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.
“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.
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.”
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?