When it comes to branded entertainment look no further than the juggernaut that is the James Bond franchise. Not only is the 007 film franchise one of the biggest film franchises in the world, it is also one of the biggest success stories in brand funded entertainment.
James Bond is arguably the most desirable man on earth. Men want to be him, women can’t resist him and brands will happily spend a small fortune to get their products near him. In fact, specialists at the London School of Marketing have estimated The James Bond brand is worth US$20 billion.
It is no surprise that marketers love him, 007 is iconic, globally recognised and immensely successful. The Bond brand is dripping with excitement, sophistication, intelligence and, of course, sex appeal, not too mention its enduring impact on popular culture - I mean has anyone ever ordered a stirred Martini?
In fact, there is a generation of men to whom 007 and his famous Aston Martin DB5 were an integral part of childhood, thanks to the novels and a ridiculously popular toy in the 60s. Even director Sam Mendes has talked about this toy.
When it comes to the brands, Bond occupies a unique position of not alienating audiences with product placement due to the his long-term association with brands - Ian Fleming’s novels were full of specific brand names and references.
it's easy to see why Fleming’s fictional British Secret Service agent 007 has become one of the biggest marketing platforms for brands and the latest film is no exception.
Spectre, which is the 24th film in the Bond franchise, features a cavalcade of brands with some reports suggesting up to 20 major brands are associated with the epic two and a half hour film.
From Bond’s stylish suits (Tom Ford), fast cars (Aston Martin), elegant watches (Omega) and even his trademark drink, a vodka martini (Belvedere), Bond remains the ultimate brand ambassador.
Jacques De Cock, faculty member of the London School Of Marketing, said: "Any brand linked to Bond is almost guaranteed a return on their investment; 14 brands have already associated themselves with Spectre, four of which – Heineken, Aston Martin, Omega, Tom Ford – also paid for association with Skyfall so must be happy with the return. This proves just how valuable that link with 007 is for these brands."
While the franchise offers lucrative brand associations for marketers, their budgets have become crucial to the film's production.
Spectre is reported to have cost around $350 million (£194m) to make and the franchise has made no secret of the role brands played in helping to make the big budget films. The last film Skyfall received one-third of its entire film budget from Heineken, which invested £28m for 007 to be seen drinking from its green bottle.
In Spectre, Heineken is back, and there's also Belvedere, Bollinger and Macallan Malt Whisky, all of which help our hero to take the edge off his action-packed adventures. When he’s on the move there’s Aston Martin, Jaguar, Land Rover and Rolls Royce. Omega has returned as 007’s watch of choice, a 20-year partnership for the brand and this time with a reference in the script and a lingering close-up. Sony provides the phones and Visit Britain is back on board to showcase how GREAT Britain is.
The brands associated with the film have invested millions for the privilege and have subsequently spent even more money ensuring everyone knows about it. A slew of brand campaigns and limited edition products have launched around the world, looking to leverage the film and its iconic characters.
All these campaigns draw on the iconic character, some create Bond-style storylines and some use actual footage. Some brands, like Heineken and Omega, have enlisted the current Bond, Daniel Craig, to star in the ads while others, such as Sony, have enlisted others, such as Miss Money Penny, Naomie Harris, to appear in its advertising.
Limited editon products are everywhere: from Bollinger’s 007 Crystal set to Belvedere's 007 bottle and the Omega Seamaster which offers an engraved 007 strap. Meanwhile, the internet is humming in anticipation of the release of Tom Ford’s Spectre Capsule collection.
It’s not just the big name items that garner the attention these days. The web is awash with sites that catalogue every item and product that appears in the films and hoards of eager fans are snapping them up.
While credible publications are running fashion features that read like advertorials detailing the brands behind the fashion from the films, such as the cashmere roll neck jumper that Bond wears in the promotional posters (above) and 'that' dress, worn by Bond girl Lea Seydoux. Oh, and in case you were wondering, Bond wears Sunspel underwear – just so we are all clear.
Bond is the ultimate vehicle for brands. A universally appealing, iconic character that embodies so many of the attributes brands aspire to: desirable, attractive and cool. Even the darker, aggressive and brooding edge that Daniel Craig has brought to the character has not dented its appeal with brands.
As a strategy hitching your brand to the 007 franchise is a strong one and you can see the appeal for marketers.
Much like the Star Wars franchise of films, the lines between the film and the branded extensions have merged. The Star Wars films often feature scenes created to look like the video games that will roll out shortly. Similarily Bond films look like one giant shopping catalogue of brands that ooze with cool.
As a vehicle for brands, there is no denying the appeal and success that brands have achieved with the Bond franchise, but it is through sponsorship, product placement and marketing. Much like with Skyfall, none of the brands involved with Spectre have backed up their hefty investments with memorable or stand-out branded experiences.
It’s a shame as there is a huge level of anticipation about this film which presents brands with a great opportunity to create something engaging for fans.
When the last Bond film Skyfall was released, I pondered whether the high level of brand mentions and product placements in the film meant that Skyfall was in itself a branded entertainment experience. Three years later there is no question, it very much is.
The relationships between the story and the brands makes it clear that the line between where the movie ends and the product marketing begins has been erased. And it works the other way as well, with Spectre director Sam Mendes having a huge amount of influence on the design process of the latest Aston Martin which features in the film.
Brands have become an integral part of the production and the story and in some cases, like Aston Martin, are so well embedded in the story that you wonder whether the film is actually an immensely successful brand campaign.
Obviously from the brand perspective this is a massive win, however it does raise questions about the impact on the integrity of the Bond character and the film's integrity.
Both Bond director Sam Mendes and actor Daniel Craig have spoken often about the reality of brand involvement in modern filmmaking. Skyfall attracted some huge brand partnership deals, which we know helped the movie get made, but audiences didn’t seem to care since the film went on to be a massive global success and the most successful British film ever made.
This suggests that audiences are not at all worried about the companies and brands that are behind the entertainment, as long as it entertains. Judging by the current tracking, Spectre is on a trajectory to success in spite of, and perhaps even helped by, the lingering product shots.
So as branded entertainment goes, Bond is the ultimate brand ambassador and all the brands involved are guaranteed to reap the benefits of the association. Spectre, like Skyfall before it, is set to be another shining example of branded entertainment.