With Universal claiming that Fast Five's opening weekend is the most lucrative opening in the studio's history, it was a winning weekend for Chrysler and Dodge, the brand that poured a lot into the film including extensive cross-branding and marketing tie-ins, both onscreen and off.
Simply put, Fast Five will help move Dodge Chargers off the lot. And that's the greatest compliment a product placement can get. Even though there is evidence Dodge almost blew it.
Beyond Dodge, there was plenty of product placement love to go around, including some for what's almost become a product placement joke at this point; and all despite this installment of the Furious series boasting less product placement than any of its predecessors.
The last time we saw such a prominent Dodge product placement tie-in to a blockbuster action franchise, it was in Fantastic Four 2, a move that nearly should have had the brand banned from Hollywood forever. Get a stick to bite down on and watch this highlight from 2007:
Now, watch a clip from Fast Five featuring the Dodge Charger.
That is why the Dodge "Fanatasticar" is called one of the worst product placements of all time and the Fast Five placement generated Twitter results like this:
A scene like this doesn't hurt either.
The key to Charger's role in Fast Five — probably the best heist movie car placement since Mini Cooper upstaged of the cast in The Italian Job — is its pedigree within the series.
The original, 2001 film featured the anti-hero Dom's love for a classic Charger. It was not a paid or arranged product placement, just a sensible use of an iconic muscle car. So, a decade later, Dodge's official (paid) involvement in the fifth film is organic. It's a huge role that perfectly meets the criteria for successful product placement: that it compliments the plot while at the same time not taking the audience out of the scene.
More power to Dodge for stomping on the accelerator in terms of this opportunity. Numerous behind-the-scenes videos and interviews are now floating around on gear-head websites, such as:
There's no doubt that the Charger's role in what's gearing up to be one of the biggest blockbusters of the summer will pay off. But not just in new interest for the Charger, but also as a tremendous brand reinforcement for the many who have already bought in to Dodge's revived model. Existing Charger fans now have something new to brag about.
While it's not obvious, Dodge also made a smart play by not insisting on owning too much of the film. Fast Five is still filled out nicely with great roles for all manner of VWs, Nissans, Subarus, Porsches, Fords, and a Lexus. There's even a rare Koenigsegg sighting. Insistence on total brand fidelity and exclusivity is what sank Ford's product placement boat in its multimillion dollar deal with the James Bond film Die Another Day.
The one overreach by Dodge comes in the last scene of Fast Five. It's a break from character that proves that Dodge still has the temptation to strangle the golden goose.
While it may surprise many, Fast Five represents a major product placement step down from previous films. In 2001, we clocked 58 brands in the first film, Fast and the Furious. In 2003, 2 Fast 2 Furious shaved a few, and we noted 42 brands. By 2009, the franchise was back up again, with Fast & Furious delivering 47 noticeable brands. Fast Five meanwhile represents a near 50% drop from a decade ago, with only 30 notable products or brands.
A few of those 30 are prominent. While not listed as an official partner, Under Armor is all over the film as the uniform of the American commandoes.
One wonders if star Wayne "The Rock" Johnson has a side deal with the brand, as after sporting the logo onscreen, he slaps on an even less subtle version for his pressers.
The Rock also hauls around a monster Smith & Wesson revolver, the exact same kind we last saw prominently in top 2010 film Resident Evil: Afterlife.
After upstaging everyone in Tron: Legacy last year, Ducati product placement is appealing to the female riders in 2011. It couldn't be in better company so far.
First, Ducati scored a huge role as the ride of a blonde bombshell in I am Number Four. Now, Ducati lands in Fast Five between the legs of a gorgeous ex-Mossad agent played by former Miss Israel, Gal Godot. But that's not all; in press promos Ducati has scored more babe love from another of Fast Five's cast, actress Elsa Pataky who said of her role, "I love cars, and speed – I’ve been riding motorcycles since I was 16, and have a Ducati – so I was really excited to do this film."
Brazilian beer brand Brahma scores its second blockbuster in a wreck-everything-in-a-foreign-country action role in as many years:
Appearing all over (PG-13-rated) Fast Five, we last saw Brahma in (PG-13-rated) The Expendables.
Auto accessory brand AE Performance also finds itself plastered all over Fast Five, literally, appearing on numerous car doors and t-shirts:
Finally, while a Panasonic Toughbook gets by far the most screen time, we inevitably get a few blasts of a glowing Apple MacBook:
Turning to co-branding and cross-promotion, in what is probably the worst-named promotional URL of all time, Comcast Xfinity's tie-in includes an intriguing online spot driving to the microsite at the364millionmileanhourcar.com.
The website makes sense of the "364 million miles and hour" tease by tying the speed of Xfinity internet service to Fast Five's classic Dodge Charger. Its spoof documentary style is clever, and oddly engaging for what is essentially a commercial.
Of all the product placement in Fast Five, Apple's is by far the most jarring. The film's aesthetic is all grit and corroded and matte black (which is why the Toughbook makes sense). Yet, POW!, here is a shiny silver MacBook.
It's almost as if there is a running bet in Hollywood to see if filmmakers can fit at least one Apple product into every movie, no matter how nonsensical.
For all the brands in Fast Five, and for our look at product placement in the last decade, visit our Brandcameo database.