WINNER

POM Wonderful

Sponsorship level: A cool million for title sponsorship

Upside: The California-based pomegranate juice company seems savvy and undaunted, thanks to the larger-than-life onscreen presence of owner Lynda Resnick

WINNER

POM Wonderful

Even More Upside: The movie doesn’t mention the FDA and FTC’s recent lawsuit against POM for making allegedly false health claims about the product. Spurlock says he figured the news would break as the movie’s coming out: “Amazing timing, isn’t it?”

POM’s takeaway: “[The movie] isn’t about the brands,” Resnick tells Fast Company. “It’s about making fun of the marketing people. Every time [Morgan would] pitch the movie to me, I’d scratch my head and say, ‘I don’t get it.’ But he couldn’t very well say, ‘Please be in my movie so I can make you look like an ass.’”

WINNER

Mane and Tail

Sponsorship level: Free

Upside: The filmmaker gets so much comedic mileage out of the horse and human shampoo (see Morgan shampoo his son and his pony in the same bathtub!) that he let the product be in unpaid. Giddy-up!

Mane and Tail’s Takeaway: Says Spurlock: “When they came to watch the film they went crazy, they were so excited with how they came off.”

WINNER
Mane and Tail + Morgan
WINNER

Amy’s Kitchen

Sponsorship level: No money; Amy’s is paying out its support in guerilla marketing and food. The “Buy This Pizza, Feed a Family” campaign will yield donations to Bay Area Hunger Network, a northern California food bank.

Upside: The organic frozen food company doesn’t advertise and is committed to connecting to consumers directly, as it will with this co-promotion.

Amy’s Kitchen’s Takeaway: Says marketing manager Michelle Erbs: “It felt right for us because we wanted the opportunity to talk about how hard it is to play in a world where advertising guides so much of people’s buying habits.” [or this quote might be more apt: “We didn’t give a million dollars and consequently we won’t get as much exposure, but that’s OK.”]

WINNER

Apple

Sponsorship Level: None.

Spurlock’s Takeaway: “Apple is all over the film, but Apple doesn’t pay to be in anything because everyone just uses it. But people will wonder, did Apple pay to be in the film and I’m not going to tell them whether they did or not.” (They did not.)

WINNER

Sheetz

Sponsorship Level: $100K, plus more at certain audience/exposure benchmarks. In-store cross-promotions will include GMES collector’s cups and, upon its release, the DVD for rent at Blockbuster kiosks.

Upside: The film’s most unlikely partner is a family-owned regional chain of gas station-convenience stores that gets points for its don’t-kid-a-kidder humor: “We have more in common with Morgan than you might think,” says Fred McConnell, director of brand management for Sheetz, which Spurlock grew up going to in West Virginia. “When you see [CEO] Stan Sheetz in there talking to him about ‘You’re gonna make us look stupid,’ I mean, that’s Stan!”

Fun Fact: Sheetz is based from both Hollywood and New York, but the company is no stranger to placement; it gives its products for free to NBC’s Scranton, PA.-set The Office.

WINNER

JetBlue

Sponsorship level: Undisclosed, presumably in the 300-400 thousand dollar range, for which they get an in-flight video made by and starring Spurlock himself

Upside: As Fiona Morrisson, JetBlue’s director of advertising and brand, says, Spurlock fits the airplane company’s five brand values: nice, fresh, smart, stylish and witty.

JetBlue’s Takeaway: “We’re not the kind of company that does the sort of ‘Up in the Air’ product placement,” says Morrisson, taking a barely-veiled dig at competitor American Airlines. “We don’t want to just be the plane in the background. We always look for opportunities to bring our personality to life and our brand to life. When I saw [TGMES], I thought, ‘It’s pretty damn good!’”

MIXED BAG

Ban Deodorant

Sponsorship Level: $50,000

Upside: When Spurlock is getting doors slammed in his face up and down Madison Avenue, Ban is the first product to say yes.

Downside: When he asks the brand’s marketing team on camera for words to describe their product, they are nearly speechless. “It’s almost like we’re watching a Ban commercial happen,” recounts Spurlock “‘Feeling nervous?!’”

MIXED BAG
Ban’s Takeaway: The Bristol-Myers-owned company issued this statement: “Ban decided to participate not only because we admire Morgan’s work as a filmmaker, but also as a way to show that we don’t take ourselves or the industry so seriously that we can’t have fun.” But not so much fun that they’ll get on the phone; no one at Ban would speak directly with Fast Company.
LOSERS

Google Chrome

Sponsorship Level: The browser had agreed to pay to be mentioned positively and had a stealth placement in early screenings of the film, but Spurlock reports that the company had second thoughts. “They just called and said someone higher up decided to kill it.”

Upside: The “Google Chrome is so fast!” throwaway line that Spurlock spoke in the film would have been a great, meta, did-they-or-didn’t-they-pay moment.

Downside: Spurlock is now pursuing a sponsorship from Mozilla.

Spurlock’s takeaway: “It would have been great to have gotten a couple more of those in the third act of the film.”

LOSERS

Volkswagen

Sponsorship Level: Refused to sign on, and did so via fax

Downside: VW’s cold rebuff of Spurlock stokes empathy for the dejected filmmaker and reflects poorly on the brand

The nail in the coffin: When Spurlock is gassing up his (sponsored) Mini Cooper at a Sheetz in the movie, he remarks, “I’m proud I’m not driving some piece of shit Volkswagen right now.” Cue conspiratorial audience laughter.

The Brands With Morgan Spurlock: How'd They Fare?

The products featured in Morgan Spurlock’s brand-driven documentary “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold” come off as likable personalities that can laugh at themselves—with one or two exceptions.

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