How to Broker a Deal Between a Carmaker and a Pirate Movie

Relationships Help, Says Linda Swick, and a Forward-Thinking Client Doesn't Hurt

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Who: Linda Swick, International Promotions Entertainment Marketing, Los Angeles.
For Linda Swick, 'successful branded entertainment is when a consumer walks away fully aware of the brand name and the intention of the product.'

Why you need to know her: When it comes to product placement and entertainment marketing, Ms. Swick's company reps brands such as Unilever's Ben & Jerry's ice-cream brand and Gambrinus' Corona beer, and recently brokered a promotional partnership for Volvo around the second and third installments of Walt Disney Co.'s "Pirates of the Caribbean."

Credentials: Ms. Swick started International Promotions 18 years ago. Before that, she worked in casting and as a talent manager. "Let me tell you, it's much easier handling products than talent. Products don't talk back," she said.

Who are your clients? "Volvo, Corona, Corona Light, Pacifico, Negra Modelo, Modelo Especial, Motorola Professional Radios, Ben & Jerry's, Seventh Generation, Icon Estates Wine, Snap-On Tools, Idahoan Instant Mashed Potatoes, Twinings Teas, Trove Premium Boxed Wine, Tsingtao Beer."

What types of deals has your company recently brokered for them? "There are many ways to broker a deal. There are those where a fee is paid for an integration, ad buys are utilized, services and products are bartered or promotions are executed. We've had 18 years of success in all of these avenues. Over the years, the relationships we have developed with producers, directors, actors, screenwriters and studio people are often just as important to closing a deal as the assets I've just mentioned."

Recent deals include placing two Volvos, including an XC70 and C70 convertible, on ABC's "Desperate Housewives." John Cryer's character also drives a Volvo on CBS' sitcom "Two and a Half Men." Tom Cruise drove a Volvo wagon in Paramount Pictures' "Mission: Impossible III" this summer, and before that, 16 Volvos were placed in the studio's comedy "School of Rock." Elsewhere, Ravenswood and Magnificat wines, as well as Corona and Negra Modelo beers, appeared on Bravo's "Queer Eye." And Embassy Suites Hotels was showcased on three episodes of Style network's "Clean House." Pratt & Lambert Paints will be the exclusive paint sponsor for Bravo's "Top Designer," featured in all 10 episodes with closing credits, logo exposure and verbal mentions.

Your company put together the promotional deal with Volvo around Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest." The movie's obviously been a huge success at the box office. How often does something like that come along? "There are always going to be the tentpole and blockbuster films, along with the popular franchises, so opportunities for tie-ins with films are there. But you need a savvy agency that can coordinate all parties to meet the deadlines to create a successful promotion."

What did Volvo's partnership with the film do for the company? "One, it breathed new life into the Volvo Ocean Race [a year-long sea-faring event that will eventually cover 31,000-plus miles. Disney executives latched onto the race because it reflected the movie's theme. A custom-created boat, aptly named the "Black Pearl," flew a skull-and-crossbones flag.]. Two, it drove more traffic into the dealerships, including a younger, hipper demographic such as the first-time car buyers who are perfect candidates for Volvo's hip new models -- the all-new S40 and their soon-to-be-launched C30. Three, it created billions of impressions globally. And four, it opened the door for Volvo to create more partnerships with other corporate sponsors."

Why was that deal done in the first place? Why connect Volvo with the "Pirates" franchise? You also rep Ben & Jerry's ice cream. Couldn't that company have made a similar deal? "We presented the opportunity to Volvo and Roger Ormisher, the VP of public affairs, and he was forward-thinking enough to connect the Volvo Ocean Race with the Black Pearl. He came up with the idea to build and enter a pirate ship in the Volvo Ocean Race, which was to travel to nine different countries before the release of the film. Jerry Bruckheimer and Disney were thrilled with this. Volvo also had the ingenious idea to bury an XC90 for a lucky treasure hunter to find and win. It would have been terrific to have also included Ben & Jerry's, as they launched a new flavor called Berried Treasure. However the timing was off to capitalize on that opportunity."

Volvo is also involved with the third film. When a movie like the sequel hits so big at the box office, do you have to fight to keep your client in other sequels? Or is it your right of refusal because you were already there? "When we are negotiating deals, we are always cognizant of rights of refusal. Due to the success of their previous partnership with Disney, Volvo had the right of refusal for subsequent films, as long as they could meet the new terms."

What's next for you? "We are currently executing two promotions: Dippin' Dots Ice Cream and the Warner Bros. holiday release 'Unaccompanied Minors' and Snap-On and 'Ghost Rider,' starring Nicolas Cage. We also just created a Ben & Jerry's store for 'The Spiderwick Chronicles' from Paramount, which will lead to a promotional opportunity as well."

Over the years, has what your clients ask for changed in terms of entertainment? If so, how? "In many ways it has not changed. For instance, one of our earliest brand integrations was getting Jerry Seinfeld into the Saab convertible on 'Seinfeld.' The integration culminated in numerous episodes that were actually written around the car, along with a multitude of verbal mentions and inclusion in the 'Sein Off' coffee-table book. However, the creation of the DVR, along with advertisers' realization of connecting the ad buy with brand content in the show, has elevated brand integrations to a new level."

There is still some confusion out there as to what branded entertainment is. How do you define it? "No matter what you call it or how you broker it, successful branded entertainment is when a consumer walks away fully aware of the brand name and the intention of the product, in addition to comprehending the positive image that the corporate marketer is trying to convey."

What's on your TiVo? "At home, being a USC Trojan, it's always a USC football game."

What's on your iPod? "Anything my teenage sons download for me. This is also a handy way to keep up with what they're listening to."

What do you do on your downtime? "What's that?"