By Barry Janoff
May 7, 2012: When they signed on to be part of Marvel's The Avengers, companies such as Acura, Dr Pepper, Southwest Airlines, Farmers Insurance and others knew they would be part of something big.
But when the movie took in a record $220 million in box office receipts this past weekend, it translated into something really big for marketing partners.
The Avengers created more than $1.84 million in combined product placement equivalent brand value during its first U.S. weekend, according to Front Row Analytics, a Philadelphia-based firm that specializes in conducting product placement analyses for Hollywood, TV, sports and entertainment events.
The value was derived by using a metric developed from the overall theater viewers, exposure time and the value attributed to each viewer, according to Front Row, which is a division of Comcast-Spectacor.
The film has already taken in more than $641 million in global box office receipts, meaning that worldwide brand value for The Avengers' marketing partners is even higher than the U.S. figure from Front Row.
Acura led the way in brand value, according to Front Row, as it continued to serve as the official vehicle for international peace-keeping agency S.H.I.E.L.D. agents as well as Tony "Ironman" Stark.
The car company has a supporting commercial in which a non-super hero couple in an RDX is seen navigating through various high-intensity scenes from the movie, directed by a the female voice from its navigation system. "Turn left at flying car. Turn right at explosion. Stay left at lightening bolt."
Acura vehicles have also appeared in past Marvel films with The Avengers tie-in, including Captain America: The First Avenger, Thor and Iron Man 2.
Dr Pepper supported with limited-edition cans, a custom online game ("Skrulls Takedown"), a TV spot and a sweepstakes offering an Xbox 360 console as its top prize. Farmers Insurance has a current TV spot, "Suit Up," in which insurance agents dress like The Avengers to become super agents.
Product placement is seen right from the start, when S.H.I.E.L.D. agents are seen wearing Bose headphones and using Oracle-engineered systems in the opening scene.
Among the plethora of other companies or brands seen in The Avengers are Citibank, Aussie Bum underwear, Southwest Airlines, MAC Cosmetics, Hershey's, Visa, Red Baron, Harley-Davidson, Wyndham and The Lion King musical (from Marvel parent company Disney).
Beyond the screen, each of the characters has their own cottage industry in toys, electronics, clothing and elsewhere, including director of S.H.I.E.L.D Nick Fury, Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson).
Many people received their first look at the film when a commercial with the trailer ran during Super Bowl XLVI on NBC this past February.
The Avengers' $220 million take topped the previous record of $169.2 million set by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallos: Part 2 in July 2011.