Warner Bros.’ “Space Jam: A New Legacy” is no doubt the movie marketing event of the summer.
The long-awaited sequel, released both in theaters and HBO Max on July 16, is coming out during a summer of blockbusters hitting theatres and streaming services as pandemic restrictions are lifted. It's contesting with Marvel’s “Black Widow,” Paramount’s “Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins” and Warner Bros.’ own “The Suicide Squad” remake. But nothing quite packs a marketing punch as the reimagined, family-friendly storyline ‘90s kids loved renting from their local Blockbusters.
The familiar Looney Tunes/real-world mashup has been remade for a tech-savvy generation. Like Michael Jordan before him, NBA champion LeBron James is sucked into an alternative universe where he finds himself determined to win a high-stakes basketball game against cartoon characters. This time, however, James and his Looney Tunes friends battle to save James’ son in the digitized world of the Serververse where villain algorithm Al-G Rhythm (Don Cheadle) threatens their very existence.
Next week the film will premiere with more than 200 brand collaborations behind it, spanning apparel, footwear, food and beverage, retail and even pet products. Brands like Nike, Spalding, Moose Toys, Gap, Crocs, Fossil, Funko, GameStop, BarkBox and more are onboard. Fans of the movie are able to find almost everything they desire from Space Jam Kraft Mac & Cheese onesies to Trolli Sour Sneaks candy. The consumer products are also built out with marketing partnerships with brands like McDonald's, Xbox and Amazon, several announced this week, meant to appeal to the millennials who grew up watching the first film as well as a new generation of kids.
"This is a rare property that means a lot to different people in different ways," says Bryan Warman, SVP of worldwide digital marketing at Warner Bros. "Even within a single partnership there are several layers that are as appealing to a kid in '96 to today's kids.
"It's such a cultural event. You're marrying the star power of LeBron James to Looney Tunes," says Louise Soper, SVP of global brand partnerships at Warner Bros. "There was a very strong nostalgic reaction from brands. McDonald's loved the idea of coming back and partnering again. We have family-focused but also the cool factor with digital extensions."
Brands had a long time to prepare for the animated-live action film. Rumors that there would be a “Space Jam” sequel began circulating in 2016, and the official release date was set in 2019. The film itself might as well be one giant commercial for Warner Bros as its chock-full of references to other Warner Bros.' intellectual property. The trailer alone shows James passing through multiple worlds part of the Warner Bros.’ universe, including “Game of Thrones,” “The Wizard of Oz” and “The Matrix” (see trailer).
“Space Jam” was always destined to be a marketing blowout event. The original 1996 “Space Jam” film itself was conceived out of an ad, the 1992 Super Bowl Nike commercial “Hare Jordan,” in which Michael Jordan plays basketball against Bugs Bunny. The creative force behind the ad, Jim Riswold, was also known for popular Nike campaigns “Bo Knows” and “I Am Tiger Woods.” Michael Jordan’s agent, David Falk, was the one to approach Warner Bros. with the idea for the film based off the commercial, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Here are some of the major collaborations and marketing partnerships of note springing out of the film. Some craftly tie-in to the retro roots of the original film, while others simply cater to consumer demand and film anticipation.