When the NBA closed last season due to a pandemic, one of the first phone calls Chris Paul made was with Hollywood producer Brian Grazer. Mr. Paul, then the Oklahoma Thunder point guard, knew he wanted to record what was going on and he wanted Mr. Grazer’s help.
“Basically, the idea is to shoot everything that happens in that match and what happens to it,” said Paul. “We don’t know what will happen next.”
The result was “The Day Sports Stood Still”, a documentary about the decommissioning, the NBA pandemic bubble and the impact of the Black Lives Matter movement on the tournament. (Mr. Paul appears in the film and is the executive producer.) This is a portrait of the ways the pandemic has twisted the sports world, but also an example of how Covid-19 has evolved. Entertaiment industry.
The film, which premieres Wednesday on HBO and HBO Max, comes from Mr. Grazer’s Imagine Entertainment and a newer Hollywood company: Waffle Iron Entertainment, Nike’s production company.
With more people staying at home and glued to their streaming services, many of which don’t allow advertising, companies find they need to be creative about how they reach out to no longer audiences. see 30 seconds of advertisement. More are turning to traditional Hollywood production companies like Imagine to collaborate on feature films like “The Day Sports Stood Still,” which are boldly Nike-specific but with no traditional branding. that audiences often see.
“The best partnership you can have is a marriage in which the topics between the company and the story are intertwined,” Mr. Grazer said in an interview. “If you have Chris Paul and Nike as part of marketing, it’s an additional ingredient why someone will see it. They will feel that Nike has endorsed that and Nike does good things. “
Data from research firm WARC shows that the amount advertisers spend on television broadcasts in 2020 has dropped 10% from the previous year while spending on online video is up 12%. Much of that money has gone to streaming services like Hulu, YouTube, and Peacock that accept ads. But companies that don’t allow advertising, like Netflix, are still not available with traditional marketing.
Justin Wilkes, creative director of Imagine Entertainment said: “Online streaming is increasingly bringing in fewer opportunities for advertisers to connect with consumers in a meaningful way. “One of the last ways to do that is through long form content. All are circular. This goes back to the earliest days of great entertainment advertising and distribution. “
Brands have associated themselves with film and television almost as long as these mediums exist. For example, long before becoming president, Ronald Reagan hosted the popular TV show “General Electric Theater” from 1954 to 1962.
Over the past decade, branded filmmaking has only grown.
Patagonia sponsored a long-running documentary about dams, titled “DamNation,” in 2014. Pepsi supported the 2018 film “Uncle Drew,” which featured a basketball star. Kyrie Irving recreated his sailor character from the famous Pepsi Max commercials series. The film grossed $ 42 million and marked one of the first branded entertainment campaigns to be adapted into a major movie. “Gay Chorus Deep South”, a documentary film produced by Airbnb, debuted as part of the festival in 2019. And Apple’s famous “Ted Lasso” started his life as a NBC Sports advertising program for the acquisition of the Premier League broadcast copyright.
Imagine Entertainment, a production company founded by Mr. Grazer and Ron Howard in 1985, founded Imagine Brands in 2018 to combine companies with filmmakers, hiring Mr. Wilkes and Marc Gilbar, campaign creators Pepsi “Uncle Drew” and a producer run on film, to run the group. The division has produced both feature-length documentaries and narrative films with its partners, including Unilever, Walmart and Ford.
Imagine is also working with consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble. The company, which effectively created soap operas when it began sponsoring TV series in the 1930s to help promote its soap products, is co-sponsoring a movie. series with Imagine titled “Mars 2080”. It will be directed by Eliza McNitt and begin production later this year. The film is scheduled to be released in theaters by IMAX in 2022 before moving into a streaming service, focusing on a family resettled on Mars.
It evolved from a breakfast in New York in 2019, where Mr. Wilkes, Mr. Howard and Marc Pritchard, the brand director of Procter & Gamble, discussed the technology in development. The Imagine team then toured Procter & Gamble’s Cincinnati labs, viewed examples of “the home of the future” products, and met scientists.
Kimberly Doebereiner, vice president of future advertising at Procter & Gamble, said the company hopes to implement more longer storytelling ways, such as “The Price to Pay,” the four-part sports documentary. shaving brand Gillette has produced. It launches on HBO in November.
“We want to make it more interesting for consumers to rely on our experience and we are creating content they want to see instead of messages that are offensive to them,” she said. “Finding a way to have content where ads are not available is definitely one of the reasons why we are working on this.”
All is part of the deliberate shift of brands trying to integrate more fully into consumers’ lives, says Dipanjan Chatterjee, an analyst with Forrester, in a way that companies like Apple and Amazon did. And they want to do so without advertising, according to him, “no credibility” with the consumer.
“If the right story has the right ingredients and it becomes worth sharing, then it won’t be seen as an intrusive advertising,” says Chatterjee. “It’s like a natural part of our lives.”
Alessandro Uzielli, head of global branding and entertainment at Ford Motor Company, first met with Imagine Brands in early 2018. He was looking to strengthen Ford’s advertising campaign for the Bronco that kicked off. re-running with an entertaining portion will reach a younger audience. The result was “John Bronco”, a 37-minute fantasy film directed by Jake Szymanski (“Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates”) and Walton Goggins (“Justified”) as the great fictional pitcher. most of all time.
The short film won a spot at the Tribeca Film Festival and is currently streaming on Hulu. In addition to introducing guests from Tim Meadows, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bo Derek, it helped reintroduce the Bronco, a sports utility vehicle the automaker produced in the mid-1990s.
“This has helped us talk to the audience that we probably won’t talk to ourselves,” said Mr Uzielli.
“It’s Imagine’s project, and we don’t want to obscure their process, to try to make it feel like an overwhelming sales job,” he added.
Mr. Szymanski, who has directed both feature films and commercials, including advertising for Dodge Durango starring Will Ferrell’s “Anchorman” character, Ron Burgundy, said Ford allows him a lot of self. by creation. “I think they might have tried to cast a much bigger shadow than they did,” he said.
Now, imagine, Mr. Szymanski and Mr. Goggins are trying to turn John Bronco into the next Ted Lasso – an attempt in the early stages of development.
Mr. Szymanski talked about a possible TV series based on Mr. Goggins’ character. “I don’t think Ford will have any creative control over it but to have a character named John Bronco in the world, that would be a good thing for them.”