James Bond is amongst the most successful and well-known film franchises in cinematic history. Spanning over half a century, and featuring some of the most iconic and budget-busting special effects, car chases, fight scenes and soft romantic encounters, 007 provides a backdrop for brands to timelessly associate themselves with the premium image that is Bond.
Whilst James Bond may be the coolest fictional character around; he’s a man who drinks, eats, drives, uses a mobile and always has to be on time. Therefore why shouldn’t he drink Heineken, drive a Ford by day and an Aston by night while interfacing with his Sony Mobile device, wearing an impeccable Tom Ford made-to-measure suit complemented by an Omega watch with the odd gadget combined?
Brands have been central to the Bond script over the decades. Indeed, the official 007.com website had a section devoted to Skyfall’s 12 brand partners, which shows how integral brand involvement is. The latest instalment to the Bond Franchise, Spectre, with its reported budget of over $300m is no different. But it’s not all about the money.
For many of these brands the immediate gain is not necessarily purely sales. Take Tom Ford. Whilst it may increase cosmetic and accessory sales, the uplift in Tom Ford suiting, in a price range far removed from the average budget, is perhaps the benefit of the association with a seminal film that will live on beyond its theatre and Blu-ray release. What it offers Tom Ford is the long-term association with a franchise that will be seen over and over again, decade after decade, bringing in a new generation and establishing the brand as a classic. This allows Tom Ford to continue its premium brand and pricing that may at some time extend to a diffusion line.
The budgets agreed by brands for just a frame’s-worth of brand exposure is clearly phenomenal, but brands aren’t just buying a product placement slot that may or may not increase awareness of the product and an uplift in sales; they’re buying into the fabric of Bond and an unwavering association that effortlessly transcends the actors that play him.
Many brands have involved themselves with the Bond franchise and while not every single one of them will have that instantaneous recognition that the likes of Aston Martin and Omega watches might have, it provides those brands with a concrete platform to increase brand equity and establish itself as different to the crowd opening themselves up to new categories.
A brand’s desire to segway into a movie as if it was natural is important to any brand with values, as blatant placement is just tacky. However when you can have the main character drive your car when he could drive any, wear your watch, use your mobile and make it fit seamlessly into the plot is an art in itself complemented by the fact it’s not just any man but Bond, James Bond. What the 007 franchise enables brands to do is gain an element of ‘cool’, be part of film history and gain recall over and over again for years to come, spanning generations and demographic.
The opening shot of Daniel Craig drinking a Heineken in Skyfall is now cemented in cinematographic history and will be seen by others long after the film receives classic status. The likelihood that Heineken as a brand will disappear is slim so the long-term return on investment for the brand is potentially infinite and rewarding every time someone around the globe, whether it be dubbed in Cantonese or Portuguese, sees James take a sip of an ice cold Heineken.
A week from release, Spectre is, in numbers, likely to be the most successful Bond film in history and whilst not every brand will stand the test of time, with fondness, any brand is able to maintain equity and recall based on sentiment if associated with a Bond film, Pan Am did as Virgin Atlantic desires with its previous associations.
Daniel Todaro is managing director of Gekko.