It might seem that a TV show about a gang of uninhibited bikers living outside society's rules and expectations would be free from the quest for fulfillment through consumption, let alone merchandise to clad fans of the series. But it turns out that FX's Sons of Anarchy has provided a platform for a hybrid retail experience and boundary-pushing retail app that mixes original products from the show with goods from other brands.
And just because the gang onscreen makes its money on the black market doesn't mean FX can't make a little scratch on the legitimate one. Heck, Sons of Anarchy even joined in Cyber Monday.
In the week before Thanksgiving, the series dropped 0.3 ratings points to a 1.9 share but still came in as the most watched cable show of the week, logging nearly 3.9 million viewers. The show, which premiered in 2008, is currently in its fourth season and just announced its 5th season renewal. Last year, Sons averaged 4.9 million viewers a week, making it FX's most watched program.
The show follows a California family and the "Sons of Anarchy" biker gang it leads. A sort of Hell's Angels meets The Sopranos, the show focuses on the attempts of criminals to be a traditional family while at the same time running guns and killing people. In the tradition of bad guys who are more noble than the really bad guys they deal with, it's no surprise that many see the Sons of Anarchy characters as role models.
To cash in on those looking to be as much like the show's characters—minus the actual crimes part—as possible, FX has set up an online store to help fans "Live the Ride" with exclusive merchandise from each episode and assorted items to help them "get the look of your favorite characters."
The store is divided into the main characters from the series, such as Jax, Opey, Gemma and Clay. But in addition to the original show products (Sons of Anarchy-themed t-shirts and hats) the shop offers products from other brands favored by those characters. For example, the "Clay" store offers Lucky 7 sunglasses, a Dickies jacket and Levi's 501 jeans. Tara's store offers 7 for all Mankind jeans, while Opie's offers Churchill Maverick deerskin gloves.
The Sons of Anarchy marketing bonanza goes even further. An interactive shopping app allows the show's audience to get info about products in real time. The app synchronizes with the show as it airs and calls out the products onscreen that are available for purchase online, bringing the long-anticipated remote promise of interactive TV ("Click now to buy Rachel's sweater on Friends!") is finally coming closer thanks to mobile technology.
FX has put together similar shops for some of its other original shows, including Rescue Me and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. But none offer a "how to dress like X" experience that sells brands shown on-air, which sweetens the ad sales proposition.
This is just the latest move by a show that has been a marketing juggernaut without really impacting the quality of the show. Sons has product placement deals with everyone from Harley-Davidson to Miller Brewing to Jameson, the last of which created a bit of a stir last year when the booze brand appeared onscreen in juicebox form.