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Corporate Tie-Ins Lace Up A Hollywood Market

March 17, 1989

HOLLYWOOD (AP) _ This article is brought to you by Saab.

Well, maybe not, but corporate meddling in popular culture is reaching new levels. Promotional hooks are moving from movies, television and sports to rock concerts, stage plays, ice shows and even novels and board games.

″Power City,″ a new Hollywood book by former entertainment industry publicist Beth Ann Herman, is sprinkled with mentions of both Maseratis and the Rodeo Drive boutique Giorgio. But it wasn’t lifelike detail, it was marketing.

When ″Power City″ was published, a Beverly Hills Maserati dealer threw a $15,000 party for it, and Giorgio gave it a window display.

In the new L.A. Game, players move around a board in miniature Porsches, stopping at trendy Southern California restaurants such as Spago and stores such as L.A. Eyeworks. ″We’re just a little store on Melrose Avenue, and we just saw (the game) as the right thing to do,″ said store spokeswoman Ruth Handel.

″Each company offered a fee to be on the board, anywhere from $2,500 to $15,000, depending on its placement on the game board,″ said game creator Steve Hutchinson. ″Porsche paid $45,000 to get its cars in the game.″

By being featured in the glitzy ″Power City,″ Maserati can enhance its reputation as a stylish, coveted plaything in one of its top markets. As one character says in the book: ″It was by far his biggest toy. His Maserati Biturbo I made life bearable in L.A.″

″The uniqueness of the promotion was very attractive to me,″ Michael Savod, Maserati’s vice president of sales and marketing, told Adweek magazine. Said Stan Friedman, who organized the tie-in: ″I think it did as much if not more for Maserati than for the book.″

Herman certainly isn’t the first author to hype brand names in a novel and glamorize products of the rich for hungry readers. Judith Krantz, Harold Robbins and Jacqueline Susann all laced their best sellers with enough names of cars, furniture, champagnes, designers, jewelry and such to fill all of Rodeo Drive.

But while entertainment-oriented promotional gimmicks can’t replace traditional advertising, they can make products stand out in a crowded marketplace.

‴Entertainment marketing’ is becoming the phrase of the ’80s. There are so many opportunities,″ said Sam Baldoni, president of the Baldoni Entertainment marketing firm.

″Sponsorship of sports has gotten so cluttered that you now move into the next arena that’s available - entertainment,″ said Jack MacDonough, vice president of brand management for Anheuser-Busch, producers of the TV’s ″Michelob Presents Sunday Night.″

The beer company insists ″The night belongs to Michelob.″ On television and in pop music concerts, it tries to prove the point.

To make Pepsi the choice of a new generation, the soft-drink giant has spent millions marrying the soda to pop music superstars Gloria Estefan, Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson, whose recent ″Bad″ tour was sponsored by Pepsi. Now, it has joined MCA Home Video in an ″E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial″ rebate deal with promotional displays for a $5 payback in more than 60,000 stores. There’s a slick TV commercial, and a potential Pepsi cost of $55 million.

″We really are looking for that warm association between Pepsi and the world’s best family entertainment movie right now,″ said Pepsi spokesman Tod MacKenzie. ″Ideally, ‘E.T.’ and Pepsi will become synonymous.″

To reward ″user loyalty,″ Pinkerton Tobacco Co. will spend more than $1 million sponsoring the Red Man Golden Blend Country Concert Series, which will appear in 25 cities this spring. At each stop, Pinkerton will cart out more than 150 store displays. ″In certain situations,″ said Steve Greil, ″we might even lose a few thousand dollars.″ But the goodwill is priceless.

Cooperative tie-ins between two companies can be especially cost-effective and provide instant national visibility.

Universal Studio Tours and USAir have joined to promote Universal’s theme parks in California and Florida. ″USAir is going to get a lot of exposure for not spending any additional money, and we will too,″ said Gordon Armstrong, executive vice president of corporate sponsorship for Universal Studios.

In one of the stranger product promotions, the California Raisins, balancing on skates, have signed on with an Ice Capades tour. The hope is that the people who enjoy death spirals and toe loops also hunger for dried fruit.

″In the ice show, the Raisins sing and dance and become entertainers,″ said Jack Morrow, whose Applause Inc. works with various companies to produce California Raisin memorabilia, including pencils, Halloween costumes, lunch boxes, pajamas and kitchenwares. ″The Raisins are cool and they’re hip.″

But corporate sponsorship does have its risks: Mick Jagger, playing in Reebok-sponsored concerts in Australia, danced on stage in sneakers made by Nike.

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