Selling self-discovery: 'Eat, Pray, Love' arrives amid product tie-ins

By Sandy Cohen
Friday, August 6, 2010; C07

LOS ANGELES -- Eat, pray, love, shop?

There are plenty of opportunities to plumb the depths of your pocketbook, if not your soul, when the film adaptation of the best-selling memoir hits theaters next week.

It used to be that kids' movies were the ones that got the big product tie-in treatment. There would be matching toys and maybe T-shirts, plus the inevitable Happy Meal or other fast-food connection.

Soon, though, stores will be flooded with all things "Eat, Pray, Love." Look for candles and moisturizing creams; jewelry, bookmarks and tote bags; a dedicated shop at Cost Plus World Markets featuring furniture, food and clothing inspired by the film; a branded digital reader pre-loaded with the book; a Republic of Tea blend; a line of designer clothing by Sue Wong; and a weekend special on HSN filled with products pegged to the movie, including prayer beads, scarves and hundreds of other items from the countries the story's main character visits during her quest for self.

"Eat, Pray, Love" follows its author, Elizabeth Gilbert, a magazine writer in her 30s who leaves an unsatisfying marriage and seeks to rediscover an excitement for life. She embarks on a year-long trip around the world, indulging in food and pleasure in Italy, experiencing prayer and devotion in India and aiming to balance the two on the Indonesian island of Bali. She does a lot of eating and a lot of praying during her journey, though not much shopping.

The book has sold millions of copies and been translated into dozens of languages. The film, which opens Aug. 13, is directed by "Glee's" Ryan Murphy and stars Julia Roberts, Javier Bardem, James Franco, Richard Jenkins and Billy Crudup.

Adapting such a popular book into a star-studded film makes it the ideal marketing opportunity for dozens of products, says Ryan Schinman, chief of Platinum Rye, an entertainment marketing company not working with "Eat, Pray, Love."

"Eat, Pray, Love" is a brand, he notes, so products that partner with the film become associated with a beloved book as well as the movie stars who tell the story on screen.

"It doesn't have to be a Marvel or Disney film to have different products," he says. "The entire point of these tie-ins is for brand awareness or to sell more product," and that applies both to the partnering brands and the film itself.

Another bonus is that each licensed product helps advertise the movie, potentially offsetting the studio's promotional costs. Plus, big-budget, highly anticipated films such as "Eat, Pray, Love" often come out during key shopping seasons, such as Christmas or back-to-school.

That's why such studio-brand partnerships are on the rise.

The "Twilight" films boast scores of associated items, including a cookbook, perfume, underwear, shower curtains, bedding, purses, jewelry, clothing, a Burger King connection and refillable aluminum bottles touting Team Edward or Team Jacob.

"Sex and the City 2" had its own branded vodka and jewelry. MAC cosmetics has joined forces with Disney, not for a particular film but to create distinct makeup collections linked with some of the studio's most popular villains.

Such partnerships work when the products and brands signing on as licensees have a natural connection to the movie or characters in question. Candles, journals and prayer beads make sense for "Eat, Pray, Love," Schinman says, noting that "there's no 'Eat, Pray, Love' phone or calculator."

Matching Skyy vodka with "Sex and the City" was an easy fit, and the company is "constantly looking at films that are an organic fit for the brand," says spokesman Dave Karraker. "You wouldn't see Skyy vodka in a historical, medieval movie," he says.

Instead, the company paired its product with a well-loved franchise that featured cocktails constantly, and brought associated promotions to thousands of bars and restaurants around the country and the world.

Meanwhile, creating a collection of "Eat, Pray, Love" jewelry, tote bags and bookmarks was "a totally natural fit" for Dogeared Jewels & Gifts, says founder Marcia Maizel-Clarke says. The company is known for its delicate jewelry that promotes good wishes and positive affirmations.

"We love being associated with something that's so powerful, like the journey of this woman who found out who she was," Maizel-Clarke says. "The brand awareness for us is going to be great."

Neither Disney nor MAC suffer from a lack of brand awareness, but the partnership between the companies stands to boost the bottom line. MAC has developed cosmetics with a whimsical, cartoon-character twist, and Disney will benefit from seeing its branded characters beautifully presented to an older, more sophisticated audience. The new collections will hit stores next month.

HSN developed 72 hours of programming (which begins airing Friday) to showcase its "Eat, Pray, Love"-related products. The network never aligned itself with a film before, but "this lines up with our core audience, which are women," says chief executive Mindy Grossman.

"It's really about finding the perfect marriages that work," Schinman says. "If you want to help sales and get more viewership, film is a terrific way to do it."

-- Associated Press

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