It’s pretty much a given that when it comes to visiting the cinema, food and drink are two things that make a great accompaniment to any movie.

But it’s not just the cinema foyer where food and drink make an impact. Sales promotions that are designed to increase sales and engagement for fast food brands, tied in with movie franchises are big business. Paul Parry, head of cinema and movie promotions specialists, Filmology explains how fast food brands are using family blockbusters to target both children and parents alike.

Popcorn, hot dogs and sweets usually come to mind when food and cinema are discussed together. But, particularly in recent years, many other foods have become strongly associated with films – even though they’re not necessarily what audiences are eating whist being at the movies

In the cinema, on the supermarket shelf, in restaurants, in our kitchens, on TV and on posters all around us, food brands and cinema are communicating with their audiences to both excite and attract customers. We’re seeing brands teaming up with big movies to capitalise on the buzz driven by films that capture the imagination of their target audiences. Such campaigns also allow brands to create content that builds on a film’s story, which makes viewers more likely to engage with the marketed products.

Among just some of the brands that have been in partnership with films and the cinema industry as part of overarching marketing strategies are Subway, Cheetos and, for many years now, McDonald’s.

Pester Power

With pretty robust regulations in place that restrict the advertising of products that are high in fat, salt or sugar to TV audiences, fast food brands are exploiting alternative outlets for their promotional campaigns. One of the main reasons why these brands are working with films to reach their target audience is that they want to market to families. As brands can’t market directly to children, targeting families as a unit makes a lot of sense.

In the family unit, parents hold the purse strings. A trip to the cinema is often a family outing which may include a meal in a local restaurant and treats; such as confectionary. As part of these family outings, parents will often treat their children, and marketing promotions are encouraging parents to do exactly that.

While the marketing is aimed at the whole family, the ‘pester power’ of young children exerts a strong influence. Dial in film characters that are uniquely engaging for younger children, and you’ve got a perfect storm of hyped up energy looking to make the most of their visit to the movies. It’s therefore unsurprising that many brands are capitalising on opportunities through film to market legitimately to families and the younger audiences.

Fast Food, Big Exposure

Subway, for instance, partnered up with the 2013 Disney hit Monsters University, referring to its restaurants as “The Official Training Restaurant for Monsters Everywhere”. Promotional marketing is the essence of any campaigns and, in line with this, Subway in the UK launched its Kids Pak to include and exclusive Monsters University bag. Meanwhile over in the US, the brand also offered the chance to win free movie tickets.

“Subway stores recognise the importance of family events and the Subway brand has worked with Disney Pixar’s Monsters University to encourage families to come together,” explained Manaaz Akhtaar, head of marketing for Subway in the UK & Ireland.

In the same vein, US snack brand Cheetos teamed up with the much-anticipated animated feature Despicable Me 2. The campaign in the US included a competition to win a ‘One in a Minion’ family adventure to Universal Orlando Resort. McDonalds on the other hand, partnered with another child-friendly feature – namely, the Smurfs in their Smurfs 3D adventure. Their campaign involved packaging, a whole host of activities and TV commercial featuring the Smurfs planning a party at a McDonald’s restaurant, as well as a Smurf character gift with its ‘Happy Meal’ range.

And it’s not just food brands targeting younger families that have been partnering with cinema. A whole range of big brands including Mastercard, Samsung and Tesco here in the UK have used the medium to run highly successful campaigns; such as the Mars Sweet Sundays on packs of Maltesers, offering a free cinema ticket on a Sunday in exchange for four on-pack codes.

Of course, it’s never a guarantee that a film – regardless of hype – will be either a critical or commercial success. So, marketing managers often bank on sequels or prequels in an already established franchise – such as Despicable Me 2, Monsters University and The Smurfs 3D. This helps offset the risk involved in a large campaign, but also offers the benefit that the franchise has already defined the target audience’s demographic – how thoughtful!

It is an approach that seems to be working for both big franchises and brands alike, and we can be fairly certain that it’s a marketing strategy that’ll we’ll be seeing much, much more of in the future.