Case Study On How Movie Product Placement Sells A Brand


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As the fifth installment of the widely popular Transformers franchise hit theaters June 2017, fans and dealerships alike became enthralled not just for the movie, but also for Camaro sales. If you took a walk down any dealership lane with a child, they’d be the first to point out the ‘Bumblebee’ Camaro on display, and the enthusiasm only grew among those with a drivers license.

But how did a muscle car gain such incredible popularity that it’s become a household name?  And how did a movie make such a major impact to the overall design and future of a dying car by making it the 'Bumblebee" Camaro?  In this blog, Hollywood Branded shares how movie product placement sells a brand, with the case study of Chevrolet’s Transformers Camaro transformation.

How Brand Integration Transformed Chevrolet.png

Record Breakers (Not So) In Disguise

Transformers is one of the longest running film franchises in America. since first broadcasting in 1984, which isn’t surprising given its popularity. But this powerhouse has long since transcended Saturday morning cartoons with multiple long-running comic book series, television shows, novels, video games, mobile apps, toys, and even a theme park ride at Universal Studios, all thanks to the staple summer blockbuster’s that have been rolling into theaters for a decade (as of last summer.)

Transformers- Sam scene

Since the first live-action Transformers movie release date in 2007 the franchise has raked in $1,325,037,329 domestically, and an even more impressive $3,778,471,557 worldwide, earning two spots in the Top 20 Highest Grossing Movie list to date. When the movie was first announced car manufacturers lined up with the best they had to offer to make the cut.  That first main cast of Autobot heroes included GMC, Cadillac, Mercedes, Lexus, Mustang, Peterbilt – who would later be replaced with Western Star in Transformers: Age of Extinction – and of course, Chevrolet's Camaro, who snagged the fan-favorite role of the Autobot Scout ‘Bumblebee’.

Bumblebee & Sam.jpg

Bumblebee, painted bright yellow with black racing stripes - similar to that of the insect sharing the same name - is the famous Autobot guardian of Sam Witwicky, played by Shia LaBeouf in the movies, and quickly captured the hearts of children and adults alike with his humor, energy, and quirk of using radio clips to speak. Bumblebee also boasts some the longest amounts of screen time in each movie both as a robot and a car, second only to Optimus Prime, the figurehead of the Transformers franchise.

And for Chevrolet dealers that was exactly they needed…

Camaros, Roll Out!

Since 1995, Camaro’s had been on a steady decline in US sales, dropping significantly each year until they stopped production altogether in 2003. After only having 41,776 Camaro’s in the 2002 market, Chevrolet scrapped the model altogether.  That is, until they began redesigning the model in 2006. Jus tin time for the reboot of the Camaro casting call for the Transformers movie, where the brand could better compete with other flashy sport cars to be featured in the film.

Initial designs of what is known as the Generation 5 Camaro were released in 2006, but were again updated in 2008 after its Transformers multimillion-dollar debut. Release of the Generation 5 came in 2009, and sold 60,000 models. In that same year GM also made the historic announcement that a Transformers Special Edition package for the 2009 Camaro would be released in 2010, which would go on to see 80,000 Camaro units sold by the end of the calendar year.

After such overwhelming numbers, Chevrolet again produced and released new models of the Camaro to coincide with the Transformers movies and director Michael Bay’s vision for the car. For the 2009 release of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, the Camaro sported tinted windows, front fascia with spiller fog lights, and sidemarkers, giving the car a more 'Bumblebee' aesthetic.

Transformers Bumblebee car

In 2011 for Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Bumblebee received an upgrade from the 2010 Camaro LS LT to the SS model, and along came a number of new features as well. First, and most noticeably, the muscle car got a paint upgrade to a customized saturated amber hue, added definition and contrast to the black accents. Along with the paint job came black-rimmed tires, redesigned front fascia, new hood, and a high rise spoiler.

Bumblebee car

A few years later for the fourth installment Transformers: Age of Extinction, the muscle car saw a complete reinvention of the classic design to now feature a sleeker, more curvaceous style. Using the 2014 Camaro concept for the final look the bolder model boasted a complete redesign of the front fascia, grill, coloring (including stripes and detailing), and added blue LED headlights, giving the car a more futuristic feel.

Bumblebee car

In keeping with the trend it came as no surprise to fans and car critics alike when character reveal photos from Transformers: The Last Knight - released June 2017 - were revealed, and showed Bumblebee once again receiving an upgrade.

This time, a reinvented sixth generation 2016 Camaro ZL1 with all-new front fascia features, massive upper and lower grille, functional carbon-fiber, a more aggressive front splitter, and rocker moldings to complete the package.

Transformers Bumble Bee car

Additionally, with Bumblebee's solo film directed by Travis Knight, released in 2018, fans of the franchise, character, and car alike can be sure to see more Camaro's on the big-screen in the near future.

Bumble Bee clap

'More Than Meets The Eye' With The Partnership

Along with the character, the Chevrolet Camaro has evolved over the years through its integration with Transformers, and in the process not only breathing new life into the brand but also making it a household name. And the automaker is more than aware of the dominating success the 'Bumblebee' Camaro has brought to the corporation.

Three months prior to the release of Transformers: Age of Extinction, Chevrolet aired a commercial during Superbowl XLVIII titled 'Whisper', as part of the "Transforming Your Everyday" campaign.

In the commercial, a young boy watches what was then a trailer for the upcoming Transformers: Age of Extinction film set to hit theaters that June. Enthralled with the action scenes, and beloved character Bumblebee, the very same Camaro pulls into the driveway a few steps from the boy. The boy then goes to the car, and whispers "Bumblebee, is that you?" upon approaching the favored fictional character.

In the short clip the long-time partnership between Transformers and Chevrolet were once again realized on screens across America, (and after hitting YouTube) the world.

Ready For Your Brand To Blow-Up?

Are you interested on learning how to integrate your brand both organically and successfully, just as Chevrolet did? Read our blog on How To Make Affordable Product Placement Happen On The Big Screen, and How To Market Your Brand For Generation Y, one of the toughest and most diverse generations for marketers to date.

Also, make sure to download our infographic for in-depth insight into the marketing practice of product placement, stats and facts from brands and agencies who use it, and an exclusive look at how a brand can leverage media and retail assets to get even stronger exposure on screen - without spending a fortune.

Click to download our product placement 101 infographic