Blade Runner 2049 hits theaters this weekend, continuing the saga of artificial humans called replicants and the Blade Runners who hunt them. Starring Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling, the story takes place 30 years after the events of the first film. Naturally, marketing efforts for the star-studded sequel have been considerable, from brand partnerships to experiential marketing and even an upcoming mobile game.
Sir Ridley Scott’s 1982 Blade Runner portrays a dystopian Los Angeles that reflects his background in advertising. “One thing I’m absolutely sure of is that in 2019 [the year Blade Runner takes place], everywhere you look you’ll be assaulted by media,” Scott said in the book Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner.
Luckily for Atari—a major source of entertainment in 1982—Scott included the brand’s iconic logo in his “media assault.” That tradition continues with Blade Runner 2049 through giant, digital billboards in the film and officially licensed Speakerhats in the real world.
Michael Arzt, COO of Atari Connect told AListDaily that with the new film, Atari is able to reach audiences that span generations, especially consumers 35 and older—thanks to memories of the Atari 2600 console and its appearance in the original Blade Runner.
“Fast forward to today’s youth, and so much of what Atari and Blade Runner represented back then is benignly taken for granted by this generation,” said Arzt. “To them, gaming and technology have always been there. Today’s teens never knew a world without internet, smartphones and other tech. This is the generation that these two brands are looking to bring into the fold.
“Whether it’s the awesome new Blade Runner 2049 film that is looking to reboot the legendary film into a franchise, Atari’s new Ataribox, reimagined games like Tempest 4000, or wearable tech like the cool new Atari Speakerhats, both brands are looking to appeal to this new generation while also maintaining a bridge to the fans that helped make them cool in the first place,” Arzt said.
Johnnie Walker—another brand featured in the original film—has returned as a marketing partner for Blade Runner 2049. The spirits brand partnered with the film’s marketing team to create an immersive experience for San Diego Comic-Con.
The activation included a VR experience called Blade Runner: Replicant Pursuit that ended with a 2/3 replica of a street in Los Angeles 2049—complete with actors, a noodle bar and of course, samples of Johnnie Walker Scotch Whisky.
Johnnie Walker released a limited-edition whisky just for the occasion called Johnnie Walker Black Label The Director’s Cut, complete with a bottle design chosen by Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve. Four vignettes teach audiences how to use the whisky to make “cocktails of the future.” Naturally, the brand is prominently featured in the film as Decker’s drink of choice (played by Harrison Ford).
— Johnnie Walker (@JohnnieWalkerUS) September 21, 2017
Alcon Entertainment has been in charge of the film’s marketing. Despite so many building-sized billboards to fill, the production company was choosy about which brands to partner with.
“We’ve approached Blade Runner as an alternate timeline. So, our 2049 isn’t like what we expect 2049 to be thirty years from now,” Alcon co-founder and co-CEO Andrew Kosove, who serves as producer on Blade Runner 2049, told AListDaily. “It’s what we expect it would be like in the Blade Runner world thirty years after the original film. No brand that did not exist when the original movie came out was eligible to be part of our film. Apple is not in the Blade Runner world. It doesn’t exist. IBM could, but not Apple. Of course, one of the most iconic aspects of the first film is Atari, and we thought we had to bring Atari back into our film and that’s why we did it.”
Director Denis Villeneuve enlisted the help of fellow filmmakers to create a series of short films leading up to the events of Blade Runner 2049. Taking place in the years 2022, 2036 and 2048, each story focuses on a different character and a city-wide blackout that plays an important role in the theatrical feature.
To help immerse audiences into the dark, neon-clad streets of 2049 Los Angeles, Warner Bros. created a Snapchat World lens. The AR effect dresses users in a hoodie and plants them inside the world of 2049 Los Angeles, complete with fog and neon signs. The lens also features animated flying cars from the film called Spinners.
Blade Runner 2049 is poised to fetch upwards of $100 million in its opening weekend, half of which would come from US theaters.