Branding: Impossible – 15 Years Later Apple Reteams With ‘Mission: Impossible,’ But This Time It’s Confidential

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Opening Dec. 21, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is the fourth installment of the Tom Cruise franchise in which agent Ethan Hunt accomplishes, as promised, very possible missions. The movie will be a blockbuster, no doubt, at the box office and for its partners who’ve ponied up for marketing tie-ins and in-movie product placements.

But this Mission: Impossible installment has, fittingly, a clandestine brand partner — Apple. It’s a brand that the spy series has not teamed up with since its first mission 15 years ago. And, like all good agents, nobody is talking about it.[more]

As you can see at top, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol‘s three official brand partners are Toshiba, BMW, and Coca-Cola’s Coke Zero.

The film is also partnering with the NHL and Facebook to promote the film. Like the M:I series’ increasingly derivative plots, none of this marketing is new for the series. Mission Impossible 3 teamed with Belstaff and DHL, while Mission Impossible 2 teamed with Oakley, a brand that shows up in the latest film as well.

M:IGP’s unspoken brand partner is a reunion of sorts. In 1996, just as the late Steve Jobs was retaking control of Apple, the first Tom Cruise-starring Mission: Impossible featured prominent Apple product placement. At that time, with the brand’s product placement spearheaded by Suzanne Forlenza, Apple was very active, and open, about its in-movie branding deals.

For those who only know Apple in the iPod, iPad and iPhone eras, a commercial so crass and intrusively insistent upon itself must be jarring.

Fifteen years later and Apple shows up all over Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (see one example, below), even though Apple is not listed as an official partner of the movie. Also, unlike 1996, Apple is unwilling to even acknowledge its product placement program (which exists despite the brand’s insistence it does not pay for placements).

Several requests for comment from Apple were not answered, which is the same non-response Apple has given us about their dealings in product placement in recent years. As we’ve been tracking, Apple has now appeared in 14 of this year’s 37 top box office films, or about 38 percent. The top film for the last two weeks, Twilight: Eclipse, prominently features the glowing Apple logo, even though the brand is not an “official” partner of that movie, either.

Apple’s 2011 product placements are up from the 30 percent of all top films in the U.S. it popped up in last year. Apple was also the most product placed brand in 2009, when it appeared in 44 percent of #1 films.

Between 2001 to today, Apple products appeared in one-third of all number one films at the box office (125 of the 371 films). That is second only to Ford (152) and well ahead of third place Coca-Cola (102).

At one time, Apple’s website hosted a page (called “Starring Apple”) listing all of the shows and films featuring the brand. That page was discarded five or six years ago, possibly because Apple decided clandestine operations better fit the brand’s operating style.

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