Haydenfilms News & Events

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Spurlock Doc Reveals Secrets of Sponsorship

By Michael Katz and Erin Thomas
HFI Correspondents

Morgan Spurlock’s latest documentary, “Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold,” offers a surprisingly optimistic outlook on product placement. Filmmakers would do well to take a page from Spurlock’s book—it just may lend them an advantage.

Amongst the humor and a few shocking, characteristically Spurlock moments—including Spurlock talking to people about how annoying product placement is while guzzling POM Wonderful, his chief sponsor—was a refreshing look at how filmmakers can negotiate with companies to help obtain funding.

Up close, product placement can seem risky, especially if a filmmaker wants to maintain his or her creative control over the film. Even with Spurlock’s film, during a live chat with the LA Times, he said the outlook “would've been very different with bigger brands - they would have fought for control, which the smaller companies gave up.”

But if anything can be learned from Spurlock, it is that persistence and integrity are the best defense. During the film, Spurlock called more than 600 companies, and out of all of these, he got 22 sponsors to sign on. His diligence paid off after he had his “brand identity” analyzed by Olson Zaltman Associates. They determined that he had a “mindful” yet “playful” identity, and based on their advice, Spurlock was able to figure out what brands best suited his personality.

After sealing a deal with Ban Antiperspirant and Sheetz, a gasoline convenience store chain based in Pennsylvania, Spurlock got a lucky break by having POM Wonderful join his list of sponsors. A company that prides itself on being transparent, POM founder and owner Lynda Resnick responded positively to Spurlock’s idea of a 100% transparent movie about product placement. Once Ban, Sheetz and POM were in, other brands kept jumping onto the bandwagon—far too many to name, but clicking here will take you to the full list.

“I think if you can get paid to have a car and not have to do close ups of logos or have people talk about it, then why not,” Spurlock said. His advice to filmmakers trying to obtain sponsorship?
“Don't give up and knock on every door. You'll get tons of no's, but somewhere out there is an investor who shares your ideologies who will help you make your movie.”

He originally came up with the concept for the movie during “an episode of Heroes where Hayden raved about the Nissan Rogue." According to Spurlock, this “was[sic] the inciting incident...from there we decided to make this larger exploration of advertising and marketing and get the brands to pay for it.”

Released in theaters April 22, 2011, the film needs to gross $10 million to receive $400,000 from POM Wonderful. The film must sell 50,000 DVDs to also qualify “The Greatest Movie” for POM’s funding.
Regarding his film, Spurlock said “I think the film has been taken in stride...at the end of the day, I don't think this doc will stop anyone from making ‘Transformers 4,’ but it might change the way people watch that movie.”