Case Study: How Product Placement Saved Chuck


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Your Brand Can Save The Day

When you look into how product placement can help your brand, it can become overwhelming to figure out the benefits of how it works or just how powerful it can be. And oftentimes, it’s not necessarily an easy question to find an answer to as there is no one-size-fits-all response. However, what we do know for certain is that when it’s done right, it can have powerful benefits for both your brand and the productions it’s involved with.

Fan-favorite NBC dramedy Chuck was once on the verge of being cancelled, but thanks to some creative campaigning and a strong partnership between the show and fast food chain, Subway, the show was able to have a successful run. In this blog, Hollywood Branded shares a case study on the Chuck Subway brand integration and how it was able to save the show from cancellation.

How Product Placement Saved Chuck


Your Brand Versus Product Placement 

Product placement is incredibly powerful, and, over the years, we’ve seen it flow into virtually every type of media whether it be TV, film, or music videos. Product placement is great for brands because it boosts brand awareness, it’s great for sales, it can drive online traffic, and, unlike traditional ads, it’s un-skippable; it’s built into the content people are consuming. Needless to say, product placement can do wonders for a brand. But outside of product placement just helping your brand, it can also help to benefit the content that you are placing your product within… and not just by helping out the props department by supplying cell phones.

The beloved action-comedy/spy-drama television series, Chuck, ran on NBC for 5 seasons from 2007-2012. The show follows Chuck Bartowski, your average guy-next-door, after he receives an encoded email that holds all of the CIA and NSA’s top secrets and he unwillingly becomes an asset to both agencies and gets to join in on top-secret missions. The show has proven to stand the test of time as it is still loved and highly regarded by fans 8+ years since the finale aired, thanks to streaming services helping to keep it alive. However, this success was not achieved alone. In 2009, the show was on the verge of being cancelled, but thanks to dedicated fans who refused to take no for an answer, along with a strong new partnership with Subway, the show was able to live to see another season.

Chuck TV show

Your Brand Versus Production

While it’s easy to think that product placement only benefits the brand, brands are actually helping out the productions that they're working with as well. Productions love product placement and paid integration because it helps them out in a number of ways. After all, they are providing productions with a product!

The biggest way product placement helps productions is by offsetting costs. When productions utilize product placement, simply put, they’re able to produce better content. Instead of spending potentially thousands of dollars on fitting their characters with cell phones, cars, or other daily use products, they can redirect those parts of the budget into other areas that can help improve the production quality as a whole.

Flir product placement in Chuck

One great example of this is with the case of FLIR. FLIR creates excellent thermal imaging cameras that can do incredible things, but that incredible technology comes at a high cost. By utilizing product placement, productions are able to get their hands on expensive technology that can bring a futuristic edge without having to invest thousands of dollars into it. It’s a win for the brand because they get their product in front of thousands of eyes, and it’s a win for the production team because they get to save money!

Chuck Versus The Footlong

You don’t have to watch all five seasons of Chuck to realize that there’s nothing the Buy More gang likes more after a hard day of work than a Subway footlong, and fans of the show definitely took note of this. When the fans heard word of the show being on the verge of cancellation, they got nervous, and one fan in particular decided to take action. She found herself inspired to create a fan-driven campaign she aptly named Finale and a Footlong. Through the power of social media, she encouraged fans of the show to head out and do the following:

  1. Purchase a $5 footlong on the date of the finale
  2. Fill out a comment card letting Subway know that you support them because of their support for Chuck
  3. Take photos with their subs and share them online!

Save Chuck x Subway

Chuck Versus The Renewal

This campaign quickly became a movement and slowly but surely, the power of social media took over and it had spread everywhere. Not only was the movement widely supported by fans, but cast members joined in on the rescue mission as well.

While on a trip to a fan convention in London, star of the show, Zachary Levi, found himself behind the counter of a Subway shop helping to assemble sandwiches for approximately 600 fans who had marched out in support of the show. This Footlong campaign spread around the world to fans who cared about the show, and it definitely didn’t go unnoticed.

product placement guide

Chuck Versus The Victory

The show was finally renewed for a third season in May 2009, and the network didn’t shy away from speaking about how instrumental of a role Subway played in granting the renewal of the show. NBC executives were clear to mention how Chuck was able to move forward due to a new partnership that would be taking place between Subway and Chuck where the sandwiches would be incorporated within various episodes of the show via product placement.

Subway was instrumental in keeping Chuck on the air

Fans were ecstatic to know that their favorite show would live to see another day, and this created a beautiful partnership between the sub chain and the television show. This is just one great example of how even the smallest of placements can turn into something huge for both the show and the brand itself.

Your Brand Versus Building A Relationship

The case of Subway saving Chuck isn’t a one-off event. Many productions that we know and love today were able to have the success that they did has been due to partnering with brands. When you are able to find a product integration opportunity that is the perfect fit for your brand, the opportunities are endless. What started off as a quick one-off placement on one episode of Chuck turned into a worldwide movement that carried on through the ending of the show and far beyond that that thanks to streaming platforms.

Product placement allows for your brand to be featured in front of thousands of eyes for a low cost and allows for productions to be able to save money while they are producing their content. It’s a win-win!

Interested In Learning More?

Curious about how you can get your brand into productions? Check out some of these blogs to find out how!

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