Movie Marketing Madness: Win Win

As much as anything else we’re defined by how we take advantage or seize upon the opportunities that are presented to us. When opportunities arise it’s a chance to make a choice for the good or ill of both ourselves but also the people around us who are going to be impacted by the outcome of that decision.

In Win Win, the new movie from director Tom McCarthy, the character of Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti) is given just such an opportunity. Flaherty is working two jobs as both a high school wresting coach and an attorney to make ends meet. Then one day Kyle (Alex Shaffer), the previously unknown grandson of one of his clients, turns up on his doorstep in need of a place to stay. The kid turns out to be a natural at competitive wrestling and Flaherty sees him as his chance to break out of the problems he’s in. But instead he just becomes more protective of the boy, eventually encouraging him to not go back to the drug-addicted mother who abandoned him.

The Posters

Re-purposing one of the first publicity stills that was released for the movie and debuting shortly after the film’s Sundance premiere, the poster is pretty simple. It simply shows Giamatti and Shaffer sitting on a set of gym bleachers looking not at all thrilled about whatever’s going on and directly at the camera. As listless as the two people looking sitting their it’s only emphasized by the institutional background they’re sitting in, represented by those bleachers and the bland green(ish) cinder block wall that’s at the top.

There’s not a lot going on on the poster’s design but it speaks volumes about the attitude of the movie and it’s overall tone.

The Trailers

The first trailer for the movie, released shortly after the Sundance appearance, introduces us to Mike and his family and the stresses that they’re going through. Then one day he meets Kyle, who claims to be the grandson of one of Mike’s law clients. Mike and his family wind up taking Kyle under their wing, though, and discover that he’s quite a wrestler and it’s on the wrestling mat that he feels most in control, which is important with a messed-up mom of his own. He becomes more and more a part of Mike’s family and between that and the wrestling he gets more and more confident about things.

The trailer is pretty strong and doesn’t make the movie seem like something that’s cheesy and corny and cliched. Instead it looks like a well-rounded movie for adults that has an inspirational theme. Giamatti, of course, looks like he turns in a great performance as does Ryan as his wife.


Once you enter the main content area on the movie’s official website the first bit of material is in the “Story” section, which has a decent synopsis of the movie’s plot.

“Video” just has the trailer and the “Gallery” has five stills from the movie. There are career histories for the major players involved in “Cast/Crew” and “Downloads” has just a few Wallpapers and some Icons to grab.

In addition to all that there is below a lot of good stuff, including photos and links to news stories from the movie’s Sundance appearance, video featurettes and videos and streams of Twitter and Facebook updates.

There’s also a little game to play called “What is a Win Win?” You’re presented with a series of hypothetical situations and you have to decide when one represents a positive outcome for all parties involved.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Some significant online advertising was done, particularly on sites like IndieWire that appealed to independent film audiences. The ads I saw mainly used the poster key art with some including in-banner video from the trailer as well.

Media and Publicity

The movie likely first got on some people’s radars when it was mentioned as being one of the movies to watch (Los Angeles Times, 1/20/11) at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, where it was making its debut. Sundance-oriented coverage continued with profiles of director McCarthy (LAT, 1/22/11) and how he went about extracting performances from his actors, how this might be the latest in a string of artistic successes for McCarthy (LAT, 1/21/11) and other interviews with both McCarthy and Giamatti from the festival (Filmmaker Magazine, 1/24/11).

At Sundance it was one of a handful of movies that were about ordinary people trying to make due, partly by cutting corners and making compromises (LAT, 1/30/11) in order to stay ahead of the game. After that it continued working the festival scene by screening at SXSW 2011 (Filmmaker Magazine, 2/2/11) where it also fit into that event’s overall theme of loners and competitive sports (New York Times, 2/2/11).

It continued getting press after that, mostly still for how it continued McCarthy’s strong directorial career (LAT, 3/10/11).


As with most movies of this size it’s fate will likely be decided not by the strength of the marketing components but by the reach of the word-of-mouth that’s been built up for it. While the trailer, poster and all that work just fine the movie’s success will rest on people recommending the movie to others since the reach of the official marketing, which does not seem to include any mass-marketing advertising, isn’t likely to be that substantial.