A sure sign that the pandemic is winding down in the United States is the return of the summer movie box office season that kicks off with Memorial Day. Last year, with the spread of COVID-19, many American theaters remained shuttered, leading to major concerns in the industry that streaming video on demand would take over permanently. As a result, this summer’s theatrical attendance is being watched closely, and brands will be featured prominently on the big screens.
One of the first franchise films to premier during the all-important summer season is Cruella, the origin tale of the villain from Disney’s animated classic 101 Dalmatians. The film, which opened last weekend, follows a young grifter named Estella (Emma Stone), who is determined to make her mark in the 1970s London fashion-punk world and is transformed in the process. The film appeals to female audiences looking to get out for a fun, escape-filled night on the town after the past fifteen months of staying in.
High fashion plays a central role in Cruella, and from a brand collaboration perspective, the film prominently features several luxury names such as Louis Vuitton, De Beers jewelry, and Tom Davies eyewear. Cruella’s signature accessory throughout the film is a Louis Vuitton Capucines bag, which ties to Stone’s real-life role as a brand ambassador for the French fashion house.
De Beers is another luxury brand that appears in Cruella, which marks its first time partnering on a Disney movie. The diamond-focused jeweler provided several pieces for the production, including a five-line necklace and three-line earrings in white gold from the Arpeggia collection, as well as the Diamond Legends by De Beers Cupid necklace, which consists of two symmetrical lines of princess-cut diamonds by a row of marquise-shaped stones. The De Beers component of the campaign features a custom ad spot for the U.S. and U.K. markets and social media.
What happens when you create a Hollywood film sequel that combines great music, comedy, nostalgia, beloved animation, sports, cyberspace, gaming, and a basketball superstar? Answer: Space Jam: A New Legacy, the much-anticipated summer 2021 Hollywood movie blockbuster and ultimate vehicle for brand collaborations.
The film offers a case study for how Hollywood develops content to drive commerce: by creating great entertainment. With more than 200 brands involved — among them many fashion names from Nike to Tommy Hilfiger — Space Jam: A New Legacy will offer a merchandising bonanza of products for consumers ready to spend.
Slated to open in U.S. cinemas on July 16, Space Jam: A New Legacy could not arrive at a more opportune moment for both Hollywood and a public that is ready to get back to normal life after a devastating global pandemic. Most Hollywood observers believe the film has the potential to earn $1 billion in global box office revenue, a welcome respite for a movie theater business devasted by the pandemic. And just as important to those of us in collabs, the film is an example of how Hollywood works with brands to develop unique content with a blockbuster created from a mashup of brand collaborations. Warner Media, the film’s producer, has taken its own original brand IP in the form of Looney Tunes and partnered with basketball icon Lebron James to make a hugely entertaining comedy for all ages.
It has been 25 years since the original Space Jam film debuted an original and delightful mashup of a legendary sports figure, beloved animated characters, comedy, and hit music ("I Believe I Can Fly" by R. Kelly). For Warner Media, the release of Space Jam: A New Legacy could not come at a better time, with potential nostalgia appeal across generations: The young adults and their children that saw the original are now grandparents and parents with kids of their own who can enjoy the film together.
Numerous fashion brands across categories — from streetwear and fast fashion to watches and jewelry — have Space Jam collaborations in the works, among them H&M, Torrid, Forever 21, MeUndies, Gap, Hot Topic, and Stance.
made $230 million in global theatrical revenue and $1 billion in licensed brand collab merchandise. Of course, when it comes to brand-celebrity partnerships, basketball legend Michael Jordan, star of the original movie, is arguably the most successful of all time. His Nike Air Jordan sneakers, introduced in 1985, helped build the sneaker brand into the powerhouse it is today and has earned Jordan $1.4 billion in royalties to date, according to Forbes. It also has the historic distinction of contributing to a sneaker culture that has become a top source of inspiration for brand collabs.
Steven Ekstract is Managing Director of Global Licensing Advisors, a consultancy that provides companies with insight and strategic direction to succeed in the $300 billion a year licensing business. Ekstract is the founder and former Publisher of License Global magazine, the leading information source for the consumer licensing business. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.