The producers behind "Casino Royale" are trying to revamp the long-running James Bond franchise with a new actor playing a grittier character in a darker plot. But that won't mean the secret agent's favorite brands won't be back.
Marketers such as the Ford Motor Co., Omega, Heineken, Smirnoff and Sony Ericsson, which have long backed the Bond franchise over its 44-year run, will return as promotional partners and spend an estimated $100 million worldwide around the 21st installment of the series, set to hit theaters Nov. 17.
Other marketers, such as Virgin Atlantic Airways, will tie-in with the 007 character for the first time.
Brand-friendly since 1963
Over the years, the Bond franchise has become one of those rare properties in which everything the character wears, eats, drinks or drives is branded and has been since he first appeared onscreen in "Dr. No." in 1963.
"Casino Royale" is no different. In the new film:
> Bond will once again be behind the wheel of an Aston Martin, a Ford-owned brand. Not only will he drive the company's new DBS sports car, but the company's classic DB5, seen in "Goldfinger" and "Thunderball," will also make an appearance. The villain Le Chiffre drives a Ranger Rover Sport. Additionally, Ford's Mondeo sedan, Explorer SUV and F150 trucks, as well as Jaguar XJ sedans, appear in the film. Overall, Ford supplied the production with 125 vehicles, sending cars to the Bahamas, the Czech Republic, Italy and England.
> On the beverage front, Heineken is back as the franchise's official beer partner, Bollinger is still the favored champagne and Smirnoff returns as Bond's vodka of choice, replacing Finlandia, which made an appearance in the last installment, "Die Another Day."
> Omega's Seamaster watch is back on Bond's wrist.
> Virgin Atlantic has replaced British Airways as the franchise's official airline. Virgin Chairman Richard Branson will make a cameo in the film. The carrier and its crew members also play a prominent role in scenes set at Miami International Airport.
> Sony outfitted "Casino Royale's" sets with a number of the company's electronics and computer products. Sony Ericsson will use the film to promote its M600 smart phone. In fact, Sony plans to use the film to show off so many of its products that Sony Chairman-CEO Howard Stringer joked in a Fortune interview that James Bond "will carry so many Sony products that he won't be able to stand up."
Sony Pictures Entertainment, which will distribute the film, and Eon Productions, the producers of the franchise, have a lot riding on "Casino Royale."
Most successful film franchise in history
The previous 20 films have earned more than $1.3 billion in North America alone, according to Box Office Mojo, making it the most successful film franchise in history.
However, while the last outing, "Die Another Day," starring Pierce Brosnan, was the franchise's biggest earner, critics and audiences complained that the series was relying too much on expensive computer-generated effects and unbelievable gadgets such as invisible cars. At the same time, new films such as Universal Pictures' Jason Bourne franchise were introducing spy characters who were considered cooler by younger moviegoers.
Producers took note. James Bond needed an extreme makeover.
Just as "Batman Begins" rebooted Warner Bros.' Caped Crusader franchise last summer, so, too, will "Casino Royale" for James Bond this fall, opening the doors for many more sequels (Bond 22 has already been announced for May 2008).
Mr. Bond is now an edgier character played by Daniel Craig ("Layer Cake" and "Munich"). He replaces Mr. Brosnan, who played the role in four films. The plot reveals just how Bond received his 007 stripes, and sends him on his first mission. Gadget guru R is out. So is Miss Moneypenny.
Martin Campbell, who introduced Mr. Brosnan as Bond in "GoldenEye" in 1995, is in the director's chair once again to present Mr. Craig to audiences in the role.
Marketers take notice of changes
The changes didn't scare away marketers. In fact, it actually helped bring them onboard.
"I looked at it as an opportunity, not as a question," said Myles Romero, Ford's global brand entertainment manager. "I'm very familiar with Daniel Craig. He's a fine actor, but he's controversial. From a movie and entertainment perspective, that brings a lot of buzz. The more interest there is around it, it's exciting. People will end up going to see it."
Mr. Romero said it's the character, not necessarily the actor who plays him, that's the main attraction. "The franchise is extremely important to Ford," he said. "It's got fantastic brand equity. Everybody knows Bond. Males want to be Bond; they want to be with the Bond girls."
Ford's relationship with the films goes back more than 40 years. A Ford Mustang first appeared in "Goldfinger" in 1964. That's the first film in which Bond also drove an Aston Martin.
"When we purchased Aston Martin, the franchise became even more relevant for us," Mr. Romero said.
That became evident in 2002, when Ford spent a reported $35 million to replace BMW, whose vehicles had appeared in three films beginning with "GoldenEye" in 1995. In 2002, "Die Another Day" prominently featured the company's Aston Martin Vanquish V12, Ford Thunderbird and Jaguar XKR.
Smirnoff -- shaken, not stirred
As for the other marketers, Heineken first tied in with the franchise in 1997, with "Tomorrow Never Dies," and has stayed on as a partner since. Omega's watches have been worn by Bond since 1995. Bollinger has been the official champagne partner since 1979's "Moonraker." But Smirnoff's relationship with Bond goes back much further, starting with "Dr. No," when the spy was handed a martini, "shaken not stirred."
"Today, Bond is as much a part of Smirnoff's history as Smirnoff is of Bond's, and we're delighted to be part of this latest chapter," said James Thompson, president, Smirnoff Global Marketing.
Deals around the Bond franchise are brokered individually around each film. Multi-picture deals aren't signed because producers never know for sure when the next installment will be released. Or in Eon's case, which studio will end up distributing it.
"From a promotional standpoint, our partners are longtime business partners," said Keith Snelgrove, senior VP of Bond Marketing, the licensing arm of Eon Productions. "We're a family-run business and we treat our partners the same way. Because the Bond brand has been going for 40-plus years, we know they'll be here. They keep coming back."
Sony and Eon are only happy to have the marketers onboard as they prepare to launch their new Bond.
Web is key part of global promotion
Beginning in early October and running through December, promotional partners will launch global campaigns that include TV spots, in-store promotions, sweepstakes, PR efforts and websites. This time around, the web will play a more significant role to promote Bond, executives at Sony said.
Ford will focus its marketing efforts on Europe with a general-awareness campaign dubbed "Feel the Difference" that ties the automaker's blue oval moniker with the new Bond. The campaign will span 21 countries in the region mainly because of the placement of the Mondeo sedan in the film; the redesigned vehicle hits the territory after the movie bows.
In the U.S., Ford will sponsor events and launch a PR campaign to promote the history of Ford's appearances in the Bond films. Ford's campaign for "Die Another Day" was more U.S.-based, because of the appearance of the Thunderbird in the film.
Meanwhile, Heineken plans to launch a series of 30- and 45-second TV and in-theater ads featuring Eva Green, who plays Bond girl Vesper Lynd. Radio and web efforts are also planned as part of the effort that will cover more than 40 countries. Heineken had previously used Bond's go-to gadget guys Desmond Llewelyn, who played Q, and John Cleese, who played R, but "Casino Royale" doesn't feature either of the characters.
The other partners will launch similar campaigns, with Omega also set to use Mr. Craig in its ads, for example. While each effort will be different, and feature different elements from "Casino Royale," they will still tie-in with the film's new look for Bond.
Campaigns to match edgier tone
"Each one of these partners will have their own unique approach to Bond, but there will be some cohesiveness," Mr. Snelgrove said. "This is an edgier, grittier Bond. We want to make sure that our partner campaigns fit in with that strategy."
The partner campaigns will be in addition to the $30 million to $50 million that Sony is planning to spend to promote the film itself. "Casino Royale" becomes the first Bond film that Sony has ever distributed, after buying a major stake in MGM.
Neither Sony nor Eon would disclose just how much the partners are spending to promote the film, but "it's an appropriate number for the campaign," said George Leon, exec VP-worldwide consumer marketing at Sony Pictures Entertainment. "There will be big numbers as there always are. It will help us hit hard-to-reach areas."