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InsideFMM | October 25, 2014

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Three Entertainment Marketing Strategies that Battleship Got Right

In the past, all you needed to do to market an entertainment property was cut an exciting trailer and put up a couple of billboards. In 2012, blockbusters succeed (The Hunger Games) and fail (John Carter) because of the strength (or lack thereof) of their digital marketing strategies.

Universal Pictures’ upcoming release Battleship, an adaptation of the Hasbro board game that hits theaters May 18, has faced some marketing challenges, but they’ve also done some things right. Really right.

What is this film about, really?

Before even seeing the film, critics like James Cameron spoke out against the idea of dramatizing a board game, so Universal Pictures has had an uphill battle to get the public to evaluate the film on its own merits.

After the success of the Transformers franchise, also based on Hasbro toys, we know that these adaptations can be entertaining. In fact, Moviefone writes that the film doesn’t really reference the board game at all. We’ve included the trailer so that you can judge for yourself.

To us, the film does seem like a dramatization of the board game, but it also clearly has its own story. Still, the mixed buzz around Battleship created a marketing conundrum for Universal Pictures–is the association with the board game a good thing or a bad thing? Should it be played up or played down? The campaign had to walk a fine line of telling a story that both referenced the board game and showcased the film on its own merits. Mastering such a task was not easy, so we take off our hats to Universal, and we’d like to show you three things they did right.

1. Casting Rihanna

When we heard that Rihanna was one of the stars of Battleship, we were sold on seeing the movie. As we noted in our article on Black Women in Hollywood on the Rise, it looks like her breakout role involves actual acting, transforming into a character very different than the one she shows onstage as a musician and in her music videos, genius move on her part for her long-term career. In addition, she’s breaking all kinds of Hollywood stereotypes–she’s not playing a prostitute, crack addict or criminal. Kudos to Universal for casting Rihanna in this breakout role. Her name on the marquee is sure to sell tickets.

2. The Battleship Facebook Game

In our humble opinions, this Battleship Facebook game is a perfectly executed piece of marketing for the film. The game play is very similar to the board game, but it’s digital. It uses assets from the film. It lets you play against your friends, or against strangers. As you progress (leveling up) in the game play, you unlock digital assets from the film, getting insider information about the story and the production.

Even better, this game answers the question that the media has been asking for months–how will director Peter Berg dramatize a board game? For potential ticket buyers who don’t want to read interviews with the director, this game intuitively shows viewers how the film relates to the strategy game, illustrating the plot in an interactive format that can be shared with friends. In writing classes, instructors often use the phrase show, don’t tell, meaning that as a writer you need to give readers information and let them draw their own conclusions. That’s exactly what this game does. As soon as you see it, you know what the film’s about.

3. Shred Your Street

This is just plain fun. Shred Your Street uses an online mapping service (looks like Google Maps) to create a short film in which the aliens from the Battleship film fire “shredders” to destroy the address you enter on the landing page.

You can watch the aliens launch an attack on any building you choose–your local Taco Bell, the post office or your ex’s house (Whoops! Did I say that out loud?).

This interface is fun, entertaining and captures the spirit of the film, which is an action film with lots of special effects. It will help fans and viewers get past the intellectual dialogue about what the film should or should not be, and connect viewers with what the film’s essence–giant water spouts, flying concrete, alien invaders and non-stop action.

What do you think of the Battleship marketing strategy?

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