Acura is continuing its partnership with Marvel Studios with the recent unveiling of the 2012 Acura S.H.I.E.L.D. TL at this year’s MegaCon.
Acura has become the official vehicle of the “extra-government intelligence and security organization” called S.H.I.E.L.D.(Supreme Headquarters International Espionage Law-enforcement Division).
The car displayed at Megacon featured a sleek black 2012 Acura TL equipped with flashing lights, S.H.I.E.L.D. logos, and a “Roof-mounted Sound-Cannon a.k.a. The Hulk Buster”. Along with other standard features, the vehicle was priced out at $227,085.00(vehicle not actually for sale).
With the release of films featuring Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, Thor and Captain America, all roads are leading to next summer's launch of "The Avengers" -- and Marvel Studios is keen to bring its promotional partners along for the ride, offering the opportunity for the brands to appear not just in "The Avengers" but other comicbook hero pics down the line.
A little more than a month before Paramount and Marvel unleash "Thor" on May 6, Acura, Dr. Pepper, 7-Eleven, Visa and Burger King are prepping to roll out TV, radio and online campaigns that tie in their brands with the god of thunder's 1st outing at the megaplex. Walmart is a major retail partner.
All but Acura and Visa had backed previous Marvel releases in some form ("Thor" will be 7-Eleven's 8th teaming with a Marvel superhero).
Honda's luxury brand had been looking for projects that could get Acura in front of more moviegoers through the branded entertainment arm of ad agency RP&, a division of RPA, and its exec Steve Rossmann, a former Gersh agent. When "Thor" offered an automaker the chance to serve as the official wheels of spy agency S.H.I.E.L.D, Acura was quick to lock down its 1st film partnership.
"Getting to be the official car of S.H.I.E.L.D sold it for us," said Susie Rossick, Acura's national advertising manager. "To have that role in the film and in future films was attractive to us."
S.H.I.E.L.D, the secret government org that recruits Marvel's superheroes as a crime-fighting force, made cameos in the 2 "Iron Man" pics and "The Incredible Hulk." The group will play a larger role in "Thor" and future films, guaranteeing any automaker appearances in multiple franchises for years to come.
Acura especially gravitated toward a pairing with S.H.I.E.L.D due to the org's image of being advanced and innovative, aspects with which the automaker likes to associate itself.
The design of Acura's own shield-like front fascia on its vehicles and corporate logo was a coincidence, but didn't hurt seal the deal.
Car partners are "someone you need to spend a little more time thinking about," said Bob Sabouni, senior VP of business development and promotions for Marvel, which had previously landed Audi to serve as Iron Man's preferred carmaker. "It's something that gets noticed. You have to have the right car."
As a result of its deal, Acura's lineup of recently redesigned sedans and SUVs gets roughly 2 minutes of screen time in the pic, a considerable amount of exposure when it comes to product placement.
In return, Acura will help Marvel and Par promote "Thor" through the launch of a micro website that recruits consumers to become S.H.I.E.L.D agents, play games and design their own agency vehicle. It's also buying TV spots, print ads and installing signage and offering customers early screenings at its dealerships.
Acura is also touring a series of events like Chicago fanboy fest C2E2, Florida's MegaCon and the New York Auto Show with recruitment booths that will feature a S.H.I.E.L.D agent car with weaponry like a sonic canon.
In order to pull off the concept of turning each of its films into a chapter of an overall universe, Marvel said it needed to broker deals with brands that were "like-minded" and could be "dedicated to a plan" that embodies the characters and messaging of the films in programs "that is smart for both of us."
Sabouni said Acura has "bought into the concept and is having a lot of fun with it."
Separately, Dr. Pepper is buying TV, radio, online ads and setting up in-store displays to promote the 6 character cans it is producing for "Thor." It's targeting males with its core Dr. Pepper product and females with its diet and cherry varieties.
Burger King will have toy-filled kids meals worldwide, backed by TV and online ads. Visa Signature cardholders get exclusive movie ticket offers at Fandango.com, a move that Par and Marvel hope will help sell more tickets to the pic but also puts the film in banks, where studios can't normally market.
Meanwhile, 7-Eleven will offer up 10 different cups and other exclusive merchandise, as well as a Slurpee smartphone app at its stores, and a 3-minute behind-the-scenes video on the making of the movie, produced by Marvel. It's buying radio and online ads to tubthump the products to its core Slurpee buyer that tends to be male and under 24.
"Action-hero fans index high with Slurpee-lovers," said 7-Eleven VP and chief marketing officer Rita Bargerhuff.
Naturally, Marvel is creating exclusive digital comicbooks for its partners to distribute individually or providing some with exclusive footage.
"It's always important to give your partners a little corner of the movie," Marvel's Sabouni said. "We've learned how to do that over the years."
Doing so helps giving the bad news that a partner's products will be destroyed on film a little easier. In scenes, a 7-Eleven store and Acura's vehicles are obliterated by the villainous Destroyer.
"They definitely have allowed us to play a little bit more," Sabouni said.
Acura approved the destruction "because there wasn't anything wrong with the car," Rossick said. "They weren't the reason things were blowing up."
Given the amount of marketing coin Par is spending to promote "Thor," the pic doesn't necessarily need to generate more awareness with ticket buyers. But the ad efforts that promo partners are launching will help consumers learn about elements of the "Thor" characters and S.H.I.E.L.D org that they may not be familiar with.
Dr. Pepper's ads will stress Thor's strength, speed and ability to fly, for example.
"We provide activities that allow fans to engage in ways that are meaningful and fun, thus building more anticipation for the movie's release," 7-Eleven's Bargerhuff said.
Ads from partners start Friday and run through July 6.
The comedian Jimmy Durante used to say, in mock exasperation, “Everybody’s trying to get into the act!” When it comes to marketers’ involvement in promoting summer movies, that certainly seems true.
A case in point is the Acura line of luxury cars sold by the American Honda Motor Company. For the 1st time, Acura is teaming up with a major studio film for a promotional sponsorship.
The film is “Thor,” due in theaters on May 6 from Marvel Studios, part of Marvel Entertainment, and Paramount Pictures, part of Viacom. The film brings to the screen the long-time Marvel Comics character Thor, who is played by Chris Hemsworth.
How does a premium-priced car fit into a summer popcorn movie? Well, the rationale is that Acura is the “official vehicle” of S.H.I.E.L.D., the worldwide peace-keeping organization in the Marvel Comics universe.
S.H.I.E.L.D. stands for Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement Logistics Division. In “Thor,” S.H.I.E.L.D. agents drive Acura models like the MDX, RL, TL and ZDX.
(Hmmmmm. Those model names sound like they would make nifty names for superheroes: “Look, up in the sky! It’s the amazing MDX!”)
“We knew that in the Marvel universe S.H.I.E.L.D. is a very high-tech, advanced organization, which is exactly what Acura embodies,” Susie Rossick, brand manager for Acura national advertising, wrote in an e-mail.
Besides, “Thor doesn’t drive,” Ms. Rossick noted, so “the opportunity to be the official vehicle” of the peace-keepers “was very appealing.”
“Thor” was among several films that Acura and the branded entertainment division of rp&, its agency of record, had been considering for potential product integration, she said.
Just as the film will promote the car, the car will promote the film, in a television commercial by rp&, which is part of the RPA agency in Santa Monica, Calif.
The commercial, for the 2012 Acura TL, begins with a look inside a car as an announcer extols its “spacious cabin” and other virtues.
But the announcer’s spiel is interrupted by noise, and viewers see and hear some kind of commotion happening outside the car.
As a giant monster robot suddenly appears, wreaking havoc, the announcer shifts from describing the Acura to inform viewers, “And it’s the official vehicle of the movie ‘Thor.’”
At that point, excerpts from the film start to run, followed by word that it opens in theaters on May 6.
Acura is also promoting “Thor” with a microsite, or special Web site, joinshield.com. Visitors are prompted to enter the microsite as a “new recruit” or a “returning agent.”
There is an Acura TL tricked out with S.H.I.E.L.D. trappings that is appearing at events like auto shows in New York and San Francisco. There are also S.H.I.E.L.D. “recruitment booths” at events like comic-book conventions.
“Marvel has been supportive of us creating a ‘sub-storyline’ about the S.H.I.E.L.D. organization that doesn’t necessarily exist in the movie,” Ms. Rossick said.
The effort also has a presence in social media like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter as well as in Marvel assets like marvel.com.
Acura and Studio Dror have collaborated to design a limited-edition desk inspired by the luxury automaker's role in "Thor," the new Marvel film starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman and Anthony Hopkins.
S.H.I.E.L.D., the intelligence and security organization of Marvel Universe featured in the film's storyline, has its agents behind the wheels of Acura TL, MDX, ZDX and RL models throughout the film. With the storyline in mind, Dror interpreted an agent's work environment into a stylized and functional desk appropriate for this venerated universe.
"It was fun to project myself as a S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent and to shift the approach when designing this desk for Acura, as if I was going to be user 001," Dror said. "It's a stimulating part of the design process."
Excited by Acura's attention to detail and precise manufacturing, the design of the desk combines elegance, sharpness, secrecy, advanced technology and efficiency - all elements Dror identified as akin to the spirit of his work and that of Acura.
Features of the Acura x "Thor" S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Desk
- Graphite and light wood base that supports a 200"x70" desktop
- Finishing inspired by the Acura TL's chassis
- Secret drawers and compartments
- Concealed Bose speakers
- Discreet iPhone/iPad docking station
If you happen to own a Thor press kit, do not throw it in a public trash can.
A bus terminal in Ann Arbor, Michigan was recently evacuated due to a mysterious package found in a nearby trash can that looked like a bomb. In reality, it was a press kit used to help promote the placement of Acura products in the Thor movie.
The kit was shipped in a dark box marked "S.H.I.E.L.D. Assessment Test" on the top, with a S.H.I.E.L.D. seal. Jalopnik reports that the kit was once the property of Automobile magazine, which placed into the recycle bin outside of their office near the Ann Arbor bus terminal.
Inside of the box is a strange assortment of objects, images, and text that likely freaked out a passerby. There's a test tube, a dead scorpion in a jar, a few toggle switches next to the picture of a nuclear explosion, and an area with lightning-bolt shaped keyholes marked "Detonations." I'm beginning to see why there was some concern.
The kit was meant to be a faux test for S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. Press outlets regularly send out kits like it to drum up interest in their products or promotions. It's just too bad that it made news as an explosive device rather than a silly way to join Nick Fury's elite cabal of soldiers.
Clothing designer Richard Chai is expanding into accessories, and the first piece is a limited-edition men's driving glove inspired by -- wait for it -- the partnership between carmaker Acura and the movie "Thor."
In hindsight, any sort of product placement with the movie about a Norse god turned superhero seems like a good idea -- it's topped the box office for the last 2 weekends and raked in an estimated $119.3 million in ticket sales, and Acura's commercials touting that tie-in have been in endless rotation on television for weeks.
Although Chai's handiwork doesn't actually appear in the film, the black leather and charcoal-suede patterning of the gloves are supposed to evoke the interior detailing of the fleet of Acuras driven by the black-suited S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. Lest you forget the connection, the Acura logo is embossed on each glove's closing snap.)
Though it seems like an odd bit of co-branding (try to imagine that Venn diagram: Acura drivers who are "Thor" fans -- and fashion-forward enough to appreciate a $225 driving glove), where the gloves are to be available for purchase starting in June is certainly appropriate.
It's a store called Odin New York.
And we don't need to hammer that connection home, do we?
Next summer, when The Avengers opens to packed multiplexes, playboy billionaire Tony Stark will be rolling in a trick new ride. After driving an Audi R8 in the two Iron Man features, Stark apparently switches to a never-before-seen Acura sports car (in keeping with S.H.I.E.L.D.'s use of all Acura vehicles, as seen in this summer's Thor and Captain America films).
The new ride appears in a series of on-set photos published at SuperHeroHype.com (borrowed from WENN.com) showing Robert Downey, Jr. standing next to it as Chris Hemsworth (Thor) and Tom Hiddleston (Loki) look on. Another shot, posted at WorstPreviews.com (we've posted a cropped version here), shows the mystery Acura convertible by itself, parked on the set in New York's Central Park.
Note to the spoiler-averse: the WorstPreviews.com report explicitly details the scenes that were filmed, and they're reportedly for the the conclusion of the movie. So, you've been warned.
We also have a note in to Acura to see if they'll give up any other information. We'll update the post accordingly if and when we know more.
UPDATE: Acura spokesman Gary Robinson has gotten back to us. Follow the jump to see what he had to say.
In an email to Autoblog, Acura's Gary Robinson said the following:
"As you may know, Acura has been in the Marvel Comics Universe films as the official car of their fictional law enforcement agency called S.H.I.E.L.D. That relationship continues for The Avengers.
The open-top sports car that was photographed yesterday is a one-off, fictional car that was made just for the movie and will not be produced.
That said, as you may also know, our CEO has said publicly that we are studying the development of a new sportscar, but we can't say any more about it at this time."
Mr. Robinson also said that he's unable to tell us any specifics about the use of the car in the film beyond what's suggested in the photos, and that Acura itself won't know the full extent of the car's appearance in The Avengers until the film's release next spring.
2 new tie-in ads by Acura and Target have been released for Marvel's The Avengers and you can watch them using the players below! The Acura 1 gives you a brief closer look at the creature or ship that was featured at the end of the last trailer.
Also, be sure to visit SHIELDOps.com for Acura's S.H.I.E.L.D. microsite.
Opening in theaters on May 4, the Joss Whedon action adventure stars Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgård and Samuel L. Jackson.
Serving as the hub of a plot-based campaign, Acura has officially activated a SHIELDops microsite in anticipation for Marvel's The Avengers. Offering games and prizes, check it out!
DCMarvelFreshman - 4/2/2012
Following the marketing campaign that kicked off with THOR last year, Acura, the official vehicle of S.H.I.E.L.D., has now activated a SHIELDops microsite in anticipation for Marvel's The Avengers.
S.H.I.E.L.D. has returned in Marvel’s upcoming movie The Avengers, and they’ve brought a new fleet of high powered Acura vehicles to battle evil. Visit SHIELDops.com to find out what these futuristic Acura models have in their arsenal and play along for a chance to win some awesome Acura/Avengers prizes. Prizes include a 1:43 scale Acura Supercar and a “Tony Stark Experience” trip to New York. Visit SHIELDops.com today to find out more!
Marvel Studios presents in association with Paramount Pictures “Marvel’s The Avengers”--the super hero team up of a lifetime, featuring iconic Marvel super heroes Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye and Black Widow. When an unexpected enemy emerges that threatens global safety and security, Nick Fury, Director of the international peacekeeping agency known as S.H.I.E.L.D., finds himself in need of a team to pull the world back from the brink of disaster. Spanning the globe, a daring recruitment effort begins.
Starring Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner and Samuel L. Jackson, & directed by Joss Whedon from a screenplay by Joss Whedon, “Marvel’s The Avengers” is based on the ever-popular Marvel comic book series “The Avengers,” first published in 1963 and a comics institution ever since. Prepare yourself for an exciting event movie, packed with action and spectacular special effects, when “Marvel’s The Avengers” assemble on May 4, 2012. The film is distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. In addition to "Marvel's The Avengers," Marvel Studios will release a slate of films based on the Marvel characters including "Iron Man 3" on May 3, 2013!; and “Thor 2” on November 15, 2013.
Without a doubt, audiences walking out of The Avengers are going to remember seeing 1 brand among the many that pop up throughout the movie: Acura.
The automaker filled the film, literally start to finish, with its models. And it capped it all off with at the end with Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony "Iron Man" Stark hopping into a new, attention-grabbing Acura NSX roadster — and straight onto the carpet at the movie's premiere.
In the product placement world, The Avengers tie-in is a bit of a coup for Acura, with Stark having preferred Audi R8s in both previous Iron Man films. But by providing only a concept car for its most high profile role ever, has Acura dropped the product placement ball?
In 2008, Audi partnered for the first time with Marvel to put "genius billionaire playboy philanthropist" Tony Stark behind the wheel of its new R8 super car. The partnership was a hit, with both the character and the car complimenting one another.
2 years later, Audi revised its Iron Man role, putting Stark in the seat of the R8 Spyder.
In both cases, Audi was using the cars to create a Halo effect for the whole brand. In something of a coup, Audi models appeared in the background of the first Iron Man film, but the focus, and what audiences left remembering was the R8. At the time, Audi hoped that even those who could not plunk down the cash for the R8 might consider, say, a similar-looking TT.
In Acura's case, while the NSX roadster is the icing on its this product placement partnership, it's the RDX model that sparkles throughout The Avengers that audiences will probably remember. A fine little SUV to be sure, but hardly inspiring as it is basically the fleet car for the faceless and nameless agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Essentially, it's what the Ford Taurus was to government vehicles 20 years ago.
The reason the RDX is the featured Acura model and not the NSX is that the NSX isn't a real car, red carpet showboating notwithstanding. The concept vehicle isn't even a true concept. From the Edmunds Avengers test drive:
"The doors open easily and feel solid — like a real NSX. Once they're open, however, what awaits the driver is a throwback interior barely changed from 1990. That's because, under its skin, The Tony Stark Acura NSX Roadster is really a 1991 Acura NSX."
Essentially, the NSX roadster is the equivalent of guys with expert reproduction Iron Man costumes: great looking on the outside, but on the inside it's just a costume.
Audi itself has learned that cool looking concept cars placed in films often don't go beyond just cool concepts. In 2004, the brand garnered tons of media and audience attention with its RSQ sport coupe concept car in the sci-fi film I, Robot. See, also, the Lexus concept in Minority Report.
By comparison, the R8's Iron Man role was the beginning of a role for the model. Soon after Stark was seen on the car, the R8 was showing up in TV shows and movies like NCIS, The Mentalist, Date Night, Surrogates and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. It was a real car whose halo effect washed over the entire Audi lineup.
Speaking of Transformers, this "real car" importance is one Mercedes also seems to understand. For the latest installment of the series, Dark of the Moon, Mercedes hit the screen with its awesome Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, nearly upstaging its Victoria's Secret model co-star. Again, it's a real car that you can buy right now (but probably not).
The opportunity afforded to automakers by a high-profile tie-in and placement is more complex than just creating a temporary buzz. Practiced most successfully, auto product placement works best when its done with a highly characteristic new model that plays a major role and that's available in the immediate future. Examples include not just the R8 and the SLS AMG, but also the wildly successful Dodge Charger placement in Fast 5 and the king of all auto placements, James Bond's BMW Z3.
Again, the RDX may be a car you wouldn't mind driving, but it, and its role, doesn't inspire heroism.
In practice, Acura's dilemma can be best illustrated in its tie-in marketing. For both Iron Man and Iron Man 2, Audi was able to fill its tie-in websites and video commercials with its premier product, the R8.
Meanwhile, Acura's Avengers website is all about the RDX, never once mentioning the NSX everyone is talking about.
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