Underdog sports stories have made for some of the best movies of all time. Well…if not best, at least some of the most inspirational and memorable. The idea that someone can overcome the odds and achieve their dreams appeals to us all because too often we have some sort of goal we’ve been too cautious to strive for ourselves. So these stories either inspire us to go after them or at least make us think that hey, good for those people who have had their lives depicted on screen who worked so hard. Sometimes these stories are dead serious, sometimes they’re funnier, but they show us a life we aspire to but too often don’t pursue on our own.
The new movie Eddie the Eagle is just such a true and inspiring story. Michael “Eddie” Edwards harbored a dream of competing as a ski-jumper for the British team in the Olympics. With a profound lack of athletic ability, Edwards (played by Taron Egerton) didn’t take no for an answer, despite hearing that from every direction. To help him overcome his shortcomings he convinced Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman), a former jumper who left the sport years before under less than ideal circumstances. Despite Eddie’s irrational enthusiasm and Bronson’s concern Eddie is getting in over his head, the two team up to provide an inspirational angle to the 1988 Winter Olympics.
The movie only got one domestic theatrical poster but it manages to convey the spirit and tone of the story pretty effectively. Set against a blue sky with big fluffy clouds floating around, we see Egerton atop a van in his uniform and with skis on his feet looking like he’s ready to conquer the world. Jackman is driving that van, leaning out the window so we can see him more effectively. The title treatment takes up most of the one-sheet’s real estate in big, bold letters. In the middle of the title is the note that it comes from the producers of Kingsman: The Secret Service and down below, next to Egerton, is the promise to the audience that the movie is “Inspired by a dream come true.”
The inclusion of the note about this coming from the producers of Kingsman seems a bit odd. While that was an unexpectedly popular movie it’s also very, very different tonally from this one; A dark violent comedy compared to an inspirational family-friendly true story.
I also want to dissect the copt point a bit. “inspired by” is the usual fuzzy language that allows the story to be “true” while not being entirely accurate, even if it stays close to the spirit of the source material and incidents. The second part, “…by a dream come true” is worded in such a way as to tell the potential audience that yes, this does have a happy ending of some sort. These kind of movies usually do but this makes it clear that yes, Eddie achieves whatever it is he’s striving for. So more than usual, even, this sells a movie that’s sure to have you leaving the theater smiling.
Shortly after it made its festival debut the first trailer was released and it’s kind of great. We quickly meet Eddie as a young kid with aspirations to be a great athlete, something almost no one believes he can do. Flash forward to his adult years and he meets Bronson, a disgraced skier who Eddie seeks out for advice and coaching. After seeing Eddie is not going to give up Bronson agrees to really help him and the rest of the trailer is devoted to training montages and other inspirational moments.
Like I said, it’s kind of great. While the trailer sells this as a mainstream feel-good movie I’m guessing there’s a slightly more subversive sense of humor underneath that coat of paint. Jackman and Egerton look great, though, and this trailer is very appealing.
A second trailer was released just a few days after the first. This one spent a bit more time on Eddie’s youth, including the physical disabilities he’s overcoming. A lot of the same beats are hit until we see that even after he gets toward his goal of being an Olympic jumper the powers conspire against him, forces that he refuses to let keep him down.
It’s maybe a tad more effect than the first one because it hits more emotional notes. But the sense of humor and heart of the movie stills shines through, and of anything those two things are going to sell this to audiences.
Online and Social
The movie’s official website starts with a banner that takes the key art but adds different copy, this time using “Two underdogs, one dream” to tell us that it’s not just Eddie’s story we’re following but Bronson’s as well. Because you don’t cast Hugh Jackman and then give him nothing to do but react to the other guy. At the bottom of that banner are buttons to watch the trailer again or visit the movie’s Facebook or Twitter profiles.
The trailer is down the page in the first section after one devoted to getting you to buy tickets now. Also there are big buttons encouraging you to share the trailer on Facebook, Twitter or Google+. The “About” section has a synopsis along with cast and crew credits.
Then there’s a prompt to sign up for email updates or sign in on the page with your Facebook account to get those updates. After that are a couple downloads, first the poster and then a gallery of just three images.
The “Featured Content” section has a few features that take you off-site. #iknitforeddie is a Tumblr blog devoted to a campaign to solicit user-generated hat patterns with the one that gets the most likes and reblogs being the winner and that person getting a movie-themed prize. Interestingly there’s no gallery of submissions to date on the site, but there is one on Facebook where Reblogs isn’t really a thing. So…yeah, I’m a bit confused. Then the Eddie Sweater Generator is a fun little tool that encourages you to create a custom sweater showing off some relationship you have with another person (e.g. “I’m Eddie’s Mom) and share the finished product, including your choice of sweater color and background pattern, to social networks. I’m assuming this is a nod to something from the movie since it’s super specific.
Finally, “Social Updates” just brings in a collection of Tweets from the movie’s official account.
The film’s Twitter account is mainly concerned with pumping up the inspirational factor and selling the movie as a feel-good must-see for the audience. There are lots of go-get-’em graphics and GIFs that have been shared on the account along with RTs of fans who were either excited about seeing an early preview screening or who had just come from that screening and were feeling pretty good about it. The profile obviously shares the official marketing material like trailers, TV spots and more and gets into some other fan engagement, specifically in the form of video answers from Egerton and Jackman to fan questions as part of a Twitter Q&A just last week. The Facebook page has the same collection of inspirational graphics and videos along with other marketing assets.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
The movie was lucky enough to receive a Super Bowl ad slot as the studio obviously tried to go for the sports tie-in. The spot featured testimonials from Drew Brees and other athletes talking about the inspirational nature of the story, reinforcing that connection.
Nothing on the cross-promotional front that is on the site or that I could otherwise find, which is a bit surprising since this is just the kind of movie I would expect to have something along these lines. What consumer packaged good company wouldn’t want to latch on to an inspirational true story?
Media and Publicity
The movie debuted at 2015’s Butt-Numb-a-Thon, where it garnered a lot of positive buzz for the story and performances. That buzz continued shortly after BNAT with the release of the first official still from the film. More word-of-mouth was generated when it turned out to be the surprise movie screened at Sundance out of competition.
During the press junket Ryan Reynolds, who was still promoting Deadpool at the time dropped in to give his buddy Jackman a hard time, making jokes about Wolverine, Australia and more.
Outside of that there wasn’t a whole lot on the press front. The release of various marketing materials created coverage bumps and there was some revisiting of the true story that inspired the movie to familiarize people with the real Eddie. And a few outlets noted this was the second Olympics-related movie in as many weeks, with Race coming out last week and taking place largely in and around the 1936 games.
There’s nothing overtly or especially notable about the campaign Fox has put together here. It’s good and hits many of the beats one would expect for an inspirational true story like this but it never, if you’ll excuse the expression, soars in any way. It understandably relies on the charm of Jackman and the idea that we’ll find Eddie’s story to be personal and meaningful to us but never does all that much to reinforce that in a substantial way. Particularly missing from the campaign, I feel, is any real nod toward the actual events. Where’s the spotlighting of actual footage of Eddie competing or pics of the real athlete and coach for us to explore along with a history of the ‘88 Olympics? That would have done more, I think, to create a real emotional connection in the audience than repeated GIFs or a TV spot starring Drew Brees.
Which is not to say this is a bad campaign. Again, it hits all the expected spots and is both consistent across elements and leads with its heart, something that will likely draw in at least a few people in the audience who, it’s hoped, will turn around and talk about it with their friends. It looks humorous and charming and sells a movie with its emotions out there on its sleeve. As I said, Jackman looks like he’s giving his performance his all and is going to likely be the big draw with people who aren’t familiar with Egerton. If you enjoy – or at least don’t mind – movies that make you feel it’s getting a little dusty in the theater this may be a good choice for you.