Eleven Marketers Join Disney in $150 Million Campaign

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CHICAGO -- The Walt Disney Co. and 11 promotional partners will back the Oct. 4 DVD debut of the classic Cinderella with a $150 million marketing effort that rivals most new theatrical releases, according to sources familiar with the situation.
A veteran of six theater runs and released in video cassette format in 1988, the 1950 classic 'Cinderella' is now going to DVD.

Disney executives wouldn't confirm the total spending but said the promotional package will eclipse that of its Finding Nemo DVD. Disney's media outlay for that title was $31 million. Prior to Cinderella, the DVD title that is believed to have received the largest total promotional backing was DreamWorks’ Shrek 2, at about $130 million.

The 1950 animated feature film about a poor girl who becomes a princess is a beloved cultural icon and one of the early projects that lifted Disney to world acclaim and record-breaking theater grosses. The movie has been re-released in theaters five times since its original run and was made available on video in 1988.

Strong marketer response
The DVD launch through Disney's Buena Vista Home Entertainment unit has drawn a muscular lineup of co-marketing sponsors including Procter & Gamble Co., Kellogg Co., the U.S. Department of Transportation, Rooms to Go, Three Day Blinds, U.S. Nutrition, Spinmaster, Kimberly-Clark Corp.'s Kleenex brand, Jolly Time Popcorn, Mattel Inc. and Nexcare.

Additional retail and merchandise partners include Toys R Us, Home Depot and Swarovski crystal jewelry.

“The nice thing about our 'platinum line' is when we’re bringing titles to DVD for the first time we’re treating them as new hit release,” said Lori MacPherson, senior vice president for brand marketing and product management at Buena Vista Home Entertainment. "This isn’t impressive for just a catalog release, it’s impressive for any DVD release.”

Ms. MacPherson said the marketing frenzy around DVDs is quite a bit larger than that of VHS films. At the height of VHS, the average household bought five videos a year whereas today the average household buys 15 DVDs a year.

As part of its Cinderella tie-in, Swarovski jewelers will be offering princess-like tiaras.

'DVD is a really lucrative business'
“DVD is a really lucrative business,” she said. “For tie-in partners, DVD is sold in the same retail [locations] as their [own] products. Tying into DVD allows for more merchandising and display opportunities at retail that you can’t get with a theatrical release.”

Ralph Tribbey, editor of DVD Release Report, forecast the rags-to-riches fairy tale will sell between 15 million and 20 million units domestically. When dealing with catalog titles, he said, "there’s catalog then there’s catalog.”

Cinderella is golden. There’s going to be 11,000 titles released this year and with theatrical and premium catalog, the rest are struggling for shelf space, so titles like Cinderella are playing in a different league and a different ballgame,” he said.

The strong response of marketers seeking tie-ins to the product also underscores the rapidly growing power of DVDs as a medium separate from theaters. In just eight years, the DVD movie industry has grown to $21 billion.

50% of studio revenue
Overall, the home video market now makes up more than 50% of a film studio's overall revenue from U.S. markets -- up from 40% in 1997 when DVD launched, and it generates nearly 60% of the studio's take on feature films, said Jan Saxton, vice president film entertainment and an analyst for Adams Media Research. Meanwhile, theatrical revenue fell from 26% of total feature film revenue in 1997 to 23% in 2004.

More than 250 individual Cinderella products will be released as DVD tie-ins.

And equally important, as the Cinderella release demonstrates, is the new perception that DVD releases can be a major retail engine.

Among the media components from Disney’s own estimated $30 million advertising campaign are inserts and trailers on four Disney DVDs, plus TV spots, print ads, out-of-home advertising, radio spots, and online ads, which could generate 100 million impressions on Yahoo, MSN, Disney Online, AOL and Nick.com. The company also is running a sweepstakes with Cinderella-themed trips to Disney and "fairy tale princess" bedrooms as top prizes.

ESPN 'Cinderella stories'
In what could be the disc’s most inspired cross-promotion content integration, ESPN Classics, also part of Walt Disney Co., will air “Cinderella stories” of great sports moments that will be included as bonus content on the DVD. TV spots following the ESPN content will include a tagline to see more stories on the disc.

Disney will also add dedicated content in the form of a Cinderella show on its cruises, Radio Disney promotions, a special edition of the original CD, five new books and a Cinderella version of Bella Dancerella exercise video.

And Disney and the U.S. Transportation Department are partnering on a child-passenger safety campaign with TV and out-of-home advertising and possibly print and radio ads using the Fairy Godmother and Cinderella’s coach as the backdrop to promote safety belts for children.

250 Cinderella tie-in products
Disney's $2.5 billion consumer products division is readying 250 dedicated Cinderella products from shoes to beds to bejeweled tiaras under the theme “Light Up,” a reference to the moment Cinderella becomes a princess. Products will have lighted components, like the Cinderella Twinkle Lights doll from Mattel that has a gown that lights up. Other products include a life-size doll and bedding and home furnishings.

“The power DVDs have at retail has grown ... and this is the first time we’re able to tap into it,” said Mary Beech, vice president of Disney princess and girls brand. She said Buena Vista typically releases a video six months after the theatrical run but the consumer products unit needs 18 months to prepare compatible products.

“This is going to be the precedent for us and Buena Vista Home Video working together in the future,” she said. “The princess line drew $300 million at retail in 2001 and $2.5 billion last year. We hope this will push us to the $3 billion mark [this year].” The unit will repeat the exercise next year with its Little Mermaid franchise.

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Jack Neff contributed to this report.

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