The Lamborghini Countach had been around for seven years when it starred in the opening scene of 1981’s Cannonball Run. It was so popular that, for 1984’s sequel Cannonball Run 2, the Lamborghini was brought back for a memorable opening scene. Not long after, Lamborghinis were regulars on a little show called Miami Vice, helping set the tone for a city of 1980s excess. Almost overnight, a car nobody could pronounce went from the provenance of gear heads and European sports car fanatics to bedroom wall posters teen boys bought at any Spencer’s giftshop.
The image of excess got to Lamborghini and, in product placement terms, the brand had a slow 1990s. It’s no accident that an extended scene in 2013’s chronicle of 90s exorbitance, The Wolf of Wall Street, stars a white Countach, or that it pops up in Grand Theft Auto. (Nor that It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia made the Countach the car of has-been letch Frank Reynolds.)
But since Bruce Wayne made the Lamborghini (Murcièlago) his go-to car in the Dark Knight trilogy, the Italian icon has been clawing its way back to former onscreen glory. You may have even seen a Lamborghini in 22 Jump Street, Chinese Zodiac, in the new HBO show Ballers or the new sic-fi thriller Selfless starring Ryan Reynolds. And they’re not Countachs.
We spoke with Automobili Lamborghini America Marketing General Manager Jason Chinnock about Selfless, the brand’s new image in Hollywood, how today’s movies can inspire fans for the future, and if a product placement product placement move the needle for something that runs a quarter million dollars?
brandchannel: Lamborghini has an extensive partnership with in the science fiction thriller Selfless. What is the brand doing around the film to take advantage of its placement and how did the role come about?
Jason Chinnock: Lamborghini partnered with Focus Features on an event with a group of social media influencers where we randomly willingly “kidnapped” three of them to provide them a 18 hour “best of the human experience” (to quote a line in the film).
They had the opportunity to shed their current existence and take on a new persona that loosely followed a thread in the film and with our brand. Lamborghini curated and executed this experience which included being whisked away to a luxury hotel, provided a new wardrobe for the day, a mission that embraced this new persona and, of course, all behind the wheel of a Lamborghini… part of a wish fulfillment they didn’t expect. We captured this via video and used this content to co-promote the film via social media channels. [The videos are on Facebook. – ed]
bc: How would you sum up Lamborghini’s product placement strategy?
JC: We have a very clear vision of our brand and how it should be portrayed via film so we can clearly identify where it will be a both a good complement to our brand and the film.
bc: In Hollywood style, what’s your two-sentence elevator pitch for exactly what that vision is for Lambo’s portrayal in Selfless?
JC: Lamborghini is looking for partners in film that allow us to seamlessly integrate into storylines that reflect our core brand values: visionary, cutting-edge and pure. Ideally, what this means to filmmakers and showrunners is that we can assist in moving the story along just like a strong supporting actor would do. In our case, it happens to be with a vehicle that is purposeful, inspirational and also extremely unique.
bc: What’s your favorite movie Lamborghini role of all time?
JC: I’d have to say the first Cannonball Run film because it introduced me to the brand. It made me seek out more information and track down that poster every teenage boy had on his wall in the 80’s. Also, because the car was not just flash or excess… it served a function and moved the story and characters along—albeit a campy storyline with stereotypical characters, but that was appropriate for the era.
bc: One of your goals in choosing Lamborghini’s movie roles is to “stay true to the aspirational promise of the Lamborghini brand.” But how do you measure that? That is to say, a good product placement for sunglasses or even a Detroit-made sports car may directly result in consumers buying those products. But a Lamborghini is a considerably different purchase. Can a product placement move the needle for something that runs a quarter million dollars?
JC: Our direct objective with brand integration is about how we can shift the brand perception and inspire fans for the future as opposed to direct car sales. The car sales aren’t something that was measured with some of the early film placements but many of our clients speak of their first encounter with the brand and it came from early films from the first Italian Job to Cannonball Run and even more recently the Batman series with Christian Bale.
Earlier: brandchannel speaks with Triumph about Jurassic World product placement.
Earlier: Our Q&A with Harley-Davidson about its iconic relationship with Terminator.