The Rocky movies are part of the American mythos and, in fact, do a lot to reflect that mythos back to the audience. The original movie was all about a guy who worked hard, put in his time and rose from the rundown streets of Philadelphia to be a champion, the ultimate “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” kind of story. While that would get watered down a bit over the next couple movies before Rocky ended Communism in the fourth entry the core was still there: When you apply yourself and put your heart into your work you can accomplish great things.
Now Rocky is older (as are we all) so how does Hollywood continue the franchise? Not with his own son but with the son of Rocky’s best rival, friend and trainer, Apollo. So we have Creed. While Sylvester Stallone returns as Balboa, Michael B. Jordan joins as Adonis Creed, Apollo’s son, who now wants to take his shot at a boxing title. To help him he seeks out Rocky’s guidance as a trainer. But not only does he have to become a world-class fighter, Adonis has to embrace the history that comes with using his father’s name in the ring, particularly since he’s had a rough childhood and life to date. Not a reboot, not a remake, this is a true series sequel that picks up the same narrative through line as the previous six installments of the Rocky franchise while putting the focus on a younger character that may grow into his own on film.
The first poster is mainly focused on not only selling this as a new movie but also a passing of the torch from the legacy Rocky franchise to a new generation. So the poster shows Rocky and Adonis in the ring together, Rocky’s hands on Adonis’ shoulder as he’s in the middle of passing on some sort of advice or guidance. So that “passing the torch” idea is very literal here. Above the image we get the same theme in the tagline that we have in some of the trailers that were already out, which is “Your legacy is more than your name,” which is the central struggle of the title character.
A second version again puts both characters in or at least around the boxing ring, this time with Rocky on the side looking out as Adonis prepares in his corner to go out and meet his unseen opponent.
Stallone and Jordan were each featured solo on character posters.
What I’m calling the final poster has Jordan as Creed in black and white alone against a black background looking like he’s in the middle of a fight. Between the cast names and the title is the copy “Fight for your name,” which seems to be one of the predominant themes of the movie.
All the posters are pretty visually consistent and all work very well. The stark, simple nature of the design sells this as a no-frills drama, which is very much in line with the trailers as we’ll see. And all of them put the focus on the two main characters, which is a good thing.
The first 30 seconds of the initial trailer are focused solely on Adonis as he gets himself ready and pumps himself up before a fight. So we sweep in on his shoulders and back as he flexes, punches the wall and eventually walks out into the arena. Then we cut to him training in Philadelphia, including at a gym where some trainer is trying to talk some sense into him by calling out how tough his opponents will be and reminding him that his father died in the boxing ring. He’s determined, though, so through a series of quick cuts we see the rest of his life and hear from his narration just how committed he is.
What’s remarkable here is that the movie, while it *is* a sequel and the latest installment in a long-running franchise, is being sold here as an original story. Rocky doesn’t show up until 1:30 into the trailer and if you don’t automatically put together the name “Creed” with “Apollo” and tie it to the Rocky series this looks like a stand-alone film. That is a great approach since it allows fans of Jordan and others to approach this fresh, without being turned off by it being part of Rocky’s world. And it means the movie can be sold, at least initially, without the baggage of a film franchise that’s been going on for decades. This is a great trailer and a great approach to marketing it to a new generation of moviegoers.
The second trailer is, if anything, even better than the first. It shows everything that Creed is going to go through, from fights with his mother, struggles with his girlfriend, Rocky getting sick at some point and more. But the overall theme here is to, as the song that plays over it says repeatedly, “fight.”
Jordan shines in this trailer since it focuses very clearly on his journey through the story, from someone who’s just railing against anything to someone who embraces his father’s name and legacy as he prepares to enter the ring himself. It’s emotional and effective at showing that it’s not just an interesting character study but also a story that will put Rocky in the role once taken by Mickey in the first few movies, something that’s emphasized by the “catch a chicken” sequence at the very end. It’s great.
Online and Social
The official website, built on Tumblr, opens with a recreation of the teaser poster key art. At the top there’s a prompt to “Get Tickets” while in the lower left corner there are links to join the “#IFightFor” campaign (more on that below, watch the trailer or watch Future’s “Last Breath” video for the song from the movie.
If you click the “Tumblr” link in the menu you’re taken to the posts that have been made, including images, GIFs and more. There’s a section for “Fan Art” asks people for their submissions as part of a contest that was judged by Stallone and Jordan.
There are a half-dozen stills in the “Photos” section and both trailers along with a featurette can be found in “Videos.” “The Story” has a synopsis of the plot and “Cast & Crew” goes into the history of those in front of and behind the camera.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
TV advertising for the movie started a couple months out from release with a spot that cribbed a few beats from the two trailers. So we see Rocky meet Adonis, begin training him and such. We also see how Rocky gets sick at some point, so Stallone has more to do here than just give inspiring speeches.
There was so much TV advertising done the movie was the top ad spender about two weeks prior to release. Thanks to some Warner Bros. corporate synergy the movie got a big push during a TNT NBA broadcast that featured featurettes and ads for the film that were sprinkled in throughout the game
There was a tie-in mobile game, a version of the Real Boxing game that was skinned to include the characters from the film.
Media and Publicity
One of the first major pieces of publicity was this feature on Jordan (GQ, 9/15) where he talked about not just the movie but his career to date, his background, what kind of roles he’d like to take in the future and more. It’s a wide-ranging interview and shows Jordan to be every bit the rising talent he’s shown himself to be so far.
The director and stars would talk from time to time about the genesis of the movie and the approach they tried to take to revive the franchise in a way that paid respect to the legacy while also making it appealing to a new generation of fans. That would continue to be a theme of the publicity as Jordan and Coogler talked about how this was an opportunity in telling a new story that took the focus off of Rocky as well as Jordan’s film history, his training routine for the movie and more.
Despite the prostrations that Rocky is not the focal point of the story Stallone continued to be a major part of the publicity as he talked about how this movie deals with Rocky’s mortality and how he approached the character going into this new film.
Stallone, Jordan and Thompson made a press conference appearance at the iconic Philadelphia Museum of Art steps featured in the very first movie. Stallone and Coogler would later talk about what it was like to watch Jordan make the role his own through training and dedication.
This is a really good campaign. I love the fact that Jordan is such a big, important part of the campaign and hasn’t been pushed aside by Stallone as part of a pure nostalgia play by the studio. Not that Rocky isn’t still here in a big way, but it’s clear it’s not his story we’ll be following, it’s Creed’s. While that may not sit well with some longtime fans it will likely go a long way toward attracting a new generation of fans to an original movie featuring talent – both Jordan and Coogler – that are on their way up.
There’s also a great consistency to the campaign. I mentioned this when speaking about the posters and I think it’s true to all elements that there’s very little that’s flashy here. This is a street-level, character-driven campaign that’s designed to show this is a serious movie, not a flashy, over the top story. That too is going to prove very attractive to people who may need a bit of a more serious movie after so many years of films with their tongues in their cheeks. The posters and trailers all convey a stark, earnest drama that I’m hoping the movie itself delivers on.