Movie Marketing Madness: Rocky Balboa

Rocky is back. I have fond memories of watching the first few entries in the Rocky series on VHS while spending days at my grandparents house. Seemed like at least once a week we would watch one of the movies, my favorites being numbers 2 and 4, but 3 being a close contender because of a psychotic Mr. T’s inclusion. Good times. The fifth movie is best left forgotten even though, I thought, it provided a half-decent coda to the series by showing how far Rocky had fallen and how he was coming to terms with that. Like I said, not bad but nothing special.

Now, though, there’s Rocky Balboa. Rocky is now quite a bit older (Stallone is 60) and long retired. A computer simulation of a vintage Rocky defeating the current champion begins to stir up feelings of getting back into the ring, as if to prove that the current him can beat the young kid to. Pauly, Duke and Rocky’s now grown son (he was about 10 in Rocky V) are all along for the ride to make sure the guy doesn’t get killed and provide what support they can.

The Poster

Everyone remember how awe-inspiring that scene in the first movie of Rocky running up the steps was? This poster hopes so because it’s that point-of-view that we’re given of an older Rocky pumping his fist in the air. There’s so little to this poster there’s almost nothing for me to work with. It’s all about nostalgia. Oh well.

The Trailers

It doesn’t really matter which one of the two trailers you watch since they’re made up of largely the same footage, or at least different snippets from the same pool of scenes. For instance, the are two different parts of the scene between Rocky and his (sister? I’m not sure). There’s plenty of Burt Young but no Talia Shire. Also some good scenes of Tony Burton as Duke (first Apollo Creed’s trainer than Rocky’s after Mickey was killed by Mr. T and then Apollo was killed by Ivan Drago) as he turns Rocky’s fists into “hurting bombs.” But where’s Talia Shire? She’s listed on the movie’s credits but appears nowhere in this trailer. WTF?

Online

The Rocky Balboa official website is very nicely packaged but unfortunately contains very little in the way of exciting material. Here’s a point by point breakdown in the interest of getting through this quickly. Make sure, though, that when you start clicking you first hit the “Rocky Balboa” link from the menu. That’s where the movie information is. “Anthology,” “Store” and everything else is to outside resources and e-commerce sites.

  • “About the Film”: Cast and Crew write-ups, some brief Production Notes and a Synopsis that essentially mimics the voice-over in the trailer.
  • “Video”: Both of the latter trailers and a handful of extended clips from the movie.
  • “Gallery”: 13 Photos, the Poster and eight Behind the Scenes stills.
  • “Downloads”: Four AIM Icons, two Wallpapers and a Screensaver.

Like I said, the site looks very nice. There’s a series of pictures that rotates in the upper right-hand corner and everything looks cool. Overall it has the kind of look and feel that you’d expect from a sci-fi blockbuster and not a more human-level drama. There was also a blog that was put up to alert everyone to new clips and images and such. That’s about the extent of its use since it contains almost no other types of information. Still, a good effort.

If you start poking around the “Anthology” section you’ll find clips, trailers, downloads and information on all five previous entries in the Rocky series. The “Trivia & More” section has some fun ways to waste your time seeing how much you know about the movies and the “Rocky Store” is exactly what it sounds like, an attempt to get you to buy the latest DVD repackagings.

Advertising

Seems like most of the advertising budget for this one was dedicated to TV. That’s not surprising since this is very much a movie for the masses so why not go with a mass-medium? Those commercials, from what I saw, were made up of re-cut footage from the trailers.

I didn’t see many online ads except for this one – maybe MGM/Sony couldn’t find any open inventory during the Oscar “For Your Consideration” season. I’m really surprised, though, that there were no outdoor ads that I saw on billboards or bus shelters. Again, this being a populist movie I would think that going all out in meeting places and highways made sense. Maybe that’s just me, though.

Overall

Everything about this campaign is centered around nostalgia. From the poster image to the meat plant that Pauly works in to the website that focuses as much energy on the previous movies as it does the current one. It’s all meant to remind us how much we loved the old movies, how we were all uplifted by Rocky’s struggles and victories. Unfortunately it’s so caught up in the past that it almost forgets to sell us the new movie. My not differentiating this movie from the previous ones enough it also doesn’t differentiate the movie from everything else that’s in theaters now. It doesn’t present Rocky Balboa as an attractive alternative for seeing now because it spends so much time selling us the idea of Rocky being back.

For the return of such an important franchise, I have to say this campaign feels awfully cobbled together and not well thought out. Unfortunately I don’t see this really convincing anyone to come see it. If you were already inclined to pay money for a new Rocky movie, odds are you’ve heard about the movie elsewhere, perhaps in the impossible-to-escape media barrage. This campaign isn’t strong enough to create many changed attitudes, I don’t think. A missed opportunity.