There’s no doubting how Star Wars is the biggest franchise this holiday season. The Force Awakens, which hits theaters on December 18th, is already looking to be a tremendous box office hit. On top of that, various promotions are taking advantage of fandom and excitement, and are ramping up during the final month before the film’s release.
Months after announcing various promotional partners for the film (including Covergirl, Max Factor and Subway), the Wall Street Journal has broken down just how deep marketing is getting for tie-ins with The Force Awakens. It’s a double-win for companies, as they can appeal to both new fans of the franchise and older ones that have grown up with previous films, with the last being 2005’s Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.
For promotion tied in with The Force Awakens, Disney moved up the timetable for products, which was normally six to eight weeks ahead of the film. It went a full 15 weeks beforehand, with figures, toys and other items related to it. “We could have gone even earlier,” said Josh Silverman, executive vice president of global licensing for Disney.
Force Friday, as the event was called, was a huge success for the company, but merely the beginning, as more waves of toys and other products are being planned. One will come in time with the movie’s launch, while another will follow sometime in 2016, potentially with its home release.
It’s a plan that Disney is taking through its paces, giving retailers the necessary time to stock inventory on popular toys and other items, according to Steph Wissink, managing director for Piper Jaffray. She believes retail sales of these items could easily top $1.5 billion upon the movie’s release.
“Star Wars will likely be much bigger than (Disney’s hit animated film) Frozen,” she said. “With Star Wars, you have that adult collector who reaches far beyond the traditional toy demographic, which is generally up to age 10.”
Richard Barry, chief merchandising officer for Toys ‘R Us Inc., added “This is going to be a very significant business in the first half of next year as kids watch the movie multiple times when it is distributed digitally.”
This is a turn-around from the way The Phantom Menace was marketed in 1999, when animated character Jar Jar Binks was pushed heavily (much to the dismay of die-hard fans). However, Disney is still pushing forward with a new plan. Silverman stated, “We’re not looking at that, we’re looking forward to the new film and the new stories they’re telling.”
There are a number of products that are appealing to Star Wars fans this holiday season, including the following:
Sphero BB-8 Droid: Even though it retails for $149.99 and features a character we know little about, the Sphero BB-8 has been a massive hit in terms of sales, with many retailers selling out. “Demand has far exceeded anything we predicted,” said Ian Bernstein, company co-founder and chief technical officer.
Disney Infinity 3.0: Star Wars: Initially released back in August, Disney Infinity 3.0 successfully revamped its formula around the Star Wars universe, involving both classic characters from the original films and new favorites from shows like Star Wars: Rebels. Its popularity will pick back up this December, as it’s likely to push advertising for its new The Force Awakens playset and figurines, which will release on December 18th, the same date as the film.
Star Wars: Battlefront: For gamers who prefer a more “mature” side of Star Wars, the return of the Battlefront franchise, where teams face off against one another in multiplayer battles, should be a welcome sight. The beta, which ran last month on consoles and PC, was a huge success and drew in over 9.5 million players, making it the most popular video game beta in history. The game will also include a free Battle of Jakku downloadable content pack, which ties in with The Force Awakens. Additionally, Sony Computer Entertainment of America has made Battlefront a large part of its marketing, even releasing a TV commercial where an exec finds himself inspired by his more imaginative self, asked to hop aboard an X-Wing and defend against the Empire.
Hasbro Toys: As it’s done in the past with previously released toys tying in with the Star Wars universe, Hasbro has gone full throttle with its figure and toy line-up, with everything from the classic small figures (like the ones fans grew up with) to larger items, like a Millennium Falcon playset. It’s a double win, as it appeals to both collectors of the older toys and newcomers that want to start a collection all their own. Expect marketing to pick up dramatically closer to the film’s release, including in-store promotions, potential TV/online advertising and more.
Duracell: The popular battery brand has its own Star Wars promotion, mainly through a lucrative TV campaign that features kids battling in an epic Star Wars fashion with lightsabers and other toys, using the power of the battery to bring their toys to life. After all, The Force isn’t quite as impressive in real life without batteries.
The Star Wars marketing frenzy expands well beyond what’s listed here. Female beauty products from Max Factor and Cover Girl released limited edition make-up products. Smuggler’s Bounty, a subscription box service run by Funko, has a custom package that includes t-shirts, toy masks, voice changers, and other collectibles that fans won’t be able to get enough of. Some retailers even have devoted Star Wars sections in their store, such as Target, which stocks over 600 items ranging from action figures to pizza cutters.
Wal-Mart is also devoting a great deal of attention to Battlefront this coming weekend, giving shoppers the chance to play the game before its release, as well as offering a variety of products, including an exclusive Disney Infinity system bundle for PlayStation 4.
Indeed, the Force is strong with the new Star Wars push. The movie itself has a fantastic trailer, which has drawn millions of views since its debut.
The Force Awakens arrives in theaters December 18th.