'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' TV Spend at $66 Million and Rising

Co-Branded Spots Power Investment on Broadcast, Cable Nets

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Stormtroopers open fire in 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens.'
Stormtroopers open fire in 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens.' Credit: Stormtroopers open fire in 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens.'

Unless you've spent the last several months in a Dagobah swamp with a wizened Muppet in your backpack, you're probably well aware that "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" is making its theatrical debut next Friday. And while Disney/Lucasfilm's promotional TV spend has been moderate by blockbuster standards, the real money is in the co-branded spots.

According to iSpot.tv estimates, the studio thus far has shelled out $19.3 million to air the "Force Awakens" trailer across 44 broadcast and cable networks, with the lion's share of the outlay landing at the Big Four networks and ESPN. NFL games account for more than a quarter of the TV spend ($5.35 million); other top targets include reliable big-reach vehicles such as NBC's "The Voice," Fox's "Empire" and AMC's "The Walking Dead."

(One cable group that appears to have missed out on the "Force Awakens" gravy train is Scripps Networks Interactive. Per iSpot.tv's analysis, the trailer has yet to appear on Food Network, HGTV, Travel Channel or any other SNI outlet.)

Warner Bros., by comparison, dropped $32.2 million on TV time for "Mad Max: Thunder Road," and earmarked another $29.8 million to hype the Dwayne Johnson disaster flick "San Andreas."

If the "Force Awakens" promo spend falls short of the efforts made for some of the summer popcorn movies, the studio more than made up for the seeming shortfall by aligning the "Star Wars" universe with every brand under the twin suns of Tatooine. Among the purveyors of packaged foods, fast-food restaurants and auto manufacturers that have hopped on the "Force Awaken" bandwagon are Campbell's, Kraft, GoGurt, General Mills, Subway, Dodge and Ram Trucks. Verizon has been running an elaborate ad starring Chewbacca and BB-8. Also in the mix is CoverGirl, which has been airing a series of spots promoting its weirdly incongruous "Star Wars Collection."

The co-branded spend adds up to some $47 million in TV dollars, per iSpot, a figure that includes $4.37 million in consideration on ABC, ESPN, ABC Family, Disney Channel and Disney XD. All told, the placement of the official "Force Awakens" trailer and the co-branded spots adds up to around $66.3 million in national TV inventory.

A second subset of co-branded merchandising spots that are not explicitly aligned with the movie (action figures, games, etc.) has poured another $51.4 million into the TV ecosystem. Among the toymakers, videogame publishers and non-endemics eager to align themselves with the "Star Wars" brand are Lego, Walmart, Hasbro, Hot Wheels, PlayStation, GameStop, Electronic Arts, Kay Jewelers, Kohl's and Burlington Coat Factory.

A similar emphasis on co-branding was demonstrated earlier this year during Universal's promotion of its animated feature "Minions." The studio spent just $18.5 million on airtime for the movie's primary trailer, but alliances with the likes of General Mills, McDonald's, Build-a-Bear and Comcast's Xfinity on Demand service added up to another $25 million in TV time.

"Star Wars" was just named to the top of Ad Age's 2015 Marketer A-List.

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