Lisa Holladay, manager-national events for the automaker, said the deal blossomed from a simple product placement of the redone 2008 model C350 sport sedan and GL SUV in the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced movie. Disney approached Mercedes-Benz about ways to extend the placement, with gaming as a way to reach a new audience, she said.
The automaker's research found that the average age of online gamers is 32, with annual household income of $75,000 or more, which are "perfect" demographics for the entry-level luxury model C-Class, she said.
Disney Online hosts the "The World's Biggest Treasure Hunt" at disney.com/nationaltreasure. Visitors need to play one of two games that arrive on the site every two weeks over 10 weeks. The C-Class is in two of the 10 games on the site.
Players don't need to win any of the games or be top scorers. Play enters them in the random drawings to win treasures from an actual shipwreck discovered by Disney's other partner, Odyssey Marine Exploration, of Tampa, Fla. The more visitors play, the more they're entered in the drawings, a spokeswoman said. The grand prize is a 2008 Mercedes C350 and treasures retrieved by Odyssey from a Civil War-era ship, the SS Republic, in 2004. Prizes from the wreck include coins minted by Confederates.
Disney is promoting the game online with movie trailers on MySpace, Facebook and YouTube and ads in USA Today. "Entertainment Tonight" will announce the winners just prior to the film's opening day.
700 million impressions expected
Mercedes-Benz expects to get 700 million impressions from the U.S. gaming gambit and is in negotiations with Disney about international co-promotions, as the movie arrives later in Europe, Ms. Holladay said.
The effort should reach a broader audience of more casual gamers because winners aren't determined by scores or time, said Brian Robbins, executive producer and gaming evangelist at the New York office of Fuel Industries, an online branded-entertainment outfit.
Film studios and TV networks are increasingly adding online gaming to their properties because so many people are playing, a spokesman for game developer WildTangent said. It's the third most popular activity on PCs behind e-mail and chat.
He said males and females of all ages played games on their PCs an average of 11 hours a week last year. By age groupings, 13- to 17-year-olds averaged 13 hours; 18- to 24-year-olds averaged 10 hours; nine hours for 25- to 35-year-olds averaged nine hours; for 35- to 44-year olds averaged eight hours.