A big summer box office will soon translate into a bumper crop of video sell-through titles. That, in turn, means a huge number of cross-promotional opportunities for retailers as the year progresses.
The video cross promotions started with a flourish last month with the release of Warner's "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" with its Coca-Cola tie-in. Many retailers across the country took advantage of this with cross-merchandised displays of the VHS and DVD videos along with Coke products.
Although most studios have not announced their video-release plans on their bigger movies and they would not talk about the specific future tie-ins, the list of cross-promotable sell-through candidates is growing long. Among the titles retailers might see grocery tie-ins with are "Monsters Inc.," "Star Wars, Episode II: Attack of the Clones," "Spirit: The Stallion of the Cimarron," "Spider-Man," "Beauty and the Beast: Platinum Edition," "Ice Age," "Scooby Doo," "Scorpion King," "Men in Black 2," "Stuart Little 2" and "Austin Powers 3." Paramount's "Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius" has a cross promotion with Embassy Suites when it releases on July 2, and industry sources expect Warner/New Line's "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" to have tie-in partners in time for its Aug. 6 street date, although none have been named yet.
"Over the years, the cross promotions have been relatively successful for us," said Chuck Porter, director of the Iggle Entertainment and Video operation of Giant Eagle, Pittsburgh. "We are doing some cross merchandising right now with the 'Harry Potter' movie," he said.
Success with cross promotions depends on the grocery vendors and also on their field sales staff, he said. "We have tremendous success with some vendors, but with others, we don't even try to do it." Soft drinks, like the "Harry Potter" promotion, usually do well, as do cereals, he said.
"The most successful tie-ins that Ingram has seen in supermarkets with a VHS or a DVD release is where there is a national-brand cola tie-in," said Bill Bryant, vice president, sales, Ingram Entertainment, La Vergne, Tenn. "In many cases, we have seen a 12-pack of Coca-Cola or Pepsi given away with the purchase of a VHS or DVD release at MAP price. The perceived value there is an additional $4 off."
Sales increase dramatically -- as much as fivefold -- when stores build big displays with video and soft-drink products, he said. "The national cola companies are quite competitive in participating in these types of promotions," Bryant said.
But for all their benefits, many retailers still find cross promotions hard to deal with. "Every movie that comes out for sell-through has from three to five tie-ins," said a video executive with a major Midwestern chain. "It doesn't mean anything anymore. It might work better if there were just one tie-in per movie that meant something."
Bashas', Chandler, Ariz., is selling the "Harry Potter" video, but not cross merchandising with Coke, said Bill Glaseman, video specialist. "I have not seen cross promotions work in many instances in the past with various programs, and I don't feel any third-party tie-ins are the reason for the success of 'Harry Potter.' The movie is selling on the strength of the customers' desire to purchase it," he said.
Cross promotions are an advantage supermarkets have over the big video-specialty chains because they usually carry the tie-in products, said Greg Rediske, president, Video Management Co., Tacoma, Wash., which services about 300 stores. "We have all these cross-promotional opportunities, but we're not using them," he said.
Rediske is primarily involved with independents who find there is not enough follow-through on video cross promotions on the part of the food brokers. "The brokers don't have enough incentives to work aggressively on it from the grocery side, and if it is not worked from the grocery side, it just doesn't happen," he said.
But the studios keep the cross promotions coming. "There's incremental sales and the creation of an event at retail," said Steven Feldstein, senior vice president, corporate and marketing communications, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Century City, Calif. The key from the studios' point of view is cooperation at store level. "If all the materials make it to the store, it then becomes an executional proposition in-store," he said.
"There's a busy summer season coming, and there's going to be an enormous fourth quarter.
There are going to be huge opportunities for merchants to take advantage of the sizzle in their stores," Feldstein said.
The key to making it all come together is advance planning, said Michael Gottsegan, vice president, retail development, Universal Studios Consumer Products Group, Universal City, Calif. "The successful supermarkets plan as much as a year or more in advance, and that's why consumer products divisions are out there working with them. If we can get on the same timetable, and provide them with all the elements they need to make an exciting and successful retail-tainment event, then we've done our job. Our goal is to bring the Hollywood experience to supermarkets."