For Warner Bros., "Space Jam" ushers in a new era for its $3 billion Looney Tunes franchise. And that's not all (folks).
"Space Jam" is the launch of a feature animation unit and a WB Toys division; the first use of parent Time Warner's new Turner Broadcasting System properties as marketing tools; and the inspiration for a broader foray into sports under its WB Sports brand, whose telling slogan is "Sports is entertainment."
For star Michael Jordan, "Space Jam" is the start of a strategic effort to create new opportunities for Jordan sponsors, who pay the Chicago Bulls superstar a combined $40 million-plus a year in endorsement deals.
$70 MIL PUSH
The "Space Jam" promotional push from such tie-in marketers is estimated at $70 million. And that doesn't include Warner Bros.' own marketing campaign, said to be budgeted at around $20 million; trailers and TV spots, done in-house, began running last week.
On Oct. 30, McDonald's Corp., a longtime Jordan sponsor, will launch a promotion supported by an ad campaign from DDB Needham Worldwide, Chicago. The promotion offers six plush "Space Jam" toys. "Space Jam" Happy Meals will offer eight action figures.
Jordan-sponsors Rayovac and Worldcom are also tying in.
The movie's other promotion partners include General Mills, Kraft Foods' Jell-O brand and Bayer Corp., which will support its Looney Tunes kids vitamins with special packaging and point of purchase.
Missing is Nike, whose early `90s Jordan/Bugs Bunny spots from Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., inspired the movie.
Nike had concerns about being part of the hoopla, as it owns apparel rights to Mr. Jordan and has spent millions crafting the athlete's image. Nike is allowing Warner Bros. to sell apparel featuring Mr. Jordan but only through its own studio stores.
"Nike had some reservations about the implementation of the movie," said David Falk, Mr. Jordan's agent and one of the movie's executive producers.
Mr. Falk and his partners took the germ of "Space Jam" to Warner Bros. After first getting rebuffed, Mr. Falk tuned to Dan Romanelli, president of the studio's consumer products division, who saw the merchandising opportunities that "Space Jam" represented and helped it get the green light.
"Some think it's a vehicle to sell merchandise. I'm sure it will. Some think it's an effort to broaden his appeal among kids. I'm sure it will," said Mr. Falk. "But first and foremost, we saw it as a great litmus test for a new class of opportunity for Michael after his NBA years are over."
Mr. Romanelli bristles at the notion that "Space Jam" is a mere commercial for the Looney Tunes franchise, stressing that licensing success requires a credible entertainment product.
"The entertainment comes first. Nothing else will work unless it's there," he said.
$1 BIL POTENTIAL
But if it does work, Mr. Romanelli said it could generate an additional $1 billion for Looney Tunes at retail worldwide.
"Space Jam" has 200 licensees, will yield 30 stock-keeping units of toys and spawn 35 different publications. Select retailers-J.C. Penney Co.; Kmart Corp.; Sears, Roebuck & Co.; Target Stores; Toys "R" Us; and Wal-Mart Stores-are each planning their own customized retail promotions.
Mr. Romanelli said the movie will introduce dozens of new characters-including Lola Bunny, a love interest for Bugs-and contemporize the old ones.
Indeed, "keeping it hip," said Rob Friedman, the studio's president of worldwide advertising and publicity, is the challenge of the "Space Jam" marketing campaign.
"Michael is cool, and the Looney Tunes have always been cutting edge, so every time we do something, we don't want to be perceived as infantile," he said.
5 TV SPECIALS
Mr. Friedman's efforts to make "Space Jam" hip even include hiring Steven Rifkind Co., an entertainment marketing company specializing in building wordof-mouth in urban areas and inner cities.
Mr. Friedman said five TV specials are in the works, including programs that will air on newly acquired assets Turner Network Television and Cartoon Network.
And of course, the movie will be promoted during TNT's NBA broadcasts.