Hollywood’s Biggest Product Placement of 2011


Sherlock Holmes’ methods may be unorthodox, but they are profitable. The modern, guns-blazing, action-packed kung-fu adaptation of the legendary literary character unraveled the secrets to the box office this weekend, raking in $40 million.

Naturally, while it did have some unexpected tie-ins, product placements were likely to be few and far between in a movie set in 1891. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows did however continue one movie marketing trend of the year: Destinations. [more] 

One of the three brand names in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows was the Savoy Hotel, built in 1889. A few of the other unrecorded “products” were London, Paris and Switzerland.

The film works in the Reichenbach Falls near the Swiss town of Meiringen, a location that figures prominently into Doyle’s original Sherlock Holmes books. (Switzerland’s castle at Lucens also happens to be the home of the Sherlock Holmes museum set up by the author’s son, Adrian Conan Doyle.)

Holmes is just the latest in a year of top films that made foreign (and domestic) destinations a core part of the film, in the process providing valuable exposure to potential tourists.

Last week’s top film, New Year’s Eve, played like a two hour commercial for New York City. In fact, official tourism organs of the city cooperated with the filmmakers.

Brazil was maybe the biggest winning destination of 2011’s blockbusters. There was the animated film Rio:

And Rio and Brazil figured prominently as the honeymoon destination of Mr. and Mrs. Vampire in The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1. But Brazil, particularly Rio, received the most attention from the hot-rod action film Fast Five, currently the sixth highest-grossing film of the year:

Alongside Rio, Hawaii was another beach locale that got major Hollywood treatment in 2011. Specifically Kauai’s St Regis Princeville Resort which showed up on both ends of the comic spectrum. First in Just Go With It:

And then in The Descendants:

Mississippi may not have been proud of its role in The Help, a tale of racism in the south in the 1960s. But it was a destination nonetheless.

Another destination unhappy with its spotlight is Bangkok. In addition to The Hangover 2‘s portrayal of Bangkok as a crime-infested armpit that swallows people up, the cast badmouthed Thailand during its press junkets.

An action film with American stars set in Moscow? No, The Darkest Hour is not about recent Russian elections. (We think.)

Along the same lines, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo will give Stockholm a little wintery attention about which that city’s tourism bureau may have mixed emotions.

In happier genres, money-printing franchise Cars went around the world but highlighted Tokyo more than others in its second installment:

While it may not have been obvious to all audiences, the state of New Mexico had a superb Hollywood year. It provided the beautiful, if sometimes barren, backdrop for three alien films: Box office topper Thor, cult hit Paul, and underperforming yet-blockbuster Cowboys and Aliens.

Several other films were outright about the destinations they meant to feature (beside the aforementioned Rio). Battle: Los Angeles was a battle (and a hit). Monte Carlo scored with tweens. And then there was Cedar Rapids which was a probably not a hit in Cedar Rapids.

Finally, while all of the above were impressive in their own rights, the mother of all 2011 destination films is Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. Just as the franchise took to Australia for part two and Shanghai for part 3, Tom Cruise outdoes himself in part four with Dubai.

The question is, while all of these films drive awareness of their feature destinations, will any drive tourism?

For all the product placements from last decade, visit the Brandcameo product placement database.


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