
"Normally to raise money, you take a movie to festivals and pray someone picks it up for distribution," said Jacques Vroom, president of movie-marketing firm Vroom3 and marketing director for "Crooked Arrows." "With independent movies, the reality is these deals are rare, but a little money in return for product placement leaves a lot of opportunity for the film and where it can be seen."
The next 'Mighty Ducks'?
Talks with Reebok began almost a year ago, when Mr. Vroom and the producers met with Chad Whitman, head of Reebok's lacrosse division. Since "Crooked Arrows" would be the first major-motion picture to focus exclusively on the sport of lacrosse, Reebok had an opportunity to achieve a branding moment on par with Easton Sports' famed integration into "The Mighty Ducks."
Mr. Whitman was ultimately sold on how many marketing opportunities Reebok could create for the movie with its own marketing and retail partners to help promote the film and ultimately drive sales of its lacrosse products to a much larger audience than the one currently afforded by limited lacrosse-themed media properties.
"Like any other small industry, there are many places to reach lacrosse players but few that actually hit all the touch points," Mr. Whitman said. "You really only have two publications that hit all the markets, so it limits the creative ways you can reach the consumer. And there's really not a TV component yet, so this was something really different and unique."
Reebok will outfit the film's players in everything from protective equipment to cleated footwear, an offering Mr. Whitman said is unique to the company. "There really aren't other brands that have the equipment or footwear apparel to offer what we have," he said. "Our consumers are very savvy, tend to be more affluent and in-tune with the digital age, and we want to take advantage of reaching them in more powerful forums like collaborating at the retail level."
Spotlight on Native-American culture
"Crooked Arrows" will also focus on Native-American culture, as lacrosse is rooted in the indigenous game. Adding to that appeal is casting director Rene Haynes, who most recently cast the Native-American werewolves in "Twilight" films "New Moon" and "Eclipse."
"We want this movie to appeal to more than just athletes, but at the same time with the lacrosse players we want to make sure the action is authentic and a cultural story to go with it," Mr. Vroom said.
Mr. Whitman, meanwhile, hopes "Crooked Arrows" achieves its "Mighty Ducks" moment for the sport at large.
"We know this is huge for the lacrosse community, and could bring in a whole new fan base," he said.
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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story reported that Rebook was the exclusive sponsor of "Crooked Arrows."