How Brands Helped Save 'The Perfect Game'

Troubled Indie Film About Mexican Little League Team Had Rocky Road to Big Screen

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LOS ANGELES (AdAge.com) -- What do you do when your film runs out of money on multiple occasions, misses two years' worth of release dates and halts production entirely? You turn to brands for help.

Marketing and production support for 'The Perfect Game' from many well-known brands is valued at several million dollars.
Marketing and production support for 'The Perfect Game' from many well-known brands is valued at several million dollars.
That's the approach David Salzberg and Christian Tureaud, production partners at High Road Entertainment, took for their film "The Perfect Game," which had a rocky road up until its release last weekend.

The true story, based on a Mexican Little League baseball team's surprise victory in the 1957 Little League World Series, received a bevy of marketing and production support from brands such as Coca-Cola, Fruit of the Loom, Easton Sporting Goods, Ole Tortillas, iTunes and the Little League itself. Because of the brands' support, valued at several million dollars, "The Perfect Game" was finally able to secure distribution in 417 theaters last weekend. The film debuted with a respectful $500,000, averaging $1,100 per site.

(According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, Messers. Salzberg and Tureaud secured a $5 million deal for promotion and advertising with a New York investment firm to help distribute and promote the movie.)

Such active brand involvement in the production and distribution process speaks to an emerging trend in film financing, recently echoed by independent films such as "Crooked Arrows." The film, set in the world of lacrosse, tapped Reebok as its exclusive retail and apparel partner in a deal that helped offset production costs too. Even major studios such as Paramount are recognizing the value in teaming up with brands to help cover the expenditure of producing and marketing major films such as "Transformers," "GI Joe," "Up In the Air" and, most recently, "Iron Man 2."

But having so many key partners involved also speaks to the importance of credible storytelling when dealing with nonfiction scripted entertainment. All of the participating partners came on board either because of the role their brands played in the actual historical events, or because of the film's authentic outreach to young athletes and Hispanics.

Mr. Tureaud said that after five years of stops and starts on "The Perfect Game," brands remained the film's only constant supporters. "The film's message is about the inspiration to live your dream, which are the same core values each of these brands tries to communicate with their audience. It's a testament to the senior executives at these brands that they've built relationships that will last forever with these folks."

Several of the brands make appearances in the film itself, including Fruit of the Loom's Spalding, makers of the very baseball pitched during the movie's namesake game. Coca-Cola's logo also appears throughout during key game scenes, and Little League International granted rare permission to use its organization's logo and name throughout the film.

"Perfect Game" represents only the third movie the Little League has officially aligned itself with, and the first in nearly a decade following 2001's John Grishman-penned "Mickey." Lance Van Auken, Little League International's VP-communications, said the organization had final approval of the screenplay and has turned down dozens of similar opportunities for movies and TV in the past without exception. "The Perfect Game" was a rare property that captured the organization's mission and commitment to authenticity.

"It really speaks to all the values that Little League stands for without sugar-coating things. We've seen the movie and know there's elements of racism, but those things really happened. We're really proud of our involvement in it," he said.

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For more on this story, check out the Los Angeles Times' coverage.

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