Product placement in films has become a new and clever way of advertising in the entertainment industry. There are risks that come with this tactic, though, and it doesn’t always work out the way it was planned. Jerry Maguire is a 1996 romantic comedy sports film in which we see product placement go wrong. Being a film about athletes and their endorsements, there is bound to be product placement. In one scene, the character of Rod Tidwell asks, “Where are my endorsements? No love from Chevy…No love from Pepsi… I ain’t getting no love from Nike,” (Sharp, 2010). This line doesn’t necessarily help the brands or the film because he is claiming that there is no positive interaction between the two. But perhaps the most obvious and controversial product placement is Reebok, an athletic apparel and footwear brand.
Reebok wasn’t very successful throughout the 1990s, so in 1996 – the same year that Jerry Maguire was released – they pegged their first endorsement with Allen Iverson (Ellis, 2013). Then, they actively pursued a partnership with the film to grow their products’ popularity through another medium. Reebok spent $1.5 million on merchandise, promotional support, and had a contract that agreed to put a commercial starring the character of Rod at the end. If you watch the film, though, you would think that it was written by one of their competitors. Throughout the entire film, Rod Tidwell holds a grudge to the brand for ignoring his talents and not giving him an endorsement deal (Segrave, 2004). At one point he even says, “You know I ain’t getting any love from Reebok. You know what, [screw] Reebok!” This is quite the opposite of what Reebok paid for and was hoping to get from being involved with the film. At the end of the movie, Reebok was going to redeem themselves – in the plot and in reality – by finally giving Rod an endorsement and his own commercial. In this commercial Reebok was supposed to apologize for overlooking Rod, stating, “Rod Tidwell. We didn't notice you for four seasons. We’re sorry.” It ended up being cut from the film, which Reebok claimed was a breach in their agreement. A lawsuit ensued and Reebok sought $10 million in damages from TriStar for leaving them with only derogatory and negative perceptions from the audience. The two companies reached a settlement of an undisclosed amount the day before the trial was to begin (Segrave, 2004). In addition to the apparent dislike of Reebok, the audience never even sees its logo, which makes it difficult to connect an image to the name outside of the film.
Considering that Reebok was trying to gain popularity at the time that Jerry Maguire came out and invested in the film in order to achieve that, it doesn’t do much to aid that goal. Overall, the film did not help present the brand in a very positive light. But the film did not have any benefit or disadvantage to including Reebok, in my opinion. Since the brand was up and coming, it was using the film to gain audience attention rather than the film needing the brand. Therefore, I would give the movie a 2.5-star rating in terms of product placement. My reasons for the missing stars include the negative portrayal of the Reebok brand and the elimination of the commercial that was intended to save their name after being bashed the entire film. Jerry Maguire does the exact opposite of benefitting the brand, thus making this the perfect example of a product placement that went very wrong.