UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. -- Multiple cross-promotional partners helped parlay "Swan Princess," a modest theatrical feature, into a significant sell-through success, said Steve Langston, director of promotions, Turner Home Entertainment, Atlanta. Among the companies tying in with "The Swan Princess" were Pillsbury with a $5 mail-in rebate, McCain Citrus Junior Juice, Lifetouch Portrait Services, Crayola, Tiger Electronics, Turner's TBS cable channel and non-profit KinderVision. "When you look at the sum of what working with this group of partners did for us, it allowed us to dramatically increase our exposure for "The Swan Princess," Langston told attendees at the Seventh Annual EPM Entertainment Marketing Conference here, Nov. 12 to 14. Because the cross-promotional effort went so well, Turner now plans to have sponsor summits eight to nine months before the release of future titles, he said. These meetings will look at ways to further enhance the tie-in partners' relationships with Turner and with each other in reference to Turner properties, he said. The next title that will take advantage of these sponsor meetings will be "The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest," due out in 1996, he said. With a marketing budget as big as its $10 million theatrical gross, and with big-time support from tie-in partner Pillsbury in supermarkets, "The Swan Princess" has sold more than 4 million units since its Aug. 1 release, he said. This was "encouraging," he said, "because if you look at the correlation chart [of box office to sell-through sales], that's not supposed to happen." The animated movie had a suggested retail price of $24.98. "The Swan Princess" began its theatrical run in the fourth quarter of 1994. Despite glowing reviews, it was quickly buried by other high-profile movies such as "The Santa Clause" and the re-release of "The Lion King." "It went out into a tough market," said Langston. It was a different story in August, when the title was released on video, noted industry observers. It was a month before any serious competition reached the market. A cornerstone of the sell-through campaign was the Pillsbury $5-rebate offer, said Langston. The company's experience cross-promoting with Disney on "Return of Jafar," "Snow White" and "The Lion King" helped lend credibility to "The Swan Princess" program and attract other tie-in partners, he noted. Pillsbury's 800-person sales force also helped Turner boost awareness of the title in supermarkets, he said. "The fastest-growing channel of distribution for videos are supermarkets, and Pillsbury has a major presence there. We looked at their participation as a way to leverage that, and to get into a lot of doors that we might not have otherwise," he said. "Pillsbury was willing to come to the table with some pretty substantial marketing and advertising support to put behind this title," he said. The tie-in products were Pillsbury dessert products. "They were trying to reach moms with kids, which was the same target we were after. That was an absolute perfect fit," he said.
The marketing effort included television ads, a national freestanding insert by Pillsbury and promotion on Pillsbury packaging. The combined advertising of Turner and Pillsbury reached 85% of the target audience an average of eight times, he said. Besides being identified with a quality video release, Pillsbury also benefited from Turner's promotions, which included advertising on TBS and prominent positioning in "Swan Princess" spots, said Langston. "There were a lot things we were able to bring to the table that helped get the message out about Pillsbury," he said. "This helped identify Pillsbury as a fun and engaging brand, so it had long-term value for them," he said. More than 100 joint sales calls and a large display building contest helped obtain supermarket involvement in the program, he said. "We really pitched the idea of creating a true in-store event. The ideal scenario would be to have displays of videos right next to a Pillsbury display," he said. Some Publix stores in Florida went even further, building a large castle display incorporating the video, Pillsbury products and other enhancements, said Langston. Personnel from the video and grocery departments were eligible to win the contest, as were Pillsbury sales reps, he said. Over 1,000 entries were received, he noted. As a result, August sales of the Pillsbury dessert products were up 30% over the same period in 1994, said Langston. "They experienced their best August ever," he said. In looking for additional cross-promotional partners, Turner was careful not to bring in competitive products or duplicate offers, he said. For example, the McCain Citrus Junior Juice tie-in included a freestanding insert, on-pack messages and a sweepstakes that offered "Swan Princess" tapes as a prize. The exposure from this sweepstakes proved to be more valuable to Turner than any negatives related to giving away the product, he said. As a result of the tie-in, McCain was able to place more of its products in supermarkets, he noted. Another partner, Lifetouch Portrait Services, offered a free 8x10 portrait via an insert in the video package. "Turner also supported the promotions with some very elaborate point-of-purchase materials," said Langston. Lifetouch was able to convert "thousands" of these free offers into photo packages it sold, he said. Turner was able to trade an insert offering a special subscription rate to Crayola Magazine for print advertising space. Tiger Electronics provided hand-held games that were offered as a prize in a consumer sweepstakes that Pillsbury coordinated, said Langston. A final partner was a nonprofit organization called KinderVision. KinderVision works against the abduction of children. With KinderVision, Turner launched in-store events promoting the organization's efforts in 14 major markets. "When you look at the various assets that these companies brought to the promotion, it was not always cash. You have to look at every situation and see how you can take advantage of what the other company has to offer," said Langston.