Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The Rise Of The Bees: Enter The Starbucks

America's House of Coffee is going into the motion picture business with a film about spelling bees:
Starbucks will officially launch its first foray into the movie business Tuesday with a groundbreaking marketing campaign for the drama "Akeelah and the Bee," which opens April 28.

The coffee retailer hopes the campaign will not only boost box office revenue -- since Starbucks will share in the profits -- but also transform the way studios market their movies.

The Lionsgate film stars Keke Palmer as an inner-city schoolgirl who gets a chance to compete at the national spelling bee. Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne co-star.

An estimated 30 million customers will be challenged to expand their vocabulary and spelling prowess with words featured in the film's spelling bees such as pulchritude and prestidigitation. More than 25 words will be printed on in-store signage, cup sleeves, coasters, flash cards, magnets, and on lanyards worn by Starbucks' staff of baristas.

In addition, Starbucks expects its baristas, who either were invited to advance screenings or were sent the trailer on DVD, to encourage dialogue about the film. The baristas will be free to express their own opinion about "Akeelah" even though Starbucks is recommending the movie to its customers, said Starbucks Entertainment president Ken Lombard.

"We can provide the studios with a very unique opportunity to reach moviegoers in a way they currently don't have and frankly is going to help with better box office performance for their films," he said.

Movie promotion in retail outlets and quick service restaurants usually revolves around posters, standees, branded cups and toys.

Even more significantly, Starbucks -- named as a co-presenter of "Akeelah" in the opening credits along with Lionsgate and producer 2929 Entertainment -- appears to be the first retail or brand promotional partner to get a cut of a movie's profits. Usually, tie-in partners pay millions of dollars for the privilege of featuring images and clips from a film in their own ad campaigns.

Lombard said Starbucks has been approached by a number of other studios -- and not just the smaller, independent ones that have smaller marketing budgets -- about promoting their movies. He said Starbucks expects to base future film partnerships on the same basic model that gives it a share of the profits.

Through its T-Mobile HotSpot network, the Starbucks campaign for "Akeelah" also will offer customers access to the movie trailer, a clip from the film, links to the "Akeelah" Web site (http://www.akeelahandthebee.com) and links to music from the movie on the Starbucks Hear Music homepage. It will sell travel-size Scrabble as part of the promotion, and the DVD will be released in Starbucks locations simultaneously with its national release at traditional retail.
If Starbucks handles the publicity of this movie with anything like the aplomb with which it conducts its other advertising campaigns, it will surely be a 'killer buzz.

Whether or not there will be killer profits in a movie involving spelling bees remains to be seen.

Now if only our teachers lounge could get a Starbucks kiosk...
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