With less than a month out from the premiere of the much-anticipated release of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” buzz surrounding the movie is nothing short of extraordinary. From the secret teasers, the slew of merchandise and steady stream of cross-promotions and social media campaigns, “The Force Awakens” is forecasted to top $100 million at the box office. But given the history of the popular franchise, did we expect anything less from Lucasfilm/Walt Disney?
Directed by J.J. Abrams, “The Force Awakens” debuts December 18th and about 10 years following the last installment, “Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.” While big budget film productions are a now a dime a dozen, the Star Wars marketing machine used secrecy, social media, publicity stunts and strategic partnerships to bring “The Force” to a new fever pitch unprecedented in the franchise history.
Just last month, the third and final film teaser was released during halftime of an NFL Monday night football game, where more than 1.3 million people took to Facebook and “Star Wars”-related tweets paced at record-breaking 17,000 per minute. Meanwhile, viewership for ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” spiked heading into halftime, indicating many viewers had tuned in specifically to see the new clip, according to Dispatch.
The 88-second sneak peek quickly sent fans into a tailspin as the frenzy for early tickets crashed multiple theater servers. But the preview was simply a small cog in the highly structured and strategic multimedia campaign that has been in the works since 2012 when Disney acquired Lucasfilm for a cool $4 billion.
Over the last three years, the marketing machine behind the franchise has steadily and purposefully built buzz for “The Force” through focused PR efforts, such as landing the much-coveted Vanity Fair cover, strategic partnerships (hello Google!), seamless publicity stunts in sending 500 Storm Troopers to the Great Wall of China and the slew of endless merchandising and media buys.
Disney Chairman and Chief Executive Bob Iger shed light on the secret sauce behind marketing “Star Wars” in a recent quarterly earnings call: “We want to be careful that the demand does not create too much in the marketplace too soon,” noting the generation of younger audiences who have never seen a “Star Wars” movie in theaters. “Everything we have done to date has been extremely deliberate, and we have a carefully constructed plan going forward in terms of what we roll out in the marketplace in terms of product and marketing.”
Whether it’s a testament to the staying power of the series, the unabashed fandom or the carefully calculated publicity and media campaigns, “Star Wars” continues to be a force within the marketing world.