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10 Movie Product Placement Winners and Losers

10 Movie Product Placement Winners and Losers
Kent Height

There can be no doubt that if we were to list movie/brand partnerships, the James Bond franchise would be one of the most successful. Beautiful women, exotic locations and suave sophistication are not the only things that spring to mind when we think about Her Majesty’s most dedicated spy. The Aston Martin, Omega watch and Martini (shaken, not stirred) are as much a part of the movie franchise as anything else.

In his latest outing, new additions to the Bond franchise include Heineken and Coke Zero – which, although questionable to Bond purists, surely must be more appealing than the bizarre 1964 KFC partnership (Goldfinger).

Product placement in movies, and increasingly video games, is on the rise. Here are 10 of my favourite winners and epic fails of product placements in movies.

1. Top Gun – Ray Ban Aviators
Top Gun launched not just Tom Cruise’s film career, but also the sales of Ray Ban Aviators sported by Cruise’s character into stratospheric heights, with sales of the iconic sunglasses increasing by over 40 percent after the film’s release.

2. Tropic Thunder – TiVo
TiVo is a running gag throughout this 2008 movie, even serving as a crucial part of the climactic scene. With more than a dozen mentions throughout the movie, Tropic Thunder worked extraordinarily well in raising TiVo’s brand awareness.

3. Back to the Future – DeLorean
The ill-fated DeLorean was known for three things: the stainless steel body, gull-wing doors, and Back to the Future. By serving as the time machine in all three Back to the Future movies, the DeLorean earned a place in cinematic history. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to rescue DMC from bankruptcy.

4. Little Nicky – Popeye’s
Little Nicky is a classic example of how NOT to do brand placements. Satan’s son (Adam Sandler) makes multiple overt references to Popeye’s chicken, going so far as to say, “Popeye’s chicken is awesome!”. If brand placement is all about subtlety, Little Nicky definitely didn’t get the memo.

5. E.T. – Reese’s Pieces
One of the earliest and most successful product placements in movie history, Reese’s Pieces served as an important part of Spielberg’s masterpiece. Sales reportedly jumped by 65 percent after the movie’s release, kickstarting the modern product placement trend.

6. Cast Away – Wilson
Despite its dull premise, Cast Away became an international hit for two reasons: Tom Hanks, and the presence of the Wilson volleyball, called – what else – Wilson! Wilson was an intrinsic part of the plot and Cast Away’s success gave the brand a huge jump in sales globally.

7. Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle – White Castle
You know you’ve got a winner on your hands when the name of the brand is included in the movie title. As Harold and Kumar braved perils and dodged obstacles to reach White Castle (fast food restaurant), millions across the U.S. were inspired to do the same, giving White Castle a huge increase in brand recognition and sales, thanks to this 2004 stoner movie.

8. Up in the Air – American Airlines
The American Airlines product placement in George Clooney’s 2009 film was a perfect marriage of story and brand. As we follow protagonist Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) jet across the country to rack up 10 million air miles, American Airlines becomes not just a part of the story, but a part of the protagonist’s life itself.

9. The Bourne Identity – Mini Cooper
Jason Bourne is a different kind of spy hero, and The Bourne Identity a different spy movie. It’s perfectly appropriate then, that Jason Bourne’s vehicle of choice in a getaway chase is not a sports car, but a tiny Mini Cooper. The 2002 blockbuster brought the once popular Mini back into popular imagination, jump-starting sales.

10. James Bond Movies – Aston Marin
As James Bond’s vehicle of choice, Aston Martin has enjoyed the fruits of being associated with a global cinematic icon in more than 9 movies. James Bond is an aspirational man for cinema goers, and Aston Martin, by association, an aspiration brand. Few product placements feel more natural than Bond sliding behind the wheel of an Aston Martin in yet another escapade.

What are your favourite movie/brand tie-ins? Post a comment below and share.


  1. Mark Spurden

    Another big product placement from the Back To The Future series was Calvin Klein. I can’t recall a film where they discussed underwear so much. Well not any film that I’m happy to post about here :)

  2. Doug Harris

    I’ve just seen the new Tom Cruise movie, Jack Reacher. Seems to me that this would be perfect for a tie-in with dairy manufacturer Babybel, just because the dialogue was so damn cheesy… not unlike this comment! Sorry about that.

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