Be careful what you wish for is the lesson out of Hollywood for Budweiser. The King of Beers recently lodged a complaint, via Anheuser-Busch's legal eagles, about its brand appearing as the drink of choice for the alcoholic pilot played by Denzel Washington in the new thriller Flight.
While Stoli vodka is also up in arms at playing a role in Washington's "boozy downward spiral" in the movie, it's interesting that Bud — which is developing new flavors to woo American beer-drinkers back to the brand — had no such complaint when it was similarly depicted in some of this year's biggest films. Nor did Bud make a peep when it reaped an unknown amount of product placement value by appearing in a countless number of Hollywood's top films over the last decade.
But then, maybe not so countless and maybe not so unknown. Brandchannel has some Budweiser product placement numbers.
Since 2011, Budweiser has appeared in more than one-fifth of all of the films that reached the top of the US box office. Budweiser's appearance in 83 of the 403 films (205 percent) during that period, make it the sixth most common brand, behind only Ford, Apple, Coca-Cola, Chevrolet and Mercedes. Yes, in all of the films that made it to number one at the US box office since 2001, Budweiser was more likely to appear than Pepsi, Nike, or BMW. A viewer of one of these films was 2.5 times more likely to see a Budweiser logo than one for McDonald's.
This year alone, Budweiser has appeared in top films Resident Evil: Retribution, The Dark Knight Rises, Contraband, and Ted as well as numerous hit films that did not manage to top the box office.
Meanwhile, in its statement about Flight, Budweiser's VP complained:
"We would never condone the misuse of our products, and have a long history of promoting responsible drinking and preventing drunk driving. We have asked the studio to obscure the Budweiser trademark in current digital copies of the movie and on all subsequent adaptations of the film, including DVD, On Demand, streaming and additional prints not yet distributed to theaters."
Bud says it does not condone the misuse of its products but the brand did not raise any concerns this year when it spent a good portion of the film That's My Boy in the hands of Adam Sandler's functional alcoholic father. The somewhat NSFW trailer:
Bud also did not complain when its tallboys where in the hands of Christian "Batman" Bale's crack addict brother in 2010's Oscar-nominated The Fighter.
Budweiser doesn't complain of course because it is seeing massive ROI for its product placements.
In June, brandchannel worked with Front Row Analytics, the analysis division of Front Row Marketing Services, to use its proprietary product placement valuation metric to report that Budweiser chalked up $3,685,234 worth of screen time in just two 2012 films.
In the Adam Sandler movie That's My Boy, Front Row Analytics valued Budweiser's exposure at $3,489,474, plus another $195,760 worth of exposure for Bud Lite and Bud Lite Lime. Meanwhile, it found that Broadway musical Rock of Ages contained Budweiser and Bud Lite product placement worth $93,202. Keep in mind, neither of those films even ever reached the top of the box office.
When it comes to Flight, as a matter of PR, Budweiser has to make a big scene about its complaint. If the brand wanted to prevent this in the future, it could easily cut off all of Hollywood, and allow placement in a case-by-case basis. But it isn't going to do that.
Of course, most ironic is that Budweiser is so ubiquitous in movies that the brand lampooned itself in a 2011 Super Bowl commercial that made fun of product placement: