Home >Industry >Media >Disney India inks brand deals worth Rs80 crore for ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’

New Delhi: The Walt Disney Co. India has signed brand association deals worth 80 crore for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the seventh instalment in the nearly 40-year-old film franchise that opened to rave reviews across the world last week. The film is slated for release in India on 25 December.

A person aware of the deals said that at least five out of the 50 brands that have associated themselves with the film will carry out promotions worth 25-30 crore. These five are Hindustan Unilever Ltd’s soap brand Lifebuoy, printer and laptop maker HP, battery brand Duracell, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd’s Baleno hatchback car and restaurant chain Subway.

Value from merchandise associations with other brands is worth another 50 crore.

Film studios usually ink two kinds of brand deals. One involves media commitments where brands ride on the film by associating with it and build awareness through television commercials, on-ground activation, print and digital campaigns. People familiar with the matter estimate that a film like Star Wars would typically sign these for 1.5-3 crore each.

The merchandise associations, on the other hand, are aimed at product placements either within the film or by bringing out a licensed collection.

In either case, the film makes money. A share of revenue accrues to the studio as part of an upfront association fee or based on the sales of the merchandise or both. For a film like Star Wars in India, the size of each merchandising deal would be in the range of 30-35 lakh.

“Star Wars has opened to record-shattering box office numbers globally and we are now geared up to give Indian audiences a taste of this modern classic," said Siddharth Roy Kapur, managing director, Disney India.

The J.J. Abrams-helmed epic space opera that stars Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher, among others, has already smashed the record for the biggest box office debut weekend globally, with ticket sales of $529 million in its first weekend. “We launched the franchise in India with a truly innovative year-long marketing campaign, bolstered by a record number of brand associations that provided additional visibility, impact and promotional support to it," Kapur added.

Besides the five brands mentioned above, companies which are part of the 50 associations with the classic franchise include apparel brand Jack & Jones, ICICI Bank Ltd and toy and game manufacturer Funskool.

Jack & Jones has worked with Disney India to create a fashion collection featuring classic Star Wars characters such as Jedi master Yoda and bounty hunter Boba Fett.

“Star Wars is an iconic franchise with a lot of following and we’ve always kicked in successful associations with licence products and movie chains like Tom and Jerry. So it seemed like a perfect fit for the brand," said Vineet Gautam, country head, Jack & Jones, India, adding that the recently launched collection will do well when the film is released.

Cashing in on the hype around the film, online marketplace Amazon is also sending 400,000 units of Star Wars-branded packages to consumers in 25 cities. The categories targeted are consumer electronics, accessories and toys. Amazon has also launched a Star Wars-branded shop on its India website which lists Star Wars products. “With Star Wars enthusiasts waiting for the film, we decided to give them something special to add on to the excitement," said Samir Kumar, vice-president, category management, “With our partnership with Disney, we have combined the fervour of the movie with the trust and convenience of buying genuine memorabilia online."

Toy manufacturer Funskool, which already has a board game licence agreement with Disney, has launched a wide range of products, including the popular lightsabers, action figures, collectibles, role-play toys, construction sets and board games, for the film.

“Not only will young kids get introduced to the franchise, adult collectors will also be more aware. So we see tremendous potential in toys as drivers," said Jeswant R., senior vice-president (sales and marketing), Funskool India Ltd. The products may not be flying off the shelves now but they certainly expect them to—especially lightsabers—after the release of the film, he said.

Online retailer ShopClues, too, is partaking in the Star Wars action. It has introduced exclusive Star Wars-branded virtual reality viewers which when attached to smartphones provide a 360-degree movie and game experience. “We’re always looking for clutter breakers for our platform and Bollywood or Hollywood theme-based products work well in engaging people," said Nitin Kochhar, vice-president of categories at ShopClues.

Surprisingly, tableware brand Servewell has also jumped in and created a special Star Wars range of serving dishes that has characters and designs from the series.

There are multiple benefits of brand association for a film—not only do they bring in revenue over and above box office returns, satellite and music rights, they are a means to saving on promotional spend.

If a studio has 10 crore allocated for a film’s promotion and a brand steps in with outreach worth 3-4 crore, the makers can spend the remaining sum on other things.

“Firstly, the kind and number of brands they have on board implies the extent of popularity of the franchise," said Vinit Karnik, national director (entertainment) at GroupM, a media buying company. “And each brand extends the reach of the film to its own target groups, thus taking it into a lot more pockets."

To be sure, it’s also a benefit for the brands. “Bollywood and Hollywood are all part of our daily lives. So when a film indirectly gets a brand endorsed by, say, its popular lead actors, it’s great to ride on it," said Sidharth Ghosh, vice-president, psLive, the marketing division of Dentsu Aegis Network.

The space opera returns to the theatres after eight years and despite the great recall value and the in-built fan base, the challenge is to introduce the film to an entirely new generation.

“For us and for most people, Star Wars is a global cinematic event, if there ever was one," said Disney’s Kapur. “In many developed markets where Star Wars has been part of the cultural zeitgeist, you just have to tell people when it’s coming," he said, adding that in India it is all about creating awareness. “Except for a few of us in the cities, not many have grown up on Star Wars culture. Besides, there was such a big time gap."

Disney believes that the highest affinity for the film lies with the 15-24-year-old male English speakers from key metros and mini metros.

With a release across 1,600 screens, Disney is also looking at tapping small-town audiences by dubbing the film into Hindi, Tamil and Telugu. There is a 50% split between screens for English and regional versions.

“For tier-2 and tier-3 audiences, television is the medium with the best reach. If they react to your promos and it excites them, that’s really half the battle won," said Kapur.

Aware of how cluttered the movie market is with the two big-ticket releases Dilwale and Bajirao Mastani carrying over from last week, Disney is still upbeat about its film. Especially because there isn’t much competition for the next couple of weeks. “This is the holiday season. People are in the mood to spend money, watch movies, enjoy themselves. It’s not going to be easy by any stretch of imagination. But the trick is being able to indicate how big Star Wars is and that it’s unmissable. Hopefully people will come after having digested these two movies," Kapur said.

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