Sully’s Marriott Madness
Product placement is when a company pays to have their product shown in a film as a form of advertisement. This occurs in every movie and often may not even be noticed by the viewer. In other films, however, product placement is painfully obvious. In Sully, directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Tom Hanks, there are at least five scenes that open with shots of Marriott brand products, most often the Marriott Hotels sign. This product placement is discussed in a behind the scenes video produced by Marriott Hotels, both helps and hurts the film, and can be analyzed using the three appeals.
There is a video on YouTube produced by Marriott Hotels that talks about the making of Sully, its authenticity, and the role that the hotel played in the movie. This video reveals that when making the film, Clint Eastwood wanted to keep every detail of the movie as close to the real-life story as possible. This included filming in New York, consulting Captain Chelsey “Sully” Sullenberger, and using Marriott hotels. Captain Sullenberger told Clint that after the incident and during the trial, they stayed at a Marriott in New York. Because of this, the same hotel was used in the move. This was made obvious and as many as five scenes open with the signs at the front or side of the hotel. In one of these scenes it is dark outside and the Marriott sign is well lit, which suggests that the halo effect is being used. Louis Giannetti addressed this technique in Understanding Movies by stating, “When a face is obviously lighted from above, a certain angelic quality, known as the halo effect” (Giannetti, 21). For Sully, it is not a face that is "haloed," but instead the hotel signs. The Marriott brand is also highlighted often through the staff at the hotel and the items in the rooms. This product placement was needed for authenticity, but perhaps to apparent in the movie.
An argument can be made that the product placement was too blatant and that Marriott Hotels were highlighted much more than needed. Movie Critic Mark Howson wrote a review of the Sully (https://markhowson.co.uk/sully-the-movie-marriott-ruined-b5896404fffb#.jv8cwbpuh) in which he lists the things he hoped to take away from the movie and what actually he learned. Some examples of what he took away are “Marriott’s new logo from is magically emblazoned on every hotel…” and “Marriott’s managers work in the middle of the night, and are happy to give airline pilot heroes the whole hotel…”. Howson does admit that he travels for about a third of the year so this product placement may be more apparent to him, but nonetheless it is hard to miss. Another argument can be made that the amount product placement in Sully was great and built the credibility of the film. To make the story authentic, the hotel needed to be frequently shown. Also, since Sully stayed at the Marriott, it would have been hard to make the movie without the actual hotel being frequently seen. Many scenes with important dialogue take place from Captain Sully’s room in the hotel and the lobby. The product placement in Sully can also be analyzed using the three appeals: ethos, logos, and pathos.
Below are images from the movie Sully
The product placement in Sully establishes credibility by using a well-known hotel like Marriott, thus establishing an ethos connection. The credibility of the film is also strengthened by using the hotel Captain Sully stayed in. This builds both ethos and logos for the film. For pathos, an argument can be made that someone has good memories or an emotional connection to Marriott hotels and connects with the movie through its product placement. Emotional conversations between Sully and his wife are also made from the Captain’s room, which helps to build pathos as well. By analyzing product placement through the lens of the appeals, it almost strengthens the movie.
This clip almost seems a bit cheesy. It’s like Marriott is going out of its way to show they appreciate what Sully did and that their staff is great, attentive, and affectionate. The scene starts off good and it is clear that they are in a Marriott hotel and that the staff is there for him. As the scene progresses, the product placement begins to feel more awkward and forced. This is just one example of the blatant product placement in this film.
Most critics say that the product placement in Sully hurts the film. I think that it may be a bit over the top, but is not overly harmful. Because of this, I give Sully a 2.5-nacho rating.