I came across this article, Movie Tie-Ins Coming Soon to Everywhere Near You at Advertising Age - link - and it got me thinking... if Hollywood is doing movie tie-ins to make extra cash to hedge their bets on making money, why can't indie filmmakers do it too? The way I look at it, it's just about scale. Whatever they can do, you can do. First, let's look at what Hollywood's doing.
As was discussed in my last post, Hollywood is always trying to make as much money on opening weekend as they can. Movie tie-ins just add to their bottom line and help to, hopefully, ensure that they make some money on the movie. Tie-ins are supposed to be win-win scenarios where it adds to the film, gives the studios a bit of cash and on the other side, it gives the advertiser exposure, helps sell their products or boost their awareness. It's just advertising... and brands have a budget for it. It's nothing new... apparently, in "Iron Man", Robert Downey Jr. drives the new Audi R8 and eats Burger King cheeseburgers. James Bond drives the new Austin Martin and, for some reason, now drinks Smirnoff Vodka. In "Demolition Man", Taco Bell won the 'fast food wars'. I can't find it online right now, but, at one point, I think Husqvarna or one of the other chainsaw brands actually had their chainsaws used in one of the "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" films. So, Hollywood's been at it a while... but I think indie films can do it, too.
I'm not going to say that this would be the easiest thing to do, but I'm saying it can be done and it would be a great way to get a few bucks from (or for) your film. I don't think you'd be approaching Audi, McDonalds or even Coke, but... go down the trough a bit. Smaller beer brands, skateboard companies, mountain bikes, etc. Either way, your first problem is going to be your audience. As in, you're going to have to prove that you're going to have one. After you get over that hurdle, there's a few things that you're going to need to know... first off, brands, companies and advertisers have a budget for this stuff, it's not just coming out of someone's pocket. They have promotional and advertising budgets and whatever they give you, they can write it off. However, they're going to expect something in return and that means reaching people, aka - your audience. Approach the right person in the right way and they will listen and when you do approach them, think about what they would want, not about what you would want. For example, if you're doing a horror film that takes place in a big box retail store and customers are getting killed by an insane greeter, don't go approaching Wal Mart. I don't think they'd appreciate the connection. However, if you're doing a swamp-thing type movie that takes place during Spring Break in Florida, approaching a beer or alcohol company and saying that everyone in your film will drink their product could work. Maybe they'll just give you some free samples for the set... and that can work, too. Basically, when you're approaching them, think about who's going to watch your film, then what products they would use, what places they would go and what they would buy... those are the companies that you're going to want to approach and they're going to want their product shown in a positive light. Prove that you have a relevant audience and there's really no reason they'd say no.