Brands/Products Spotted: 13
Standout Placement: United States Navy
Most Memorable Placement (positive): United States Navy
Most Memorable Placement (negative): Coke Zero
Overall Product Placement Integration Grade (1-10): 4
Comments: You sank our opening weekend number one box office ranking! Indeed, The Avengers continues to play box office hero for the third weekend in a row, leaving Battleship (aka "Rihanna's Big Screen Debut") to float like so much flotsam. But the movie, based on the classic board game, made plenty of money overseas, pleasing the brands that invested in it, none more so than the United States Navy.
Yes, while Universal Pictures' Battleship is based on Hasbro's board game, it is, more than anything, a propaganda film and recruitment ad for the United States military.
"If the Navy had not been partners in this film, there's no way we could have pulled this off," the film's producer, Sarah Aubrey, told The Wrap. She added, "We made this movie because we wanted to showcase the modern Navy, which is a Navy that has not been seen in a film before."
In return, the Navy was given script approval and other considerations, including the approval to shoot on-board the Battleship Missouri Memorial.
As a partner in the movie, the Navy even not only had script approval but casting approval, getting one actor fired for being unfit for duty. As director Peter Berg told Bloomberg, "The Navy consultants had a ‘body-fat’ rule. They said ‘he’s too fat, don’t use him.’ I had to get rid of him."
The film, which is being used by the Navy in some of its recruitment videos, is just the latest in a growing list of films that are both US military propaganda and box office chart toppers. While it's no secret the US military has long worked with Hollywood to improve its image, the last couple of years have seen a confluence of box office earnings and military propaganda.
This year's number one film Act of Valor was overtly a Navy ad for the Seals. Last year, both Transformers 3 and Invasion: Los Angeles received heavy military cooperation in return for "promotional" considerations. The latter film was a pro-Marines flick, really no different from World War 2 propaganda films.
As for Battleship's brand partners, they've been busy helping cross-promote the movie.
But the Navy and board games aren't the only thing Battleship is selling. Despite a large portion of the flick taking place out to sea on naval warships, where product placement opportunities are scarce, Battleship manages to cram in some Subway sandwiches, bottles of Coke Zero, LG phones and Budweiser logos.
Alas, the film passes up to make a Subway "sub" pun.
It is interesting that just last year, directo Berg, appeared in Morgan Spurlock's anti-product placement documentary POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold. In Spurlock's documentary, Berg lamented how "artists," like himself, are forced to incorporate product placement. In the doc, he says of the parent company of his NBC TV series Friday Night Lights, "GE doesn't give a f**k about art."
What a difference a year makes. Below, check out the behind-the-scenes video of Berg introducing the Coke Zero commercial he shot for the brand's Battleship tie-in.
"It's actually really good, I swear to God." We believe you, Peter, really.
Battleship's opening weekend saw $25.4 million in box office sales in North America and $226.8 million outside the U.S. Overseas, for comparison to other Hasbro films, Battleship's opening in the UK (£3.76 million) — behind the first Transformers (£8.72 million), but better than G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (£1.71 million).
The Transformers movies have resulted in $1.6 billion in toy sales for Hasbro. While it's unlikely that Battleship will result in a new generation of American youth rushing out to play the board game, the exposure cannot hurt, even if Hasbro now makes more money licensing and developing its games as media entertainment properties than from sales of the games themselves.
While the film may not get its sea legs in the U.S., Battleship's monster overseas box office guarantees more board game adaptations. While Hasbro already has hits with Transformers and GI Joe (part two out this summer), it is counting on a Hollywood development pipeline that is slated to include Ouija, Risk, Stretch Armstrong and Candy Land. Candy Land (already spoofed in a Katy Perry video) really promises to be something special as it will star Adam Sandler, king of product placement.
For all of the product placements in this week's top film, The Avengers, visit the Brandcameo product placement database.