Last night, thanks to our lovely friends at Odeon, a colleague took me along to a preview screening of the upcoming blockbuster Marvel smash, Iron Man 2. We had a blast, and could gush extensively about the two hours of quality entertainment: the mind-blowing explosive special effects, the hardcore AC/DC soundtrack and the enviable eye candy factor of every principle cast member (with the possible exception of Mickey Rourke).
But instead, as ever I want to talk about the brand stars. The victor for me was Audi – that car manufacturer now ubiquitous it seems across the action movie genre. With a stand-out presence in the movie – Tony Stark’s model of choice is a shiny R8 – the car performed admirably in its various scenes and even managed to work its way into the conversation at one point. And in a non-clunky way too. Unlike Tony’s uncomfortable reference to his watch preference, a Jaeger-LeCoultre, which could have given Daniel Craig’s Casino Royale Omega reference a run for its money).
What I found particularly admirable about Audi’s placement deal can actually be found outside the film. Frequently, entertainment rights holders make commercial partnership deals in order to take care of their marketing, and film is a prime example. One live event rights holder I met with the other day explained that 80% of his event promotion is driven by his sponsors. And Audi have stepped up to the plate.
The Tony Stark Innovation Challenge is an Audi-created global contest throwing down the gauntlet to budding engineers and entrepreneurs who have a killer idea that could change the world. Encapsulating the innovative ethos of ‘Stark Enterprises’, the contest rewards the winner with a $15k prize to make their dream idea a reality as well as an all-expenses-paid tech-lovers trip to California. Video entries are voted for by the online community and judged by Audi executives, and, to spread that promotional net even wider, a factor of success is spreading the word via entrants’ social networks. You can even download the Stark Expo Briefing Document to find out more.
A very flash website brings this all to life, with an interactive garage area that blends the fictional ‘engineering’ behind Iron Man’s gold-titanium alloy suit with the reality of Audi engineering mechanics. Not only must the dwell time be significant (I am not a typical Iron Man fan, nor an aspiring Audi owner and yet I spent a good 6 or 7 minutes exploring the functionality), but the intended integration of Iron Man’s characteristics with that of Audi vehicle is pretty seamless. While ‘Repulsor’ technology and the ‘Mark VI A.I. system’ might not actually exist, Audi would be keen to think the pop-physics components Iron Man’s elements could, broadly speaking be applied to their own production values:
‘built on a legacy of innovation… developing the world’s most advanced materials… it is clean, powerful, and despite the best efforts of the competition it cannot be replicated.’
Brand and property values fundamentally intertwined, and in so doing, blurring the line of reality? Job done.