16 Sep 2015
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Under Armour takes product placements to new level

Sports clothing brand Under Armour has become the “Official Training Partner of the Ares Program.”

As part of the partnership, the brand has released a short online film, featuring astronaut Mark Watney in an intensive training program. The online film showcases Watney’s pre-mission training program highlighting the rigorous emotional, physical and mental preparation required for the ARES 3 Journey to Mars.

The Under Armour online film, called 'Leave Your Mark', is part of a promotional campaign for the cinema release of Ridley Scott’s latest film, The Martian.

The film, which is based on the novel by Andy Weir, is set in 2030 and follows the story of astronaut Mark Watney, played by Matt Damon, who is an astronaut in NASA’s Mars mission, which is called the ARES Program.

The Under Armour film, which has been created to resemble the inspiration brand films we’ve come to recognise from sports clothing brands such as UA or Nike. 

It is the result of a collaboration between RSA, 3AM, William Morris Entertainment and Droga5 on behalf of its client Under Armour, as part of a major brand partnership.

The aim is to not only promote the film but also to add authenticity to the audience experience and to create an idea that would be “mutually beneficial” to both the film company and the brand.

This Under Armour film is the latest in a string of online films created by RSA Films to engage audiences with the film prior to its cinema release.

This is not the first time that a Ridley Scott film has employed this technique to promote the film ahead of its release. The company created a hugely successful campaign to generate buzz around the release of Prometheus, which notably saw the creation of a TED film featuring one of the film’s characters.

The practice has become so popular that Scott’s RSA Films teamed with ad agency Wild Card to launch a dedicated marketing company called 3AM to ‘collaborate with filmmakers, studios and brands in the early stages of the movie production cycle to create integrated content and marketing extensions,” according to Fast Company.

Obviously product placement in films is nothing new and we’ve seen it evolve into major partnerships between brands and films, notably the Bond franchise.  

It’s also not the first time we’ve seen fictional film characters promote products before, Will Ferrell’s Anchorman character did a superb job for Dodge, for example.

Under Armour has significant experience in this area, not only has the brand logo appeared front and center in countless films in recent years. It has also engineered a number of custom made costumes for film characters including the recent film Avengers Age of Ultron.

But this latest deal helps showcase a significant change in the way that brands are partnering with filmmakers to create authentic experiences which sit comfortably within the confines of the storytelling and add credibility to the characters.

The Martian saw Under Armour work collaboratively with the filmmakers to create a purpose and reason for the brand within the narrative and context of the story. The idea that these astronauts would be viewed like sports stars and athletes and subsequently would be sponsored and appear in inspirational advertising is not a difficult stretch and using a real world brand helps add credibility to the storytelling.

As 3AM creative director Chris Eyerman told Fast Company, “We asked ourselves what it would look like if we took the pop culture appeal of Apollo and Mercury-era astronauts and infused that world with today's hyper-connected social media culture.  In this setting, we might see the crew bid Earth farewell via live video and a Periscope-like social media feed. And we would probably see these astronauts being sponsored by brands. This idea ended up being a ripe territory for content that allowed us to develop an emotional bond with these characters and also capture the humor, drama, and science that people loved in the book."

Leave Your Mark is a superb example of the new wave of branded entertainment, say goodbye to the cheesy lingering product shots and get ready for mutually beneficial authentic storytelling. 


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