Integrated Marketing Promotions: How Do Brand Tie-Ins Work?
I’m a Skipper in a Barbie world. Even if the brunette little sister doesn’t make an appearance, I can’t wait to see the Barbie movie this weekend. Warner Bros. is rolling out the red carpet for Mattel’s leading lady in advance of the debut of this summer’s nostalgic blockbuster. The promotional tie-ins are everywhere, and I’ve spotted creative integrated brand promotions and licensed product collaborations in some unexpected spaces. I’m sure you have too.
As we’d expect for a premier property like Barbie, Gap is selling cute kits in the signature bubblegum pink, for both kids and adults, of course. Barbie has also carved out space in the quick service restaurant category, and she’s not a vegetarian. The BK Barbie Combo in Brazil boasts a cheeseburger with a brave bright-pink dressing.
Looking beyond the usual tie-ins, do you want a Barbie-themed rug? Ruggable has your dream house floors covered. Gamers can purchase a Barbie-themed console. And for the jetsetters, you can get Barbie luggage and a Barbie electric toothbrush with matching travel case. The list goes on and on.
You might wonder how these integrated marketing and merchandising deals get done and what brands focus on when planning the media tie-ins. I have no doubt Lawyer Barbie and her team have been hard at work behind the scenes. Both Mattel and Warner Bros. are absolute pros at these complex agreements. These strategic partnerships take significant collaboration between cross-functional business and legal teams. Below are some core terms and tips to know when considering a tie-in opportunity with an entertainment property.
The property owner is the licensor, and when it comes to an entertainment property like a movie or TV show, you may have multiple licensors. Here, for example, Mattel owns the Barbie brand and Warner Bros. is the movie distributor. Therefore, a licensee brand may enter into a tripartite deal, or potentially a sublicense, as determined by the property launch team.
Before a hotly anticipated entertainment property is even fully cast, licensors court strong global partners for their promotional tie-ins. These are anchor partners with global reach and brand recognition. It’s a huge win to land a global partner, but it’s rare. Brand marketing teams, budgets and decision-makers are usually regional versus global. And while one entertainment property may be popular somewhere, that doesn’t make it right for consumers in another corner of the world. Therefore, brands cannot easily commit to integrated marketing on a global scale. Practically, the territories for these agreements are usually structured on a region-by-region basis with pricing for each.
To get the value from the tie-in, brands want to be the only one of their kind in a territory. You don’t see two big burger joints both promoting the same entertainment properties side by side. But could you see a pink Barbie pizza being served by a major chain? It depends. How did the burger category licensee define its category – burgers only, or all quick service restaurants? What about other meal choice options, like frozen meals or gas station food offerings? Category exclusivity is a heavily negotiated commercial and legal term in every brand integration deal.
As with any property licensing deal, there are strict rules and standards. The licensor generally appends a list of detailed brand standards. Licensees need to review the rules carefully to ensure they can bring their brand-relevant execution to life under these rules. Also critical is a crystal clear process for submitting promotional materials for review, revision and approval. Additionally, the brand should do its due diligence on the property it wants to partner with. Getting a sneak peek at a movie is not easy, but brands can ask questions and make their participation contingent on certain requirements, e.g., the movie’s MPAA rating.
This might surprise readers, but brands don’t always pay a straight licensing fee. It happens, but the common approach is the licensee commits to a certain media value mix as consideration for the license. For example, a licensee brand may agree to a minimum national or regional advertising campaign. The licensor and licensee will agree on minimum GRPs (gross rating points) to measure the exposure a particular TV ad receives. Similar commitments are made, along with success-tracking measurements, in the print, radio, out-of-home (like billboards), digital and mobile spaces.
Future-Proof the Investment
Even when you’re rushing to close a deal, always look to the future. Licensees help drive engagement and excitement for the entertainment property. So they need to protect that investment. The most common way to do this is via an option. Options generally allow brands the first right to participate in a sequel or spin-off. (Fingers crossed for a Skipper movie where she’s a white hat hacker!) The pricing for an option may be preset, or the parties may agree to negotiate in good faith with certain parameters in place in line with the existing agreement.
Finally, while these core terms will appear in every brand tie-in agreement, there are unique legal and commercial considerations on the brand side and on the licensor side for every integrated marketing promotion. It’s important to partner with the brand marketing and legal teams early to identify what’s important for each tie-in and how to memorialize it in the agreement. As a wise Barbie once said, “Get your sparkle on. Show the world where you belong.”