From The Solar System To The Silver Screen: NASA's Brand Integration


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If you had a chance to see The Martian this past weekend like we did, you surely noticed NASA’s emblem everywhere. After all, it was a movie about American astronauts. What you may not have realized is that this was some pretty major branding. And now that NASA is joined by privatized space exploration companies like Space X it just managed to return launched satellites safely back to Earth - a major feat - movies like The Martian don't seem like mere science fiction. They could be a reality soon enough, and space exploration companies' branding could become more and more important.

This week, we take a look at the brand partnership between NASA and The Martian as well as the longstanding mutually beneficial relationship NASA has had with Hollywood.

NASA Had A Bit More Than Just A Cameo In The Martian

When most people think of brands and product placement in film, they imagine that moment when the suave undercover operative glances down at a photo of his target on a Samsung phone or the shot when the loveable underdog guy gets the girl in the end and she lifts her back foot as they kiss, showing off her Chanel pumps.

While many viewers will be quick to point out the obvious partnerships with Under Armour and Cisco in The Martian, they may not consider NASA a part of that list. But indeed it is, and it is everywhere. We're talking logo, and verbal mentions, in fact, the agency is absolutely central to the plot. This is part of an ongoing effort to reengage the public in NASA and the world outside of our atmosphere.

Hollywood Branded looks at NASA and The Martian partnership

Why Would NASA Care About Branding In Movies?

At its height in 1966, the percentage of the Federal budget set aside for space research and exploration was about 4.41%. Nowadays, NASA only gets thrown about 0.50% of the federal budget for their work, which is the lowest it has ever been since 1958 before the Space Race began.

To the many researchers, scientists, and supporters of NASA, space exploration is as important as ever, but without funding, the sky really is the limit- and not in a good way.

But by teaming up with movies like The Martian, providing important information, and helping make the movie more realistic, they are promoting their own brand. If they can make space travel seem important and relevant again, perhaps they will receive the funding they are searching for.

A Strange Coincidence

It’s no secret that NASA and The Martian are buddies. The movie has been promoted all over their Twitter feed and they have covered the film extensively on their government website. All of this, along with the CONSTANT exposure in the movie has made NASA a common conversation topic of late.

Oh yeah, and that other little thing. What was it? Something NASA announced about a week before The Martian came out.


Despite vehement denial that the situation was anything more than a coincidence, we still feel our brand integration Spidey senses tingling. Besides, this isn’t the first time a major NASA announcement has lined up perfectly with the release of a Hollywood film about space.

When 2001: A Space Odyssey came out in 1968, Arthur Clarke, the writer of the story the movie was based on, made comments that NASA had informed him of “this tremendous excitement among the astronomers over the extraordinarily precise and rhythmic radio impulses coming from a point between Vega and Altair… which may yet turn out to have a natural explanation, but its periodicity and characteristics are so extraordinary that no explanation as yet seems very feasible. Sooner or later we expect we will receive proof that other intelligence exists in this universe.”

Hmm… convenient. Or clever brand integration.

Hollywood Branded looks at NASA and its partnership with 2001: A Space Odyssey

Granted, the more recent announcement was far more official. But they both shined a huge galactic spotlight on the organization.

And, you know, there will always be that conspiracy theory floating around that Hollywood helped NASA stage the moon landing...

NASA And Hollywood Are Old Friends

Ever since space films have been around, enticing and delighting their audience, NASA has been right there alongside them. In Armageddon, our space heroes wear the patch proudly, and in Apollo 13, based on the actual NASA mission, the brave NASA astronauts pulled at the deepest part of our souls. And although NASA did very little consulting for the movie Interstellar, their brand is everywhere. Space Cowboys with Clint Eastwood was filmed in part at agency centers.

Hollywood Branded looks at NASA partnering with Hollywood

When Alfonso Cuarόn won Best Director in 2012 for his space disaster film, Gravity, NASA congratulated him via Twitter, as well as posting photos of "the real deal" as the film won multiple Oscars- no doubt attracting more than a few extra eyes on their social media presence. NASA knows how important it is to target movies aimed at baby boomers as well as millennials and to be a part of films that not only raise brand awareness but inspire an entire generation’s interest in space travel.

Timing Is Imperative For NASA

NASA has an advantage as a brand. They are clearly the experts in their field and have been since the beginning of space research and exploration. However, now that privatized space exploration has begun to gain traction (here’s lookin’ at you, Mr. Elon Musk and SpaceX), and other issues continuing to tear the public’s eye away from space, the agency knows it’s now or never. There’s nothing that gets people more excited about space than the big screen and The Martian is perfect proof of this.

That's why NASA seizes opportunities like this and is smart enough to use them to its advantage to help maintain the universal recognition of its brand as well as pique interest in its specialty.

All in all, our hats are off to you, NASA. Their brand integration in The Martian was organic and seamless, as it usually is.

Your brand may not be trying to make it to Mars anytime soon, but brand integration and product placement could propel your brand to success and universal recognition.

Have you ever wondered how a comprehensive product placement program works? Or do you want to know how to create a promotional partnership strategy with a movie partner? This video will answer all of your questions as it shows the steps and processes taken by Hollywood Branded that lead to your brand increasing both consumer engagement and sales!

Also, to learn more about brand integrations, check out the Hollywood Branded blogs below! 

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