Pepsi investment in 'Uncle Drew' pays off

by Robert Marich
   July 9, 2018-Soft drink marketer Pepsi seems to have hit the jackpot producing urban basketball comedy-yarn movie Uncle Drew, which cracked the top 10 grossers in two consecutive weekends and rolled up a respectable $30 million in domestic boxoffice June 29-July 8. That’s for a movie, which is distributed by Lionsgate, costing only about $20 million to produce—cheap by major-studio standard.
   “The film, which Pepsi co-produced, features Pepsi’s logo prominently in some scenes and centers the plot on a character who
A Pepsi logo is prominent (at right)  in this scene from Uncle Drew

is synonymous with the beverage maker’s online ad campaign,” says an article by Miranda Moore in the Washington Post.
   Note this report says Pepsi invested in the production itself upfront, and not merely the more common tie-in promotion for later stage marketing, which was done too. So not only did Pepsi get access of a movie producer, but presumably it shares in the film's economic return. It's an enticing economic proposition given Super Bowl football TV commericals cost $5 million for one 30-second spot.
   It’s not known how much money Pepsi invested in Uncle Drew, though leading independent distribution Lionsgate marketed the film.
   Such advertisers-invest-for-product placement are much discussed in theory but rare. In 1988, restaurant giant McDonald’s is thought to have invested in youth comedy Mac and Me—set in a branded restaurant—though the movie was a box office bomb.
   Says the third edition of book Marketing To Moviegoers: “While the idea of promotional sponsors investing in films might seem farfetched, there are occasional examples. Energy beverage marketer Red Bull financially backed action snowboarding documentary The Art of Flight , which received a small theatrical run in 2011. Cuba-owned Havana Club rum cofinanced film Seven Days in Havana in 2011, in a deal arranged by its ad agency M&C Saatchi. News reports said that Pepsi is an investor in the uplifting soccer film Gracie  from 2007, which promotes Pepsi’s Gatorade. But consumer-goods outfits are more likely to produce or co-own TV programs, which are advertising vehicles as well as sources of product placements. Such content is less expensive and more easily fashioned to deliver a marketer’s message than a theatrical release, for which audiences demand top quality, given admission expense.”

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