Coming off the success of its Super Bowl extravaganza, which saw the brewer bring together a collection of brands for a single, ridiculous purpose, Newcastle’s confidence had to be riding high. High enough to think its teamwork skills were ready to seamlessly integrate itself into an episode of The History Channel’s hit show Vikings.
They were wrong. Here we get a peek into the negotiations between the brand and the network, and things get awkward pretty fast. When the History Channel folks get squeamish about historical accuracy, the Newcastle guy excitedly suggests the vikings Floki and Ragnar become Todd and Brian, move to England, open a brewery and the show becomes a hilarious sitcom about good times with great friends called Norsin’ Around.
The product placement meeting in the spot, by agency Droga5, is obviously fake but it’s a real partnership between the brand and A&E, parent of The History Channel. Newcastle brand manager Brett Steen says A&E really liked some of the work the brand was doing, and as Vikings headed into its third season, saw an opportunity. “With both brands having a good social following, it seemed to make sense to leverage each other’s strengths,” says Steen.
They did it with a spoof of the worst kind of brand content, and if it all seems a bit too far-fetched then you obviously haven’t seen the Bud Light chugging, Chinese brands-inexplicably-in-America splendor of Transformers: Age of Extinction.
Steen says it’s absolutely a comment on marketers obsession with branded content and product placement. “Sometimes it’s done very well, but obviously often marketers are making sure the label is visible, the main character’s holding it, and all these things you want as a marketer to get noticed, but makes it obvious product placement and not a natural part of a scene,” says Steen. “So we thought what would be more bollocks than forcing product integration into a show that takes place when brands and logos don’t even exist?”
The partnership with A&E actually features a product as well–Newcastle Viking Ale, a draft-only beer that will be available in just 250 to 300 restaurants and bars across 10 states. It’s part of Newcastle’s collaboration series that started with Wil Wheaton’s Scotch Ale pitch.