'Spidey' spins tangled web of tie-ins


"Spider-Man 3" has cast a superhero-size $100 million promotional web with four of the film's seven tie-in partners — General Mills, Kraft, Burger King and Comcast — airing custom spots, many of which were produced in-house at Sony Pictures with the help of the studio.

According to George Leon, executive vp worldwide consumer marketing at Sony Pictures, the dedicated spots reflect the same "aspirational" themes of the movie and the studio's own multimillion-dollar marketing campaign. "We worked hand in hand with our partners to create these spots," he said. "It really helps us meet our own objectives, too. The custom-made spots are all about the consumer aspiring to be Spider-Man. A lot of our creative took that tone. We encouraged our partners to really look at the aspirational values of our movie and interpret that within their own world."

He said Sony Pictures president of creative advertising Josh Goldstine worked closely with the partners and their ad agencies in making their spots.

Comcast's commercial features a man dressed in a Spider-Man suit (minus the mask) sitting in his apartment decorated with framed Spider-Man posters, action figures and busts interviewing a prospective roommate. There's even a dog donning a Spider-Man mask and garb.

General Mills' commercial for Trix cereal features the Trix rabbit dressed up as Spider-Man, with kids following him around until they unmask him and discover he's really the Trix rabbit.

And Kraft's spot for Cheese Nips shows two boys watching "Spider-Man 3" in a theater, shooting webs back and forth to grab the Cheese Nips box from each other until a web darts out of the movie screen to grab the Cheese Nips from both of them.

"When we talk to consumers about why they like Spider-Man, it really is this idea of an ordinary guy who can do extraordinary things," said Putney Cloos, senior associate brand manager for Cheese Nips. "Showing kids shooting webs is a great way to bring that core consumer insight to life," she said, noting that the Cheese Nips spot was created by ad agency Ogilvy & Mather.

Only Kraft and Burger King are returning promotional partners from "Spider-Man 2." "We've had to change our long-standing partners and get new partners and new ideas," Leon said.

One of those new ideas is evident in Spidey's Comcast promotion. The largest U.S. cable provider, which is in more than 24 million homes, has created a VOD Spider-Man channel with 50 pieces of exclusive content that is refreshed on a weekly basis. The content — which has included the premiere of the fourth and final film trailer, "featurettes" describing how Venom, Sandman and the New Goblin became villains, the premiere of the "Spider-Man 3" music video "Signal Fire" from Snow Patrol and trailers from Activision's "Spider-Man 3" video game — also is available online at Comcast.net and custom microsite www.SpiderMan3OnComcast.com.

"The reason Comcast is so special to us is because we don't have a TV network we could take advantage of as a studio, so we had to look at media partners," Leon said. "This is the first time we have done a promotion of this nature with a cable service provider, and the reason why is they are in so many million homes across the U.S. We couldn't have content on all the time on a broadcast or cable network," said Leon, adding that the promotion gives "Spider-Man 3" a destination on cable, something that can't even be purchased as a media buy.

Comcast is running two Spider-Man-themed spots in the U.S. as part of its promotion, while General Mills is airing three, Kraft two and Burger King five.

The film's promotional partners are said to be spending more than $100 million in media alone, an extremely high figure even for an anticipated blockbuster like "Spider-Man 3."

Another promotional partner, 7-Eleven, is doing radio spots for its Slurpee tie-in. Procter & Gamble's Pringles' "Spider-Man 3" campaign is limited to print and online media, while Sony Electronics' is an in-store and online initiative.

Burger King's five-week adult-targeted promotion, which launches Monday, also reflects the aspirational themes of Sony's marketing campaign, taking it even a step further by giving customers the chance to choose between traditional red-and-blue Spidey and the new black-suited Spidey from the latest film in the franchise.

The Burger King campaign centers on a "Which Spidey Suits You?" scratch-and-win game in which customers choose to reveal what's behind either red-and-blue or black Spidey. Customers have a 50% chance of winning every time they play, with a prize behind one of the two scratch-off areas on each game piece. Top prizes include a $1 million American Express gift card and a 2007 Maserati Quattroporte Sport GT.

"Our goal was to create a game that would deliver the excitement of 'Spider-Man 3' directly to our guests," said Brian Gies, vp marketing impact at Burger King. "It takes the thrill of Peter Parker's own internal conflict and his struggle to choose between his classic red-and-blue Spider-Man suit or his new black suit and puts that choice right into our guests' hands to then have a one-in-two chance of winning millions of prizes if they choose correctly."

Burger King's spots feature the game and creative reflecting the "Which Spidey Suits You" theme.

The fast food giant also is running a Kids Meal promotion with 10 different Spidey-themed toys that is being supported by kids' media.

For General Mills, the promotion is its largest to date, with more than 20 different brands in 12 categories and more than 60 skus participating in the U.S. campaign. Globally, more than 100 million individual General Mills' products will feature "Spider-Man 3" on their packaging.

Kraft's promotion involves 10 different brands and 20 skus in five different categories.

Leon said Sony is treating its retail partners as promotional partners this time around. In addition to Wal-Mart running its own TV spot featuring Spider-Man leaving a Hasbro web-blaster for a boy on a Wal-Mart rooftop, Sony has developed exclusive retail promotional programs at most mass-merchant retailers.

Target, for example, is running a contest inviting consumers to "spin" their own webisodes using Spider-Man action figures. In addition to Sony prize pack and Target gift card prizes, the winning webisode will be featured in the "Spider-Man 3" DVD bonus disc, which will be available exclusively at Target. Toys R Us is featuring an exclusive Spider-Man gift-card program.

Despite a viral video circulating on the Web mocking what's depicted as over-the-top product placement in "Spider-Man 3" via an abundance of superimposed brands, Leon said there were no paid product placements in the movie, and none of the promotional partners got the added benefit of seeing their brands integrated into the film.

The only integrations will be from the studio's parent company Sony, he said.