Movie fans are surely excited by the soon-to-be-released Superman reboot, Man of Steel. But the film might be even more eagerly anticipated by its 100-plus corporate promotional partners, which are using the movie to help sell razors, cell phones, fast-food burgers, Twizzlers, a career in the armed forces and more.
Until now, the animated 2012 film The Lorax, which had a strong environmental, antimaterialist message, was probably the movie best known for over-the-top promotional tie-ins. It wasn’t just the sheer number of promotional partners — more than 70 — but that some of the products tied to the movie seemed inappropriate, like an SUV.
This summer, Ad Age reported, Man of Steel blows The Lorax away with more than 100 global partners adding up to around $160 million. (The movie was made by Warner Bros., which is owned by Time Warner, the corporate parent of TIME.)
Among the companies hoping to ride Superman’s cape, the hip eyeglass seller Warby Parker unveiled a Man of Steel collection, inspired by Clark Kent’s famous spectacles. Walmart is selling tickets for advance screenings (one day in advance) in its stores. Nokia’s new phone, the Lumia 925, is featured in the film for a brief moment. Several scenes in the movie take place at Sears in another brand-partnership moment. The latest oversize burger from Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. is the Super Bacon Cheeseburger, featuring “six full bacon strips woven together into a crispy bacon nest” in yet another tie-in to the new Superman movie. (Come on, is this something Superman would even consider eating?) Chrysler, Hershey, Army National Guard and Gillette are among the many other Man of Steel partners.
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Could the film be overdoing things, with so many promotions that consumers tune out or are turned off? According to one expert quoted by Ad Age:
The studio and marketers ‘can achieve success when the marketing tie-ins are separate and distinct both in message and in target audience,’ said Tom Meyer, president of the entertainment division of Marketing Arm. ‘Likewise, when there is category overlap and the campaigns are targeted at similar audiences, you can cause consumer confusion, which is worse for the marketer than the studio.’
At least one Man of Steel tie-in may not have been thought out that well. Gillette launched the HowDoesHeShave.com campaign, in which Bill Nye “The Science Guy,” director (and huge comic-book fan) Kevin Smith, Mayim Bialik of The Big Bang Theory and others offer competing theories as to how Superman shaves. (He has a beard at some point in the new movie, and it disappears without explanation.) But as Businessweek and TheWrap noted, tons of comic-book fans have pointed out that the question was answered definitively years ago. TheWrap summed up:
The fans fairly swiftly provided one that has been represented in the comic books a number of times. Superman emits heat rays from his eyes, bounces them off a mirror and zaps away his whiskers. Duh, guys.
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In fairness, Smith mentions this theory in his video, but then states that he doesn’t buy it. Going along with the theory would end the discussion — and the ad campaign — pretty quickly.
In addition to the heat-ray theory, fans have noted that in older Superman comics, it was revealed that the Man of Steel’s hair doesn’t grow on earth, under our yellow sun, so he has no need to shave. Accepting that theory would mean that the Man of Steel filmmakers made a big error by showing Superman with a beard. It also wouldn’t do much to help sell razors.