Marketers Help Bring 'Sex' Back

Summer Blockbuster Watch: 'Sex and the City'

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'Sex and the City' and Brand Integrity
NEW YORK ( -- Ah, summer. A season of secret identities, spandex bodysuits and the crack of the bullwhip. Yep, a raft of Hollywood blockbusters is once again embracing Madison Avenue with the hopes of box-office glory. Here's the latest in a semi-regular series from Madison & Vine that will look at the marketing partners of upcoming summer films, and how they plan to make certain that no seat goes unfilled, no eardrum unbusted and, of course, no wallet untapped. This week: "Sex and the City."

The return of "Sex" has marketers sighing with pleasure.

On May 30, rabid fans will finally get another dose of Carrie, Charlotte, Samantha and Miranda, the foursome synonymous with fashion, cocktails and launching brands into the stratosphere of pop culture iconography. After all, thanks to "Sex and the City," Manolo Blahnik and Jimmy Choo became household names, and Cosmopolitans gained new relevance.
Chris Noth and Sarah Jessica Parker reprise their characters from the HBO series now making its way to the big screen.
Chris Noth and Sarah Jessica Parker reprise their characters from the HBO series now making its way to the big screen. Credit: Craig Blankenhorn/New Line Cinema

No 'Sex' for some
During its six seasons on HBO, the series attracted a cult following among female audiences. Still, there is a group that loves to hate "Sex," as evidenced by this week's cover of Time Out New York. It features the four leading ladies with duct tape covering their mouths and the cover line "No Sex!"

But marketers aren't fazed, repeatedly calling the film a "perfect fit" and a "dream." Any why not? It would be hard to not be enamored with the company they will be keeping in the film, as the onetime HBO franchise has always been heavy on luxe labels, glitz and glam. Chanel, Dior and Dolce & Gabbana are just a few of the fashion houses that became fixtures during the series' lifetime.

And then there were the mob scenes at the movie's shoot locations throughout New York. Breathlessly documented by the media and gossip bloggers, the turnouts have led many to declare the movie the "Super Bowl for women."

That is exactly what promotional partners are counting on. Here is a breakdown of what the partners, which include Bag Borrow or Steal, Bacardi Silver Mojito, Mercedes-Benz, Skyy Vodka and VitaminWater, are up to. Sarah Jessica Parker's signature fragrance brand, Lovely, and apparel line, Bitten, also have ties to the film.

Carrie's assistant, Louise, played by Jennifer Hudson, utilizes the service to feed her handbag habit, which came as a pleasant surprise to the 4-year-old company. Jodi Watson, chief marketing officer for the website, said New Line executives called to inform the company about the inclusion, which prompted Bag, Borrow or Steal to sign on as a promotional partner.
Jennifer Hudson plays Louise, who turns to Bag, Borrow or Steal to feed her handbag habit.
Jennifer Hudson plays Louise, who turns to Bag, Borrow or Steal to feed her handbag habit. Credit: Craig Blankenhorn/New Line Cinema

What "Sex" gets: The site can deliver its cult following of more than 700,000 fashionistas, who range from aspirational to affluent. Regular e-mails to members have promoted the collaboration, as well as the "Sex and the City" trend shop, which features sections befitting each of the characters' fashion personalities. Several contests are also being sponsored by the site, with winners claiming tickets to the premier in one and Timmy Wood's Eiffel Tower bag in another. Print ads have run in magazines including OK, Lucky and Elle.

What Bag Borrow or Steal gets: instant cache. The site has been rapidly growing, with business more than doubling year over year, but inclusion in a movie of this magnitude could drastically increase awareness. "Once the movie comes out, it will help us attract new prospects," said Ms. Watson. "We've been doing a lot of things all year long to prepare for volume increases and growth. ... We've tested some of the traffic limits of our site, and we're more than ready for ... big spikes in volume."

The brand beat out rival Absolut, which was involved with the TV series, to snag the movie partnership. Now the deal -- Skyy Vodka's biggest promotion ever -- is paying off in spades, as the company handles requests from promoters and bars across the country looking to sponsor "Sex and the City" parties. To date, some 40 to 50 official events have been approved, said Dave Karraker, director-public relations and events at Skyy Spirits. "Everybody wants to tie themselves to this movie and Skyy Vodka," he said. (The deal is with Skyy Spirits, although Skyy Vodka is the official spirit brand of the movie.)
The deal with 'Sex and the City' is Skyy Vodka's biggest promotion ever.
The deal with 'Sex and the City' is Skyy Vodka's biggest promotion ever.

What "Sex" gets: Cocktails are just as key to the franchise as high-end footwear, making "Sex and the City"-themed drinks and parties a hot commodity. Skyy is pulling out all the stops on that front, introducing signature drinks for each of the main characters, including Mr. Big, and distributing promotional materials to bars across the country. The brand also has a print and outdoor program, as well as a robust online presence. Online usually makes up 10% of the brand's ad buy, but for the movie, the brand has increased that to 25%.

What Skyy gets: Plenty of screen time, as brands will populate bar scenes throughout the movie. There is also the opportunity to introduce females to some of the company's other brands. Samantha's signature drink includes Cabo Wabo A´┐Żejo Tequila, which Mr. Karraker calls, a "very male-focused tequila brand." Campari is featured in Charlotte's cocktail, while Cutty Sark is found in Mr. Big's drink.

The chic fortified-water brand has become a fashion accessory in its own right, thanks to sleek packaging and witty product profiles. That makes it a natural for the ladies of "Sex," said Eric Berniker, VP-brand marketing at VitaminWater. "Ultimately, you never know what will end up on the cutting room floor, but I could see it every scene," he said. "[VitaminWater] works from brunch to night life."

What "Sex" Gets: The cast and crew got plenty of product on set, first of all. Beyond that, the brand is releasing two limited-edition versions of its XXX and Rescue flavors, which will feature labels that "speak to the film and the characters," said Mr. Berniker. VitaminWater is also heavily promoting the movie in-store and through a 30-second spot. "We'll be promoting the limited-edition bottles and the movie at retail," he added. And that's obviously a place where we have incredible access that New Line may not get to access all that often."

What VitaminWater gets: Plenty of female eyes and a few new friends in the "Sex" ladies. At the moment the brand is partnering with 19 athletes and celebrities, 18 of which are male. Kelly Clarkson is the lone woman in the group that the brand dubs "our friends" on its site.

The brand is a sponsor of the New York City premiere.

What "Sex" gets: The malt beverage category is driven strongly by females, said Bacardi brand director John Steinhubl, making an alliance with the brand a natural fit. Bacardi has been touting the movie on its website, as well as hosting screening parties.

What Bacardi gets: An opportunity to raise awareness of Bacardi Silver Mojito, as well as the launch of its new mango flavor. No word on whether Bacardi will take a star turn in the film, but Mr. Steinhubl said that even without that plug, the brand is "thrilled" with the buzz the partnership has generated.

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