Burger King, McDonald's, Wendy's and Denny's Buy in Big

By Published on .

LOS ANGELES -- With the start of the summer movie season only weeks away, four fast-food chains are readying a slew of new promotions using familiar icons, including Darth Vader and Herbie the Love Bug, to front their entertainment marketing deals.
Photo: Miramax
McDonald's will promote Miramax’s 'The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl.'

Burger King has bought into LucasFilms and 20th Century Fox’s Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith and 20th Century Fox’s superhero flick Fantastic Four; McDonald's has gone with Walt Disney Co.'s Herbie: Fully Loaded and Miramax’s The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl; Wendy's is aligned with Warner Bros.' Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; and Denny's bought into DreamWork's Madagascar.

Doughnut chain Krispy Kreme has also come on board to push Madagascar at its retail outlets.

No-shows to summer tie-ins include CKE Restaurants’ Carl’s Jr. and Hardees, which last year promoted Universal Pictures’ monster fest Van Helsing. At the time, the company hadn’t backed a film since the first Spider-Man in 2002.

Also not taking part in movie-marketing deals are Subway, Arby’s, Baskin Robbins, Papa Johns, Dunkin Donuts, Del Taco and Yum Brands’ Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC.

Burger King

Burger King had considered the animated Madagascar, about four Central Park Zoo animals that is opening in late May, but ultimately opted for the larger, more young-adult audience that Star Wars will provide, according to the company.

“It’s like coming home,” said Cindy Syracuse, senior director of global marketing communications at Burger King, who noted that many franchisees still remember the first 1977 promotion.

Revenge of the Sith will serve as Burger King's first ever global marketing effort. The deal also teams up Star Wars with its original fast food promotional partner.

Ms. Syracuse wouldn’t disclose details of the ad spending on the Star Wars or Fantastic Four efforts, but she said the budget for both tie-ins was on par with prior summer efforts. Last summer the chain hyped Spider-Man 2
Photo: Miramax
McDonald's will promote Miramax’s 'The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl.'

and Shrek 2 and the company was reported to have spent $40 million on the Spiderman part of that campaign.

For children, Burger King's Star Wars promotion, which starts May 16, three days prior to the film’s release, will include 31 child-targeted premiums, made up of vehicles, plastic figures and plush toys of characters from the prequels as well as the original Star Wars trilogy. The adult-targeted campaign will include a scratch-off game card.

TV spots from MDC Partners’ Crispin, Porter and Bogusky, Miami, and Interpublic Group of Cos.’ Campbell Mithun, Minneapolis, will feature custom footage with classic Star Wars characters. Adult spots will also include footage from the PG-13 film. Commercials will be adapted by local agencies in Canada, France, Germany, Spain and the U.K

The Fantastic Four promotion kicks off June 27, with a six-week adult- and children-targeted campaign. The children's program will include five premiums based on the film’s characters -- Mr. Fantastic, The Invisible Woman, The Human Torch, The Thing and the villain Dr. Doom. There’s a separate game for adults that will send players to a major retail chain to collect prizes. The film hits theaters July 8.

To encourage full-priced menu items, both promotions will support the chain’s Whopper Value Meal, Angus Steak Burger and Tender Crisp chicken sandwiches; breakfast value meals; and space-themed foods for children, including lightning bolt- and star-shaped chicken tenders and Spacey Green Icie’s.


After some disappointing summers of underperforming movie tie-ins, McDonald’s is lovin’ its 10-year exclusive partnership with the Walt Disney Co. The company will launch a Happy Meal promotion for the June 24 release of Herbie: Fully Loaded, and support the film with additional media spending. Disney will not release an animated film this summer.

Separately, McDonald’s is also reteaming with director Robert Rodriguez for a summer tie-in to Miramax's The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl in 3-D. The fast-food chain previously linked with Mr. Rodriguez’s Spy Kids trilogy.

Shark Boy, based on an original superhero story by Mr. Rodriguez and his 7-year-old son Racer, is packed with special effects and aimed at the family audience. Miramax executives think the film, opening June 10, could be the start of a new franchise.

Because McDonald’s executives have a long working relationship with the filmmaker, they had significant access to the production. “That’s encouraged a lot of creative thinking on our part and theirs on how we can work together,” said Lori Sale, Miramax’s executive vice president of worldwide promotion.

The program revolves around the chain’s Happy Meals, which will have eight different Shark Boy toys and a companion sweepstakes. The marketer will air 30-second commercials for the promotion featuring the young stars of the movie and dress up restaurants with Shark Boy paraphernalia.

“The power they deliver is bigger than any medium you can buy,” Ms. Sale said. “We want to reach families everywhere with our message, and this helps us open the movie and sustain the movie.”

Last summer, McDonald's had to virtually sit out the summer, as Disney’s release slate consisted of Happy Meal-unfriendly films like King Arthur and The Village. Its only promotion that season was a regional tie-in for the opening of Disneyland’s Twilight Zone Tower of Terror attraction. Billboards featured a zombie posing with a Big Mac. Normally, nearly half of its Happy Meals each year include Disney themes.


Elsewhere, Wendy’s has secured Warner Bros.’ remake of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, set for release July 15. The planned campaign, to run July 11 to Aug. 21, includes a Kids Meal program and bag, five interactive premiums, signage and online games at


And Denny’s has stepped in to launch a campaign around Madagascar, a computer-generated-animated comedy about zoo animals that wind up back in the wild.

Hoping to appeal to children and families, the casual dining chain’s program will include children's premiums made up of Madagascar merchandise based on the movie’s characters, a specially themed menu and place mats, as well as a sweepstakes for family trips to zoos. The effort will be backed by online advertising, in-store signage and TV spots that feature custom animation of the characters inside Denny’s restaurants.

The program will be Denny’s biggest effort ever for a film. The company previously promoted Warner Bros.’ A Cinderella Story across multiple forms of media, but not TV spending.

Krispy Kreme

With doughnut chain Krispy Kreme also on board to push Madagascar at its retail outlets, the campaign for the film is the latest demonstration of how Hollywood is reaching out past the traditional fast-food chains to embrace other retailing venues at marketing partners.

There are numerous benefits associated with a fast-food alliance, including “cultural penetration and heavy media support,” said Lisa Licht, Fox’s senior vice president of global promotions. “The restaurants become billboards for your movie and give it event stature.”

But not every safe bet secured a fast-food partner, however.

Chains said no to Warner Bros.' Batman Begins and Paramount's War of the Worlds. It's not that marketers weren't interested: Scheduling conflicts posed a problem for one, while the film's dark tone posed a problem for the latter.

~ ~ ~

Kate MacArthur contributed to this report.
Most Popular
In this article: