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Branded content's big leap

How the film world can reap benefits from brands like Red Bull, Grolsch and beyond.

You remember that guy who jumped out of space last weekend? Well, I’ll bet that nearly as many people who remember his name (Felix Baumgartner) will remember that Red Bull was his sponsor.

It’s relevant to film because Red Bull is also very active in content. During last year’s AFM, I met with Red Bull Media House, which was set up three years ago, and is 100% owned by the beverage company. They revealed to me that the company spends about €1 billion per year on content production.

Yes that is a billion, not a million. Sure, a lot of that is spent directly on advertising related content, but some of it is spent on consumer-facing films that will premiere theatrically.

During San Sebastian last month, Red Bull Media House announced its new European monthly series of action sports movie events. And at the festival the company Red Bull showed off its 3D films The Art Of Flight and Storm Surfers.

Separately, today sees the YouTube launch of The Fourth Dimension, a project backed by Grolsch Filmworks and Vice Media  — with Harmony Korine and Val Kilmer as part of the creative team. Earlier this year Bombay Sapphire launched its Imagination Series short film competition, with a script by Oscar winner Geoffrey Fletcher. Also, Asger Leth and Mads Mikkelsen recently partnered on the Move On film project launched by Deutsche Telekom (DT).

I think most smart consumers (and indeed those in the industry as well) don’t see this as ‘selling out’ anymore – they see it as brands being aids to creativity. It’s not such a dirty business in most cases, and often advertisers give talents the creative control — Shane Meadows’ Eurostar-funded Somers Town was 100% Meadows and 0% ad spiel.

Last week at the Abu Dhabi Media Summit, WME co-CEO Ari Emanuel said that Hollywood’s next key step will be adding “a marriage with Madison Avenue”.  

With film investment always hard to find, working with a brand can be a smart way to get a project off the ground. Plus, brands like Red Bull and Grolsch are experts at interacting with consumers, and as such can help an unknown filmmaker tap into a much wider audience than usual. And most of those audiences don’t really care where the funding came from, they just want to watch quality content.

No, I don’t expect Michael Haneke to make a film for Adidas anytime soon, but especially for young talents, brand support can offer great opportunities. Even without having to jump out of the sky.

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