In Rare Move for Its Industry, Insurance Company Produces Documentary

Fireman's Fund Film to Help Draw Attention to Challenges Faced by Firefighters

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LOS ANGELES -- Office-supply stores, websites, wireless carriers and other advertisers have flocked to branded entertainment, bolstering an area that's booming because of investments from early adopters such as car makers, package-goods companies and fast food chains.
Fireman's Fund executives worked with Omnicom Group's Ketchum Entertainment Marketing, a division of public-relations giant Ketchum, to fully finance the documentary and find a distributor.



In fact, there's hardly a category of marketers left that hasn't dived in, but so far insurance companies have been scarce -- until now.

Fireman's Fund Insurance Co., a nearly 150-year-old firm, will break into the space with a feature-length documentary from an Academy Award-winning filmmaker that delves into firefighters' lives and jobs in a time of budget cuts and other challenges.

A boost for the History Channel

"Into the Fire" is set to premiere Oct. 13 on the History Channel, giving the cable network a boost in its original programming and showing that brand-backed projects are increasingly finding homes on TV.

Fireman's Fund executives worked with Omnicom Group's Ketchum Entertainment Marketing, a division of public-relations giant Ketchum, to fully finance the documentary and find a distributor. The film could get a theatrical release, though details are still in the works. At the very least, it will have at least two airings on the History Channel.

The companies declined to disclose the budget of the project or how Fireman's plans to promote the airings on the History Channel.

The documentary was created by Bill Couturie, who won an Oscar for his "Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt" about the AIDS memorial quilt. "Into the Fire" goes from large metro areas to small towns, interviewing men and women firefighters about the pressures of their jobs. Special attention is given to budget cuts and how those add to the difficulties the firefighters face daily.

Highlighting Heritage Fund program

The show is intended to create goodwill toward Fireman's Fund Insurance and highlight its Fireman's Fund Heritage program, which gives millions of dollars in grants annually to fire departments for equipment, training and education.

While footing the bill for a branded-entertainment project is new, Fireman's Fund does have long-standing ties with Hollywood. The company has been one of the most active insurers of films and talent for nearly 60 years.

Fireman's Fund, once owned by American Express, now belongs to Allianz AG of Munich, Germany, one of the largest insurance groups in the world.

The documentary is one of the most substantial branded-entertainment efforts for an insurance company, given that Fireman's produced the film on its own. Other companies, such as State Farm and Aflac, have promoted Hollywood films such as Disney and Pixar's "Cars" and Paramount's "Lemony Snicket: A Series of Unfortunate Events" in the past.

Ketchum Entertainment Marketing formed a few years ago to extend the company's reach beyond celebrity seeding and media relations. The unit is looking for content deals and partnerships in areas such as video on demand, wireless, video games, features and branded entertainment. Its client list includes Kodak, Estée Lauder, Best Buy's Geek Squad, Levi Strauss, Wendy's International, Procter & Gamble Co. and Chase Financial Services.
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