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THE MORNING BUZZ: Race Sponsorship Extends Lifespan of <I>Fast and Furious</I>

11 Apr, 2002 By: Kurt Indvik

With each passing year a typical movie's theatrical lifespan is shrinking as studios load up their marketing blitzes for opening weekends and theater operators move the latest hits in and out at a dizzying pace after the marketing support slumps. The home video rental business window of opportunity has also shrunk from months to perhaps six weeks or so, thanks to day-and-date release of DVD at sellthrough prices. But the collectible nature of DVDs (and the multiple editions that appear over time) is extending the lifespan of home video titles, especially hit movies. If you can couple that with some unique related marketing efforts, you can create an almost year-round sellthrough effort on major titles, and even years-long sales efforts on sequel films.

Of course Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings are the obvious examples here, but mega brands can now be created on the back of DVDs from titles that, seemingly, didn't have the potential for that in pre-DVD days. This struck me as I read through a recent announcement heralding the multiyear sponsorship between Universal Studios Consumer Products Group and NOPI (Number One Parts, Inc.) to sponsor the NOPI The Fast and The Furious Racing Series, which begins May 11 and runs to Oct. 19. I mean, talk about your shelf life. There's a big dose of it right there for Universal. We're talking about a sponsorship that ends 10 months after the original home video streeted for sale, and they'll still be pushing the home video. (And, of course more importantly, The Fast and The Furious brand, but more on that in a moment). Of course Universal will take advantage of this with a May 25 release of a special edition VHS of the home video that includes some of the bonus materials included in the original "collectors edition" of the DVD released Jan. 2. On that same date Universal Studios Home Video will also re-release the original DVD, though no details of that were available at press time.

The length of the actual deal with Universal and NOPI could not be confirmed, but assuming it's at least two years, the obvious question I had was…will it be known as the NOPI The Fast and the Furious Racing Series next year as well? That could also not be confirmed by press time, but I would guess the answer to be yes. There is a sequel planned for the surprise $145 million box office hit, though production has yet to begin and there is no announced theatrical target date. And, of course, there is always the followup home video release after that. Think about this from the studios' standpoint. I can't say what they were anticipating for The Fast and the Furious when it made its theatrical debut, but what they may have expected to be a modest teen flick success they now have a two-year, year-round (or more, dare we expect) theatrical/home video franchise! And this drag race series sponsorship is a major commitment to that franchise.

But there's more! Microsoft's Xbox has signed on as the series' season-long sponsor. Hmmm. Racers will battle for the Xbox Cup, awarded at the end of the season to the top-points getter. According to the announcement, Microsoft will also market its Rallisports Challenge and Project Gotham Racing Xbox titles at each of the venues. However, there is word of a video game in development for The Fast and The Furious that will be announced this June.

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