Outdoor Equipment Retailer Woven Throughout 'Herbie: Fully Loaded'

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NEW YORK -- Outdoor equipment retailer Bass Pro Shops has teamed with Walt Disney Pictures and Nascar for broad-based product placement promotion in the upcoming film Herbie: Fully Loaded.
Bass Pro Shops and Nascar play major roles throughout 'Herbie: Fully Loaded.'

The move comes 15 years after Mountain Dew boosted sales through a product placement in Paramount Pictures’ Nascar-themed drama Days of Thunder.

Entire storyline

Last year, the Springfield, Mo.-based Bass Pro Shops signed a deal for the new car-oriented movie, in which Nascar serves as a major backdrop. But as opposed to the Mountain Dew placement in Days of Thunder, the retailer will have far more than just its logo slapped on a car or a uniform. In fact, it will have a ubiquitous presence as the writers of the film laced Bass Pro Shops through the entire storyline as the main sponsor of Herbie’s rival. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The film features teen star Lindsay Lohan and Michael Keaton, who bring Herbie the “love bug” -- a 1963 Volkswagen Beetle -- back to life. In the new movie Mr. Keaton's Nascar character gives the Volkswagen to his daughter, played by Ms. Lohan.

Some 15 years ago, the Tom Cruise-Nicole Kidman movie Days of Thunder wove a Nascar storyline with Mr. Cruise playing hotshot driver Cole Trickle, whose car was sponsored by soft drink Mountain Dew. Sales of the product skyrocketed after the film came out, demonstrating the potential power of product placement long before the technique assumed its current high profile in the marketing world.

Official Nascar endorsement

Ironically, Nascar itself had no participation in that long-ago deal struck by one of its individual teams and owners, Hendricks Motor Sports. This time, for Herbie: Fully Loaded, Nascar has officially endorsed the movie and served as a consultant on the film. Its people brokered the deal between Disney, Bass Pro Shops and North Carolina-based Richard Childress Racing, which is also lending real-life cars and drivers to the film.

“We were introduced to the producers last summer at a race in Sonoma [California], and that was facilitated by Nascar’s West Coast office. Their basic desire was to find enough authentic Nascar equipment as possible -- race cars, pit boxes, fire suits, you name it,” said Sims Hinds, director of business development for Richard Childress Racing.

What Disney wanted was a brand that was growing in the sport, but not a brand that Nascar’s legion of fans would already associate with a current driver, such as Budweiser and Dale Earnhardt Jr., or UPS with Dale Jarrett, with their logos emblazoned on the hoods of those respective cars. Disney also wanted a family-oriented business that would be a good fit for the film.

54 million visitors

Enter Bass Pro Shops, which has an existing relationship with Richard Childress Racing as a secondary sponsor. Bass Pro Shops is an outdoor lover’s dream: The company maintains 25 Outdoor World store locations throughout the U.S., and each is at least 100,000 square feet and is considered as much a destination shopping experience as going to Bloomingdale’s. More than 54 million people visit the 25 stores annually, according to the company, and that doesn’t count the hits on its popular Web site or catalog recipients. The company also owns boat maker Tracker Marine, and sports goods wholesaler American Rod & Gun.

Bass Pro Shops has had an associate sponsorship with Nascar since 1998, so die-hard fans will recognize the logo but certainly won’t confuse it with any current teams.

”Here’s a sport where product placement is completely authentic, so you don’t look like you’re forcing anything,” said Sara Nettinga, Nascar’s director of film, entertainment and television. “My mission, or my mandate for this group since 2001, has been to bring Nascar to the mainstream and you do that in a lot of ways. The producers [of Herbie] wanted Nascar to have a bigger relationship than just a product placement and we thought it was right for us.”

Many different components

Added Mr. Hinds: “The reality is that if all a sponsor is going to do is base their program on a decal on a car, it’s probably going to fail. We have to come up with as many different avenues as possible for the sponsor to get visibility and to activate their program. You’re always having to get creative and look for other assets.”

Ironically, after seven years as an associate sponsor and now with a feature spot in this film, Bass Pro Shops is taking that next step. Starting next year, it will be a primary sponsor -- which can cost more than $10 million a year -- on Nascar’s premier Nextel Cup series for driver Martin Truex, a member of the Dale Earnhardt team.
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