MOVIES TURN TO SPORTING EVENTS TO SELL TICKETS

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Movie marketing is a game of exposure, especially in the summer months when studios unleash a mad crush of films, jostling and jockeying for share of voice and share of mind.

To promote their films, studios will buy the backs of in-line skaters, put stickers on fruit or advertise on the sides of 18-wheelers.

It's not surprising, then, to find movies now sponsoring sporting events, arguably the most effective vehicle to reach young adults males -- the primary consumers of summer flicks.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer last month used track signage to tout "Species 2" at Championship Auto Racing Teams' Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, Calif. It didn't help much: to date, the flick has grossed a disappointing $18 million.

DreamWorks Pictures should have better luck when it goes to the races this summer with "Small Soldiers," opening July 10. The studio inked a deal with Joe Gibb's Interstate Batteries Racing to sponsor three different cars.

On July 4, at the Pepsi 400 in Daytona Beach, Fla., Bobby Labonte will race in a car tricked out with graphics depicting one of the film's toy characters, Major Chip Hazard of the Commando Elite. The race will be broadcast on CBS.

In a Nascar race later in July, Tony Stewart will drive a car featuring another "Small Soldiers" character, Archer. The pact also includes sponsorship of a dragster driven by Cruz Pendregon of the National Hot Rod Association.

Walt Disney Co.'s Touchstone Pictures has signed a deal with the 1998

X Games -- owned and marketed by sister unit ESPN -- for "Armageddon" to serve as an associate sponsor of the event, to be held June 19 to 28 in San Diego.

"Armageddon" will get time during X Games coverage on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN Radio, and banners on ESPN SportsZone. The movie also gets on-site exposure via a 10-city "Xperience" grass-roots initiative. The film, which opens July 4, also gets ad space in a 24-page "Guide to the X Games," to be distributed through Rolling Stone and ESPN Magazine.

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