'The Identical' Faith-Friendly Marketing Campaign: Churches, NASCAR and the Emmys

'The Identical'

The $16 million indie is this weekend's only new release

Audiences who tuned in to watch the Emmy Awards on Aug. 25 may have noticed an ad for the upcoming film The Identical, a musical drama centered on a young man who goes after his dream of becoming a music star.

Promotional material for the film has been hitting major entertainment events lately, from the Emmys to the MTV VMAs and Major League Baseball. But this is not a studio project — it's a $16 million independent, faith-friendly film made by a first-time feature film director.

The film centers on twin brothers (both played by Blake Rayne, a former Elvis impersonator) who were separated at birth. One, Drexel Hemsley, grows up to become an Elvis-like star, and the other, Ryan Wade, is raised by a strict minister father (Ray Liotta). But Wade goes against the wishes of his conservative parents and seeks out his own musical career.

The project is being released by pay-to-play distributor Freestyle Releasing and is the only new wide release this weekend.

However, The Identical, from City of Peace Films, is not any ordinary musical drama — the film also has a faith-based message. "The underlying theme of the film is if God is in your dreams then nothing can stand against you," said director Dustin Marcellino in an interview about the project.

The marketing budget for The Identical was just north of the film's $16 million production budget, and the funds were split 50-50 between faith-based efforts and national TV, radio and digital campaigns.

"The movie I think is going to play very well to a more conservative audience, but it has been testing well with a very diverse audience as well," says Don Noes, a co-producer on the film who handled a lot of the production funding and the film's marketing budget. Noes says testing was especially high with conservative, African-American, Latino and Catholic audiences.

Working with around 30 marketing groups for outreach — including Dan Merrell, co-founder of faith and family marketing company Propeller — Noes, who spent 25 years in the music industry, had an ambitious marketing plan that included partnerships with a restaurant chain, the ARCA Racing Series and churches throughout the country.

The faith audience has been coming out in droves to support several films this year, including Heaven Is for Real, God's Not Dead and Son of God, all of which overperformed at the box office. The Identical has reached out to this audience as well with hopes that it can do the same for the musical project. Approximately 5,200 churches across the U.S. are helping promote the film, according to Noes.

The film went after the conservative audience through a few marketing partnerships, including one with Zaxby's, a restaurant chain with more than 620 restaurants located primarily in the Midwest and on the East Coast.

They also joined forces with Venturini Motorsports, one of the teams in the ARCA Racing Series, and had ads placed on two of the team's cars, driven by John Wes Townley. Plus, four bands who performed the original songs on the soundtrack have performed at five NASCAR events, with some of those races being televised.

Liotta also has been helping to promote the film, appearing on TV and radio shows that reach the more conservative audiences, including Fox News' Mike Huckabee and TheBlaze's Glenn Beck.

Says Noes: "I think it's a movie that America is ready for. It's a feel-good movie. It's a family movie."