50 Shades of Brand Tie-Ins

It’s the newsjacking event of 2015 - the much-anticipated launch of the first 50 Shades of Grey film adaptation.

We in Northern Ireland are clearly more excited than the rest of the world (if that’s possible) because leading man Jamie Dornan hails from our shores. We’re so excited in fact, that cinemas across our capital city have increased screenings from the usual eight to a staggering 22 by dropping less popular films on the night of the film launch.

This is clearly one newsjacking opportunity not to be missed.

E. L. James had her head screwed on when she signed over the rights to her best-selling erotic trilogy by ensuring she endorsed official merchandise including a Tesco lingerie line, bespoke jewellery and, of course, sex toys.

But that hasn’t stopped others wanting to join in the shenanigans. As with all these global talking points, some brands ride that bandwagon like a real-life cowboy! While others fall off, left behind in a muddy puddle of (at best) public embarrassment, (at worst) public backlash.

The PR stunt gaining most exposure currently is the “leaked memo” to B&Q staff advising them to prepare for hoards of customers looking to buy ropes and such like. Leaked memo indeed…

Anyway with launch day/Valentine’s Day fast approaching I’ve compiled a few examples from across the interwebs of #50ShadesOfGrey brand tie-ins. I’ll leave the deliberating on their success or otherwise in your hands.

We’ll start with the obvious. Duct tape. Available at B&Q no less:

Protected sex, i.e. condoms as both Durex and Trojan get in on the act:

Things that are grey… Like Earl Grey:

We’ll move on to the less obvious, but still clever tie-ins. These involve things to do with romance or feeling “sexy” in general, like wine:

Recipes for a romantic dinner, perhaps:

Aha! Bedding:


Manicured nails (we’re stretching the limits now, I know):

But we haven’t stretched them too far! There’s still room for a spicy pizza:

A LEGO movie trailer:

How about just promoting everything that’s grey on your social media:

And then people start to get a bit carried away with themselves. This is where the loose connection for brands becomes a problem - as it did for Surf Laundry Detergent - for whom a petition was created asking the parent company Unilever to pull support for a movie which was argued to “condone violence against women.” Yikes:

Or the brewery who faced an online backlash when their press release seemingly flew in the face of advertising standards by claiming their beer possessed “performance-enhancing” powers akin to a little blue tablet:

The teddy bear that just plain freaked everyone out:

And the baby clothing. Well, that escalated quickly:

Personally I want to send a virtual high-five to local company Kaizen Print with their adshell poster which is a great tie-in because it’s humorous, easily identifiable, and relevant to their business, gaining them great brand traction across social media: