The spectre of product placement looms large in latest Bond film

You don't need to be 007 to spot the luxury brands in the latest Bond film

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 November, 2015, 8:01am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 November, 2015, 8:00am

The latest James Bond film, Spectre, opened last week in Hong Kong to enthusiastic audiences, having already racked up record box office receipts in a number of key territories. Expectations are high that the 24th film in the long-running and storied franchise will match and perhaps exceed the US$1.1 billion made worldwide by the previous film, 2012's Skyfall.

Spectre is reportedly one of the most expensive films made, with a production and global marketing budget as high as US$350 million. Of course, the film's producers, Eon, MGM and Sony, are hoping to recoup as much as possible through the box office and then in DVD and streaming rights. The economic reality, however, is that Spectre mitigated a substantial part of the budget through partnerships with luxury brands before it even hit the big screen.

Critically acclaimed though it was, Skyfall's rather obvious product placement for the likes of Heineken, Aston Martin and watchmaker Omega raised eyebrows among purist fans, but Spectre, if anything, has ramped up the commercial endorsements to cover the ballooning budget. The sight of Daniel Craig as James Bond immaculately dressed in a Tom Ford suit with just enough of his Omega showing to remain appropriate, glaring down from billboards and wrapped on the sides of buses and trams is as familiar in Hong Kong as it is in London and New York at the moment. But the posters were a mere teaser of the wealth of fashion and watch product placement in the actual film.

American designer Tom Ford, who took over the role of 007's clothier from Italian house Brioni for 2008's middling Quantum of Solace, has made great play out of its association with Bond, not only providing the suits but the central characters' eyewear, casual clothing and accessories. The eyewear, in particular, with the distinctive "T" Tom Ford branding on the arms, is front and centre in Spectre as the story takes place in Sun-kissed locales such as Tangiers and Rome, and the director, Sam Mendes, lingers on Bond's bespectacled face for many shots. The association with Bond is a natural fit for Tom Ford, according to the brand's founder, who said "James Bond epitomises the Tom Ford man in his elegance, style and love of luxury".

 

Product placement is nothing new, but the extent to which the Bond franchise exploits its partnerships is leading the industry. Head to toe, there are brands competing and paying top dollar to work with the iconic character. Bond's T-shirts are provided by Sunspel and his shoes by Northampton shoemaker Crockett & Jones. Unsurprisingly, Bond's mobile phone and consumer gadget needs are covered by producer Sony and his car, of course, is the latest Aston Martin. On the wrist, Bond wears Omega and Spectre marks the 20th anniversary of the Swiss watchmaker's partnership with the franchise.

Omega's relationship goes far beyond prominent product placement; indeed, one of the two watches featured plays a crucial role in the film. Omega has Bond wearing two of its new models - the Seamaster Aqua Terra and, the real focus for the brand, the Seamaster 300 Spectre Limited Edition (of 7,007 watches), which comes in a special commemorative box and with a number of straps.

James Bond epitomises the Tom Ford man in his elegance, style and love of luxury
Tom Ford

When it comes to 007, even a tangential association can translate into a huge sales boon. London-based cashmere specialist N.Peal provided the turtleneck sweater Craig wears in one of the earliest and most widely used posters for Spectre. After appearing in the poster, N.Peal reportedly sold out of the turtleneck, with fashion blog Menswear Style describing the item as the "roll-neck that broke the internet". Other luxury brands that do not even feature in the film are more than willing to pay to enjoy the Bond halo affect by releasing special edition and licensed pieces. French maison S.T. Dupont released a collection of 007 themed pens and lighters that play on classic Bond motifs that fans will recognise instantly.

Unlike most movies, Bond isn't just about product placement but a whole campaign of hype. The globetrotting storylines, inherent sexiness and easy association with luxury living make for great event marketing.

Last week in Hong Kong, for example, a number of key partners of the Bond franchise held special screenings of the film before it went on general release. Tom Ford held a cocktail party at its IFC store before a screening at the Palace Cinema. Likewise, champagne brand Bollinger and Omega both held exclusive gala cocktail events before respective screenings; in Omega's case at a specially commissioned Bond exhibition in the atrium of Pacific Place.

Despite the sales boost and positive brand associations, luxury labels should be wary that the relationship could quickly come to an end because Bond (as is the case with women in his life) is not one for long-term commitments. Over the years, 007 has worn Rolex and Seiko before settling for Omega, and before Tom Ford and Brioni, Bond wore a succession of Savile Row tailors. But the "Bond bounce" is so strong and successful for luxury fashion brands that other fledgling movie franchises are looking to copy it.

Kingsman, the slightly comic Bond-inspired film released this year, rolled out a comprehensive and coherent product campaign project managed by menswear retailer Mr Porter. Gathering together some of the finest British brands, including eyewear maker Cutler & Gross, watchmaker Bremont and shirtmaker Turnbull & Asser, Mr Porter created a Kingsman brand that dressed actors Colin Firth and Taron Egerton from head-to-toe. Toby Bateman, Mr Porter's buying director, told the Post that the Kingsman brand has been a phenomenal success and proved a Trojan horse for the brand establishing itself in markets such as South Korea and Japan, where the movie did exceptionally well.

At the end of every Bond film, the legend "James Bond will be back" flashes on the screen and audiences are safe in the knowledge that 007 will be back to save the day again. For luxury brands, this message is just as soothing, knowing that in a few short years they can ramp up their marketing and product offers and enjoy riding the coat-tails of the world's most famous spy.