Ferrell back in uniform and pitching


In a rare feat for film tie-in partners, Will Ferrell is starring in commercials for Old Spice and Bud Light as part of the advertisers' promotional deals with New Line for Ferrell's basketball comedy "Semi-Pro," in theaters Feb. 29.

While Ferrell appears in character as shaggy-haired Jackie Moon from the film, the association with the comic actor is nevertheless unmistakable.

"Using humor and using Will is a great way to appeal to our target demographic of men 18-34," said James Moorhead, Old Spice brand manager. "There's a great synergy between 'Semi-Pro' and the launch of Old Spice's new Pro-Strength anti-perspirant. It was a great way to communicate the benefits of the product in a way that makes consumers laugh, engage and have a good time."

Old Spice will be running a number of spots starring Ferrell starting today on networks with predominantly male audiences such as ESPN, Comedy Central and MTV and also will feature them on male-oriented Web sites. OldSpice.com will have the spots as well as exclusive content like outtakes and commercials that didn't make it onto TV.

"Semi-Pro" is only the second film promotion for Old Spice and is on a much larger scale than its first, also a Ferrell starrer, "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby." In that 2006 film from Sony, Old Spice was heavily integrated into the film as a NASCAR sponsor but did not create commercials especially for the film tie-in. Rather, it ran tags or film footage at the end of previously produced spots.

The positive impact on its business following its high-profile integration in "Talladega" made Old Spice eager to take the partnership with Ferrell a step farther.

"When we got the opportunity to use Will in character talking about Old Spice, holding Old Spice and really engaging with the product, it was really just another great opportunity for us," Moorhead said.

Old Spice's entertainment marketing agency Alliance and creative ad agency Wieden + Kennedy orchestrated the deal for Old Spice.

In one of the spots, Moon tells viewers to "cauterize their sweat glands shut" with Pro-Strength; in another, he calls himself a "sweat scientist" and says "perspiration serves no purpose much like the appendix, man nipples or most of the human brain."

Ferrell asked that Old Spice donate his fee for appearing in the spots to the Cancer for College charity, which awards college scholarships to current and former patients. But with the spots part of the overall promotion for the movie, that fee is believed to be significantly lower than the typical payment received by A-list stars who appear in advertisers' commercials. Ferrell also did not receive any extra pay when he starred in commercials for Sprint Nextel as his "Talladega" character Ricky Bobby to promote that movie.

For its part, Anheuser-Busch's Bud Light premiered one of its spots during the Super Bowl that starred Ferrell as Moon taping a commercial. Its ad featured the voice of a director offcamera shouting "cut" repeatedly after Moon says things about the beer like: "refreshes the palate and the loins"; "a lot of sweat goes into every bottle … not literally, that would be gross"; and "Bud Light, suck one."

It's still rare, but getting film stars to appear in tie-in partners' commercials is seen as a practice on the rise. A select number of actors such as Ferrell, John Travolta and Angelina Jolie have been willing to join in.

"A few are much more willing to star in commercials without payment because the promotion can have such a strong impact on the marketing and success of the film," said Aaron Gordon, CEO of Infusion Entertainment.

Nevertheless, many A-list stars still refuse to have their images depicted on any promotional materials for brands.