Volvo Returns to Hollywood With 'Pirates of the Caribbean'

Yacht Race Spurs Tie-in With Disney Sea-Faring Flick

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LOS ANGELES -- Volvo isn't playing it safe anymore by staying out of the movie tie-in business.
Volvo has stepped up for a big co-promotion partnership with the summer movie 'Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest.'

The Ford Motor Co.-owned automaker is teaming with the Walt Disney Co. for a global co-promotion around the much-anticipated summer flick "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," the car marketer's first feature film link in nearly a decade.

Volvo Cars of North American brought the tie-in to Ford Motor Co.-owned Volvo Car Corp., based in Sweden.

Volvo, best known for its safety message, wants to energize its image by using the sequel, starring Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley, as a way to speak to young adults as well as families.

The action adventure, opening July 7, follows the surprise 2003 hit "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl," which earned $654 million worldwide. Volvo plans to help promote both the film and the DVD release across various media.

Co-branded treasure hunt

The marketer will participate in an online, co-branded treasure hunt with the movie's other partners, including McDonald's Corp., said an executive close to the matter. John Maloney, VP-communications, who oversees advertising at the automaker, confirmed that Volvo will have some promotional activity around the film but declined further comment.

For "Dead Man's Chest," Volvo will focus on its recently freshened XC-90 sport utility vehicle it aims at families, Mr. Maloney said. The marketer also has a second-generation C70 convertible arriving in dealerships now, with a growing waiting list.

Yacht race

The deal between Volvo and Disney sprang from Disney's sponsorship of a yacht in the Volvo Ocean Race, which will travel through New York next week. The aptly named "Black Pearl," with its "Pirates of the Caribbean" crew, is currently in third place in a Volvo-owned race that will eventually cover more than 31,000 miles.

Disney executives latched onto the idea of sponsoring a yacht because it closely reflects the movie's theme. There's an American skipper at the helm, along with a 10-person crew on the custom-created boat, which flies a skull and crossbones flag from the film. The boat's official number, displayed prominently on a sail, is 7706, the date the movie launches.

The sailing event draws media attention and fans in key international territories, meant to build momentum for the movie in places like Australia, Brazil, Spain and Sweden, said Donald Evans, VP-marketing and promotions for Buena Vista Pictures International.

"Those [countries] represent a large percentage of our international box office," Mr. Evans said. "These are places that will have a significant impact on our business."

Old-world sport, modern technology

The ocean race, which will span seven months by the time it finishes in June, felt like a good match because it's a combination of an old-world sport with modern technology. "Pirates" is a period film that uses the latest computer-generated images and cutting-edge filmmaking, Mr. Evans said.

Mr. Evans added that the Volvo Ocean Race has moved Disney's movie message beyond the traditional entertainment press and onto sports pages and lifestyle sections around the world. A flood of publicity has followed the "Pirates" yacht, from Desmond Tutu blessing the boat in South Africa to Miss USA boarding the boat this week in Baltimore.

Volvo's last major deal with a Hollywood studio was nine years ago, when it spent an estimated $10 million in advertising to co-market Paramount Pictures' big-screen adaptation of the TV series "The Saint." The alliance was part of the launch of its C70 coupe, which appeared in the film and tied in with the car the title character drove in the original TV show.
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