Promotional partnerships have become crucial to the success of any mass-market film today. Our special report on feature films looks at the role that marketing and promotional support programs play in the successful launch of kids and family-oriented movies. We outline the extensive cross-promotional programs, the licensing and merchandising activities and the host of related spin-off products that are supporting upcoming features.
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Universal Studios Consumer Products Group hopes that The Lost World: Jurassic Park will follow in the T-rex-size footprints of its prehistoric predecessor.
The big-budget release from Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment, directed by Steven Spielberg, will premiere in the U.S. over the Memorial Day weekend at the end of May with very high box-office and merchandising expectations.
The original Jurassic Park earned over US$913 million worldwide in film grosses and did nearly the same amount in ancillary business, breaking sales records in toys, publishing and merchandise. Universal believes that the sequel can achieve similar results.
The studio has over 70 domestic licensees covering a full range of product categories. Key licensees include Hasbro (the master toy licensee), Tyco, DreamWorks Interactive, Sega of America and Fruit of the Loom. International licensing agreements were still being negotiated at press time.
Universal’s strategy is to broaden the retail appeal of the Jurassic Park franchise by offering an innovative product line with a greater breadth that appeals to a larger audience.
The studio has formed significant promotional partnerships with major companies that will collectively contribute to over US$250 million in worldwide marketing support in May.
‘Promotionally, we’ve got a program that’s a Who’s Who of Fortune 500 companies,’ says Cynthia Cleveland, president of merchandising and licensing for Universal Studios Consumer Products Group.
The Lost World is Burger King’s first international promotion. The fast-food giant will embark on a two-pronged promotion based on The Lost World for the general market and The Land Before Time video release for younger kids.
Other partners include Mercedes Benz, which is featured in the film, Kodak, General Mills and Hershey, all of which are doing multibrand programs, as well as JVC, Tropicana and Timberland.
In order to justify its self-proclaimed status as the leader in dinosaur-related consumer products, Universal has stressed to its licensees the importance of innovation. The studio created a style guide with several product lines and looks that appeal to different demographics, ranging from young girls to young adults. ‘We challenged our licensees to make something really special and different and to take their product to the next level,’ says Cleveland. ‘I think we’ve gotten much more innovation than we’ve seen in a long time.’
For example, Hasbro has worked closely with Universal and Amblin to develop realistic action figures that capture the essence of the movie and offer such unique selling points as ‘dino-strike action,’ ‘dino-damage features’ and ‘real-feel skin.’
Hasbro will be delivering a more expansive line of toys than it did for the original film, which broke all of the toy manufacturer’s sales records for a new toy line launch. In addition to the traditional boys action line, Hasbro has also created a plush line for girls, arts and crafts and games, all backed by a multimillion-dollar advertising and promotional campaign.
Another licensing category that Universal has emphasized is apparel. For the original film, apparel licensing activity did not progress much further than a basic T-shirt with the film logo. For The Lost World, a more sophisticated apparel program has been put in place. ‘One of the interesting trends in apparel is that it has to be good fashion,’ Cleveland says. ‘We’ve worked with our licensees not just to make something with a Jurassic Park feel, but also to create good fashion that stands on its own.’
Products will start hitting retail shelves in early May in anticipation of the Memorial Day release. Consumers can expect to see plenty of The Lost World: Jurassic Park boutiques. However, since retailers have requested distinctive looks, these boutiques will vary in appearance from store to store.
Universal is piggybacking products from its The Land Before Time animated, direct-to-video series with the Lost World promotion. ‘[The Land Before Time] is an excellent series for preschoolers,’ says Cleveland. ‘We know that this market loves dinosaurs too, based on what happened with the first film, but this series is more appropriate for kids of that age.’
The licensing and promotional program for The Lost World: Jurassic Park is central to Universal Studios Consumer Products Group’s ongoing strategy to develop innovative global efforts that focus on brand and retail development, promotional alliances and international expansion.
The studio hopes to continue to develop the brand in one form or another in the future, but nothing beyond the Jurassic Park sequel has been set.