Taking it to church

Posted by · 5:37 am · February 8th, 2010

Quinton Aaron and Sandra Bullock in The Blind SideIn the wake of last week’s semi-surprise Best Picture nomination, the New York Times has rather an interesting piece on the sly marketing strategies that propelled “The Blind Side” to phenomenon status in the first place — tactics a Hollywood marketing consultant likens to “the regional marketings approach of the 50s, 60s and 70s.”

What I hadn’t realized is that, though the film was distributed by Warners, the film’s original production company, Alcon, maintained control over its marketing. (That Warners’ own similarly-themed Oscar baby, “Invictus,” was snubbed in favor of the same studio’s stepchild is a delicious irony.)

The strategy therefore began as early as the casting stage. Country music superstar Tim McGraw was brought in for added appeal to Southern audiences, but more canny was the casting of several well-known college football coaches:

Just like an old-fashioned publicity stunt, their presence helped “The Blind Side” connect with a male, sports-oriented audience that was roped in through blog reports and by screenings for college sports fans, some of them organized by the coaches themselves.

What strikes me as a real stroke of genius, however, is the use of church-based marketing to craft a sense of moral obligation toward seeing the film:

Churchgoing women and their families were also attracted with help from Grace Hill Media. This marketing company has been used by studios for years to bring such audiences to films like “Walk the Line,” “Elf” and “The Pursuit of Happyness.”

In this case Grace Hill took the unusual step of offering online sermon outlines based on “The Blind Side,” with clips that could be used in churches equipped with video screens. According to Mr. Johnson and Mr. Kosove, about 23,000 churches downloaded the sermons, laying an exceptionally strong base for the film.

Can’t see that tactic working with those L.A.-based hedonists that make up the Academy. Anyone remember “The Color Purple” star Margaret Avery’s infamous “letter to God” ad in Variety?

→ 13 Comments Tags: , , , , | Filed in: Daily

13 responses so far

  • 1 2-08-2010 at 9:53 am

    Josh said...

    No surprise that this kind of marketing works; it worked for Passion of the Christ, and Blind Side is far less overt in its religious nature.

    But…that company marketed for Elf? Weird. I get the connection to the holiday, but…weird.

  • 2 2-08-2010 at 10:05 am

    Robert Hamer said...

    God, just looking at that picture of Sandra Bullock reading to Quinton Aaron makes me want to puke…

  • 3 2-08-2010 at 10:06 am

    billybil said...

    Wow! Online sermon outlines! Now that’s smart merchandising! Maybe LEGION should try that?! (That’s a joke, guys) But, truly, if you’ve got the right vehicle that’s brilliant – especially since that market feels like there isn’t enough for them to go see in the theatre so when something does come along, they’re gonna go!

  • 4 2-08-2010 at 11:02 am

    Patrick said...

    I wasn’t even born during The Color Purple’s year of release, so I don’t remember this Avery Variety ad. Could you explain Guy? It sounds very interesting!

  • 5 2-08-2010 at 11:26 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Patrick: I was only three years old then myself, so it’s not like I remember it first-hand! But the ad has become the stuff of legend. It read as follows:

    “Dear God,

    My name is Margaret Avery. I knows dat I been blessed by Alice Walker, Steven Spielberg and Quincy Jones, who gave me the part of ‘Shug’ Avery in “The Color Purple.”

    Now I is up for one of the nominations fo’ Best Supporting Actress alongst with some fine, talented ladies that I is proud to be in the company of.

    Well, God, I guess the time has come fo’ the Academy’s voters to decide whether I is one of the Best Supporting Actresses this year or not! Either way, thank you, Lord, for the opportunity.

    Your little daughter,
    Margaret Avery”

    I wish I were kidding.

  • 6 2-08-2010 at 11:28 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    She missed a trick, though, by not opening with: “Are you there, God? It’s me Margaret.”

  • 7 2-08-2010 at 2:04 pm

    Patryk said...

    She should have known Anjelica Huston would win in a walk.

  • 8 2-08-2010 at 2:09 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    And deservedly so.

  • 9 2-08-2010 at 2:30 pm

    Patryk said...

    Yes, Oscar got the women right that year.

  • 10 2-08-2010 at 2:45 pm

    Dave said...

    That picture! Could it be more arrogant and pretentious? I don’t need to see this movie to know it is horrible.

  • 11 2-08-2010 at 3:32 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    “Could it be more arrogant and pretentious?”

    I fail to see how that picture of either of those things.

    And pretentiousness is one charge I haven’t heard levelled against the film.

  • 12 2-08-2010 at 3:45 pm

    Robert Hamer said...

    Yeah, if anything, The Blind Side needed to be WAY more pretentious. A more appropriate description would be “pandering” and “racist,” which actually describes the whole film.

    I’m not sure if I agree that Oscar got all the supporting women right in 1985. They dubiously forgot Mieko Harada and Sonia Braga, for example.

  • 13 2-08-2010 at 4:33 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Not to mention Norma Aleandro and Cher in the lead race.

    But given their slate, they made the right choices. And Geraldine Page’s Oscar was one of the best disguised lifetime achievement awards they ever gave. They lucked into a stunning performance there.