7 Unexpected ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ Brand Tie-Ups

Wal­mart, Ver­mont Ted­dy Bear, and even Sponge­Bob test the lim­its of ‘Fifth Shades’ inte­gra­tions.

Lisa Lacy By Lisa Lacy. Join the discussion » 2 comments

There’s no – wait for it – grey area here: “Fifty Shades of Grey” is fan fic­tion that can eas­i­ly get away with call­ing itself a world­wide phe­nom­e­non. And brands have tak­en note, as they, too, attempt to cap­ture fans’ atten­tion with themed con­tent and prod­ucts.

The offi­cial Super Bowl spot, which itself has 3.2 mil­lion views, claims more than 100 mil­lion copies of the book have been sold to date and the trail­er has been viewed more than 250 mil­lion times. And, last but cer­tain­ly not least, the series also notes it is respon­si­ble for the inspi­ra­tion of “count­less” fan­tasies.

With sear­ing dia­logue, like, “I had a rough start in life. That’s all you need to know,” and, “Like your Xbox and stuff?” it’s no won­der. (Although, for the record, the Super Bowl spot was not a big hit among foot­ball fans, rank­ing 56th out of 61 in USA Today’s Ad Meter rank­ings.)

Movie tick­et sell­er Fan­dan­go, how­ev­er, says the film is the brand’s biggest R‑rated pre-sell­er in its 15-year his­to­ry, as well as its biggest-ever Valentine’s Day open­er. And, in the lead-up to its Feb­ru­ary 13 debut, Fan­dan­go says the movie rep­re­sent­ed more than 70 per­cent of tick­et sales on the site for Feb­ru­ary 10. (Fan­dan­go declined to pro­vide spe­cif­ic fig­ures for tick­et sales so far.)

It’s a com­ple­ment of a few things. The book itself was a phe­nom­e­non among women. It was their self-indul­gent expe­ri­ence. It was some­thing they all shared and rev­eled in in some way,” said Adam Rock­more, vice pres­i­dent of mar­ket­ing at Fan­dan­go. “You take that and now the movie comes out, so there’s intrigue when­ev­er you have any kind of book with that kind of buzz and fer­vor and bring it to the big screen. Will it be the same? Dif­fer­ent?”

Plus, Valentine’s Day week­end – fol­lowed by President’s Day on Mon­day, no less – means both sin­gle girls look­ing for a girls’ night out and cou­ples look­ing for a date night are scoop­ing up tick­ets.

It’s no dif­fer­ent than a din­ner reser­va­tion,” Rock­more said.

To stim­u­late buzz, Fan­dan­go has focused on con­tent mar­ket­ing efforts like quizzes, he said.

But Fan­dan­go cer­tain­ly isn’t the only brand to ben­e­fit from a “Fifty Shades of Grey” tie-up.

Author E.L. James, for exam­ple, “helped to cre­ate the blends Red Satin and White Silk” in the Fifty Shades of Grey Wine col­lec­tion because, she says, “Wine plays an impor­tant role in Fifty Shades of Grey, reflect­ing the sen­su­al­i­ty that per­vades every encounter between Anas­ta­sia and Chris­t­ian.”

Ger­man auto man­u­fac­tur­er Audi, which is fea­tured in the book and film, teamed up with come­di­an Vanes­sa Bay­er in an online video that spoofs the series’ ele­va­tor scene. It has near­ly 1 mil­lion views to date.

Con­dom brands Tro­jan and Durex have also got­ten in on the action.

Tro­jan’s 50 Shades par­o­dy, which tells view­ers to “get out of the grey area and into 50 Shades of Real Plea­sure,” has been seen about 400,000 times so far.

The real win­ner, how­ev­er, is con­dom brand Durex and its #50GamestoPlay video, which has 11.8 mil­lion views and count­ing.

These are the brands with log­i­cal con­nec­tions to the fran­chise. But a few oth­ers seem to have come some­where out of left field. Here are the most unex­pect­ed brand inte­gra­tions with “50 Shades of Grey”.

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water

The lat­est movie in the Sponge­Bob SquarePants fran­chise, which as of Feb­ru­ary 11, is the #1 movie in Amer­i­ca with $55.4 mil­lion in sales in its first week­end per Fan­dan­go. Their “Fifty Shades of Yel­low” tweet, fea­tur­ing an image of Mr. SquarePants in the role of Mr. Grey, gen­er­at­ed more than 15,000 retweets.


U.S. retail­er Wal­mart, in the­o­ry, has a vest­ed inter­est in the series’ suc­cess as it also sells the tril­o­gy. How­ev­er to dri­ve a lit­tle extra je ne sais quoi, the brand has assem­bled its own five-pound Fifty Shades of Grey Gourmet Gift Bas­ket, which, at $69.99, includes: chrome-plat­ed met­al dou­ble lock hand­cuffs, hair ties, a mas­quer­ade eye mask, Hot Tamales ‘Untamed Love’ The­ater Size Box, Twiz­zlers Straw­ber­ry Twists, East Shore Spe­cial­ty Dip­ping Pret­zel Rods and Twin­ings Eng­lish Break­fast Tea, among oth­er prod­ucts “in a gift box hand-tied with a rope.”

Vermont Teddy Bear

Ver­mont Ted­dy Bear, which calls itself the nation’s largest pro­duc­er of hand­craft­ed ted­dy bears, has added a lim­it­ed-edi­tion Fifty Shades of Grey Bear to its col­lec­tion. Like 50 Shades of Grey wine, this prod­uct is approved by James, but, unlike the wine, it sells for $89.99.

Vermont Teddy Bear Fifty Shades of Grey Bear

Like the seduc­tive male pro­tag­o­nist, Chris­t­ian Grey, the lim­it­ed-edi­tion Fifty Shades of Grey Bear wears a gray silk suit and tie and has smol­der­ing eyes,” the brand says. “He even comes with a mask and mini hand­cuffs.”

Ver­mont Ted­dy Bear encour­ages con­sumers to “[tie one] down” on its web­site.


Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the Lego ver­sion of the “50 Shades of Grey” trail­er isn’t offi­cial­ly sanc­tioned by the Dan­ish build­ing block brand. The effort by YouTube user Toscano Bricks, which recre­ates movie trail­ers with Legos, how­ev­er, has racked up an impres­sive 3.6 mil­lion views to date.

OPI Products

Nail pol­ish brand has a 50 Shades of Grey col­lec­tion with (most­ly grey) shades like My Silk Tie and Dark Side of the Mood.

Although, to be fair, the brand also has a Peanuts col­lec­tion, which is per­haps slight­ly more unex­pect­ed.

Addi­tion­al brands, whether specif­i­cal­ly influ­enced by “50 Shades” or not, have also trot­ted out their own qua­si-risque con­tent. They include:


A brand bet­ter known for mak­ing things clean than dirty, Clorox has teamed up with sex ther­a­pist Dr. Ruth to offer saucy laun­dry-relat­ed Valentine’s Day tips on its web­site, such as, “Make it hot. Keep things steamy — usu­al­ly stains come out best using the hottest water rec­om­mend­ed on the care label,” and “Do it every day. Love is not just a Sat­ur­day or Sun­day activ­i­ty, and nei­ther is laun­dry. Clorox 2 keeps col­ors bright, so use it in every load.”

Carlsberg Group

The Dan­ish brew­ing group has released “The world’s most unsafe for work video. Prob­a­bly.” which ends with, “If Carls­berg did erot­ic dra­ma, it would be the best in the world. Prob­a­bly.”

In a press release, Carls­berg says of the series, “The ads go straight to the heart of the mat­ter – the won­der­ful, refresh­ing and high qual­i­ty beer that is Carls­berg,” accord­ing to Didrik Fjeld­stad, Carlsberg’s direc­tor of strat­e­gy and inno­va­tion. “Here we’ve put togeth­er a series of [odes] to the beer in sit­u­a­tions where you might not expect it. Prob­a­bly.”

The erot­ic dra­ma video has 132,000 views, which is by far the most in the series so far.

What do you think of these “Fifty Shades of Grey” tie-ins?

Lisa Lacy

Written by Lisa Lacy

Lisa is a senior features writer for Inked. She also previously covered digital marketing for Incisive Media. Her background includes editorial positions at Dow Jones, the Financial Times, the Huffington Post, AOL, Amazon, Hearst, Martha Stewart Living and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.

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