Last Monday’s Game of Thrones episode had fans all over the world tweeting one word: Starbucks. Eagle-eyed fans saw the presumably misplaced coffee cup on set and called it out. While the makers of the series deny any product placement, the aftermath is every brand’s dream.
And apparently, there’s also this:
E.T. the Extra Terrestrial (1982) – Reese’s Pieces
One of the earliest examples of successful product placement is Reese’s Pieces on E.T. the Extra Terrestrial back in 1982. The candy was used by the main character, Elliot, to draw E.T. to him. Steven Spielberg originally approached M&Ms division Mars Inc., but they refused (bet they’re regretting it now). Rival Hershey accepted the offer and their Reese’s Pieces sales shot through the roof as a result of being part of such a classic movie. The candy automatically became a nostalgic treat for a lot of people.
Wayne’s World (1992) – Pizza Hut, Reebok, Pepsi, Nuprin, Doritos
This entire satirical scene from Wayne’s World that had us in tears probably paid for the whole movie production. It is product placement at its finest, successfully making a joke about product placement that doesn’t ruin the products in any way.
Rick and Morty – Szechuan Sauce
This particular unintentional product placement got out of hand pretty quickly. Instead of mentioning an existing product, the show made an off-hand joke about a limited edition McNuggets dip called the Szechuan sauce. It was made in 1998 as a promotional tie-in with Disney’s Mulan.
After the episode, McDonalds, without any affiliation with the creators of Rick and Morty, actually brought the sauce back for a limited time in limited quantities at certain locations. After this, avid fans who didn’t get a taste eventually demanded that McDonalds bring the sauce back to life again, they even harassed employees. And that is how the fast food giant ended up shipping more than 20 million packets of Szechuan sauce to eager people.
Cast Away (2004) – Wilson Sporting Goods and FedEx
Chuck Nolton (Tom Hanks) gets stranded on an island after his FedEx delivery plane crashes and in order to survive, he opens FedEx packages. It might surprise you that after all that FedEx exposure, the company never really actually paid the producers to have their service mentioned (mainly because it involved a FedEx plane crashing). But they did agree to let the movie use the logo. The result? Their brand became well-known worldwide following the success of the movie.
Everyone fell in love with Wilson the volleyball, a trusty companion which was actually from a Wilson Sporting Goods store. You might think it’s another product placement but again, the makers of Cast Away, didn’t get paid for it. Wilson Sporting Goods even made a promotional ball, complete with markings, as it became that much of a fan favorite.
Toy Story franchise – Slinky, Etch-a-Sketch, Mr. Potato Head
Before this classic Disney/Pixar movie came out, sales for Slinkys and Mr. Potato Heads were down at an all-time low. After it was featured as characters in the movie the sales skyrocketed. Etch-a-Sketch had a 4500% boost, Slinkys had thousands of orders, and the Mr. Potato Head toy sales jumped to 800%. Toy Story was indeed a game changer for animated films and toy brands.
Kingsmen the Secret Service (2015) – Happy Meal
You might find it absurd that an evil mastermind such as the lisping Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) would offer his super-secret spy guest a Happy Meal served in golden platters and with wine. Although it caught us by surprise, this actually added dimension the villain in the sense that his character was revealed – expensive on the outside, trashy on the inside. Plus it maintained the film’s over-the-top themes all the while making the entire scene hilarious. How about a Big Mac?
Risky Business (1983) and Top Gun (1986) – Ray Bans
Tom Cruise in Top Gun (1986)
Both Tom Cruise films gave life to Ray-Bans that had low sales during that time. Risky Business featured Tom Cruise wearing the Wayfarer sunglasses throughout the movie and even on the cover. Before the movie was released, annual sales were at 18,000 and after the release, it soared to 360,000. Tom Cruise in Top Gun had the same sales-boost-effect three years later, this time with the aviator silhouettes, and sales rose by 40%. The power of good looking celebrities!
White House Down (2013) – Nike
You might find it absurd that the President of the United States (Jamie Foxx) would go loco over a terrorist touching his Jordans. While engaged in hand-to-hand combat, the terrorist grabs the POTUS’ feet forcing him to kick the bad guy while saying “Get your hands off my Jordans!” Absurd scene? Yes. Would we do it in real life? Heck yes. To protect our precious Jordans.
Know other interesting product placements in movies? Share them with us in the comments!