EXCLUSIVE: Illumination Entertainment’s Minions debuts this weekend with an armful of promotional partners on board helping to launch Universal’s latest installment of its animated franchise. At the center of this whirlwind is McDonald’s Corp. which is doing both an adult and kids promotion (complete with Happy Meals) in its restaurants. That alone is a coup. It’s global. And there’s media. And it’s a two-tiered adult and kids campaign, which is very unusual for the fast-food giant to do on a film.
Universal said the studio’s promotional campaign is the largest and most comprehensive in its history, and it certainly seems that way. Minions opens in North America in 4,301 theaters Friday, with a 6 PM preview on Thursday night. It has already bowed internationally ahead of the domestic bow with $141.5M in 26 markets and was No. 1 in 25 of those.
“The minions have permeated pop culture so it has such a broad appeal from ages 3 to 84. We started hearing from brands (around the world), so it was a very coordinated global effort; we worked with all the local offices around the globe,” said David O’Connor Universal’s executive VP of global brand marketing and partnerships.
Besides McDonald’s, others who are providing media are General Mills, Tic Tac and Universal’s parent Comcast. All in, there are 10 custom TV spots from seven partners — all using the minion characters. Those partners include Sky Broadband in the U.K. and VIVO (a smartphone) in China.
Minions originally had a release date of December 19, 2014, but the studio moved the Illumination Entertainment film into summer 2015 and, by doing so, was able to extend the marketing push through a variety of promotions.
The promotional campaign, put together by O’Connor and his team (working closely with Illumination’s Chris Meledandri and Gail Harrison), is impressive because of its ubiquity. No, it’s not hard to get Corporate America to sign on when you have a hit franchise, but nevertheless, the amount of planning and work that went into this merits note. About half of the promotional partners are return players, but the other half are new, said O’Connor.
The studio has also spent an enormous amount on outdoor in L.A. alone for this film. As I mentioned in the box office preview here — at least in Los Angeles — you cannot escape the minion invasion. Up and down La Brea Ave., which logs (according to L.A. traffic studies that were presented to me just a few years ago) more than 8,000 trips a day, Minions ads have taken over. There are numerous outdoor boards and 60 different pieces of ‘history’s greatest art masterpieces’ wall art where the minions appear as the subjects in famous paintings like the Mona Lisa. On the city’s famed Sunset Blvd., the Cinerama Dome was taken over by minions Kevin, Stuart and Bob climbing over the yellow sphere to grab a banana on the marquee. I’ve even seen a Minions bus, covered from front to back as its transit campaign is also in full swing.
That kind of unique outdoor advertising has also taken hold in other big markets in the U.S. zand around the world — New York, Mexico, Australia, France and the U.K., for example.
Another promotional partner is online retailer Amazon which entered into a first-ever campaign for the company. It’s using yellow Minions boxes for delivering goods, and started that two months before the film’s release with certain products.
Meanwhile, on eye-it/buy it shelf space in grocery stores is a Minions with Hostess. Yes, Twinkies. Same with Mott’s. Also, there are Minions stickers on more than 500 million Chiquita bananas (globally), and custom media campaigns with General Mills — which was a promotional partner on Despicable Me 2 in 2013 as well. This year there are six toys inside boxes instead of the eight that they did for DM2. Those toys are in boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios, Banana Nut Cheerios, Cinnamon Toast, Crunch, Reese’s Puffs, Trix and Golden Grahams — Michelle Obama would have a fit with the amount of sugar the Minions are promoting to kids. But, hey, they got a customized TV spot from General Mills.
True to the global reach, there is also a push with General Mills international arm, Cereal Partners Worldwide. And if that weren’t enough, they are putting minions on the packaging of their fruit roll-ups.
Shoppers will also be able to find the minions on Tic-Tacs, which — once again — is providing that all-important media support with a customized TV spot.
Minions marketing really began with a teaser trailer around the 2014 last quarter holidays and was followed by a specially made spot in this year’s Super Bowl XLIX. That was broadcast to more than 115 million viewers. A custom spot then was created with Minion Bob playing basketball with The Golden State Warriors’ Steph Curry and Klay Thompson that aired more than 100 times on ESPN, beginning with the Warriors’ appearance in the NBA Finals.
There was also a Minions “takeover” of the No. 1 Spanish-language morning show, Despierta America on Univision which, according to the studio, included 22 different segments totaling almost three hours of programming and a social reach of more than 14 million followers.
And let’s just look further into licensing and merchandising. Hats off also to Vince Klaseus and his team in Universal’s consumer products division as well which has been licensing the heck out of the yellow fellows for several years now. Universal has racked up $2.5Billion retail sales since the inception of the franchise in 2011, O’Connor noted. The minions are licensed for a large variety of products — and at every price point, from Walmart to Criminal Damage.
An oddball licensing deal included a first of its kind for New Jersey-based color matching company, Pantone, which introduced an official color “Minion Yellow” as a permanent addition to their color spectrum. It was the first new color they introduced in three years. Of course, no one can tell the difference between Minion Yellow and regular yellow, but, it is what it is … money in the bank.
Yep, there is no escaping the saturation of minion products: band-aids, backpacks, thumb drives, wrapping paper, pencil sets, key chains, iPhone cases, lunch boxes, sleeping bags, action figures, bedspreads, floor mats, umbrellas, straws, travel neck cushion pillows, flip flops, cake toppers (edible and not), thermoses, car decals, napkin holders, piggy banks, body pillows, cookie cutters, bath towels, area rugs, men’s ties, shower curtain hooks, luggage tags, toothbrushes, wallpaper, drapes, popsicle sticks, banana scented bubble bath, sleepwear, eyewear, underwear, overwear … Somebody stop them. No. Really.