Whether it’s the big budget films or the small budget flicks, brands are increasingly running the box office race, riding on Bollywood’s popularity to reach out to their target audience.

While the big-ticket Hindi movies can see as many as 15-20 brand associations, even Hollywood movies, especially the franchises, are getting Indian companies to come on board for promotional associations.

Brands typically do promotional associations where they get to use movie characters or clippings to run their own advertisement which in turn helps movies get publicity and save on their marketing budgets. In other cases brands are intrinsically imbibed into movie scripts for placements in-film.

But are films really an effective mode to reach to consumers when at times it’s a blink-and-miss appearance or run the risk of looking grotesquely out of place in the movie?

Recall value

Sajay Moolankodan, Director, Go Fish Entertainment, who advises brands on film branding strategies and did that recently for some brands associating with PK , says, “A good placement or co promotional deal will definitely help the brand break the clutter as well as smartly create a good recall value.”

He says product placements and co-promotional deals are here to stay and will grow faster as soon as the producers understand the power of this medium and will start benefiting them commercially and creatively.

In PK , “All brands managed to establish a great recall and the film becoming the highest grossing film has added further sheen to the association.”

For instance, two songs were picturised with Anushka riding Hero cycles in the film. Similarly, placing Cycle agarbattis made sense as incense sticks are used during prayer. In addition, Duracell battery was well integrated in the film sequence. Other brands that were associated with the film included Pierre Cardin pens and carmaker Maruti. According to estimates by major entertainment and media marketing company EMC Solutions Worldwide, in 2013-14, brands spent about ₹350 crore on film branding opportunities and this is expected to grow by 15-20 per cent year-on-year. However, in several instances, brands also do barter deals — instead of giving money to the makers of the movie, brands integrate the movie clips in their own advertising campaigns to help with promotional spends or give them access to their facilities or products.

Navin Shah, Managing Director of EMC Solutions Worldwide, said, “Gone are the days when brands used to associate with films at the last minute for in-film placement. Now things are evolving and they get involved at the scripting stage of the film and ensure the product is integrated well in the film and talks begin much in advance.”

Milkha and milk

Take, for instance, Amul, which was associated with the biopic Bhaag Milkha Bhaag . The brand leveraged the fact that Milkha Singh ran his first cross-country race after he joined the Army to get a glass of milk in the biopic Bhaag Milkha Bhaag .

Shah added, “Brands are now seriously looking at film branding opportunities. Instead of doing it as a one-off exercise, some brands are even earmarking budgets to be spent on film branding opportunities.

They ensure they leverage their association with the film not only on various media platforms, but take it down to product packaging and the distribution and retail level.”

Cost effective

Cases in point are brands such as Cycle Pure Agarbathies, technology brands such as WeChat or even motorcycle maker TVS, which have been seen associating with several movies in the past few years.

Experts like Shah believe that if done well, film branding can be the most cost-effective way of reaching out to the target audience for the consumers get exposed to the brand at a time when they are closely involved with the medium. But they agree that film branding, especially in-film placements, needs to constantly evolve. At a time when Fifty Shades of Grey is making waves at the global box office, international media reports have been raving about how Audi has pulled off a coup of sorts by being so intrinsically associated with the main character Christian Grey.

The carmaker has been known to associate with movies in a bid to woo younger car buyers. Media reports started talking about this brand placement as far back as 2012, while the movie itself released this month.