BK plans whopper of a promotion for ‘Lord of the Rings’ movie

BK plans whopper of a promotion for ‘Lord of the Rings’ movie

Paul Frumkin

MIAMI — Burger King will meet “The Lord of the Rings” later this year when the first of three big budget films based on author J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy classic opens in theaters worldwide.

The nation’s second-largest burger chain signed an agreement with New Line Cinema to launch a worldwide promotional pro gram tied to the film adaptation of the epic trilogy’s first book, “The Fellowship of the Ring,” scheduled for release Dec. 19.

The next two movies in the Tolkien trilogy, based on the books “The Two Towers” and “The Return of the King,” will be released about a year apart in 2002 and 2003, respectively. Executives at Burger King declined to say whether they had signed on as strategic partners for the second and third films, although one source noted that the company has the opportunity to partner on all three.

“At this point we are excited and focused on [‘The Fellowship of the Ring’],” said Richard Taylor, BK’s vice president for U.S. marketing. “We will be evaluating our opportunities.”

The promotional campaign for “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” will mark a first for Burger King in that it will break in all 11,330 units around the world during the November-through-December holiday season. “Usually, international follows domestic,” said Burger King spokeswoman Michelle Dominguez.

Both Burger King and New Line Cinema declined to release many details concerning the much-anticipated film debut and the accompanying — and reportedly extensive — promotional push. “We have made an agreement that everything will be very big and exciting and mirror the imagination that will have been built into this picture,” said Rose Polidoro, executive vice president, national promotions, film and television, for New Line Cinema. “But we’re hush on the specifics.” Nevertheless, she added, “the partner ship [between New Line and BK] is pretty extraordinary.”

Taylor said that while the promotion al material “still has to be determined,” the tie-in “will enable us to do some things we haven’t done before.”

Key to BK’s current marketing strategy is its focus on adults, he explained. “We see a lot of opportunities in terms of interactive [communication] with the Web community.”

Cindy Syracuse, BK’s director of interactive and adult promotions, said that “New Line has conducted an extensive online campaign separate and apart from normal marketing. We’re looking to partner with them and leverage that.”

Burger King currently is running a link to the trailer for “The Fellowship of the Ring” on its own corporate Web site. Nevertheless, she added, the BK affiliation will not appear on New Line’s official film Web site, www.lordoftherings.net. “That Web site needs to stay a true, authentic fan site,” she said.

Much of the preliminary buzz surrounding the upcoming film release of Tolkien’s masterpiece has taken place on the Internet. In fact, the Burger King-New Line press release was posted in its entirety within hours of publication on the site www.theonering.net, under the heading “Return of the Burger King?” It was positioned above another item announcing that “The Lord of the Rings” boxed set was back on Amazon.com’s list of 100 Hot Books.

“The Lord of the Rings,” which was first published in Great Britain in 1954, is considered to be a classic of its genre and has sold millions of copies around the world. It tells the epic story of a quest to destroy the “One Ring,” — a ring of absolute power that would allow Sauron, the dark lord of Mordor, to enslave all of Middle-Earth.

The first film reportedly is still in production, although a 26-minute excerpt was shown recently at the film festival in Cannes, France. The three movies, directed by Peter Jackson and shot chiefly in New Zealand over a 15-month period, unofficially are estimated to cost a total of about $270 million.

Polidoro said that New Line’s strategy for the films “is comprehensive in breadth,” and that other elements and partnerships will be introduced over the next several weeks. The film will be promoted across all media as well as at fantasy and booksellers conventions. A merchandising program will be unveiled in August, she said, adding that “the promotions will be well choreographed.”

Burger King, meanwhile, continues to fine-tune its effort. While Taylor declined to put a price tag on the campaign, he said that “it will receive full media and restaurant support from Burger King. It will be very high profile.”

He said the company still was evaluating how it might be promoted to kids and whether there would be a tie-in with kids meals. He said there was a possibility that there could be some menu-item tie-ins, though.

Taylor said negotiations with New Line had begun long before BK’s new chairman and chief executive, John Dasburg, named Christopher Clouser chief marketing officer earlier this year. “We’ve been in conversations with them for a long time,” he explained.

And while he also declined to compare “The Lord of the Rings” promotional campaign with any of Burger King’s previous efforts, he said that “the company has a lot of expectations for this.”

Taylor noted that BK’s franchisees have been notified, and they are “pretty excited.” Dan Fitzpatrick, chairman, chief executive and president of South Bend, Ind.-based Quality Dining, and marketing advisory committee co-chair for Burger King, said that “it looks like it has all the makings of being a great movie and a great promotional tie-in for us. It sounds to me like we’re on the right track doing this.”

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