Sony's Cool Surfer Penguins Rack Up Hot Promo Deals

Sony Pictures Animation's second CGI release, "Surf's Up," has struck deals with McDonald's, Old Navy, ConAgra Foods, Baskin-Robbins and Safeway, among others, to promote the film--a documentary about surfing penguins--to the tune of $100 million in media spending.

Set for a June 8 release, "Surf's Up" follows teenage penguin Cody Maverick, voiced by teen actor Shia LaBeouf, as he leaves his family in Shiverpool, Antarctica, for Polynesian Pen Gu Island to compete in the Big Z Memorial Surf Off. Of course, he meets colorful animal characters along the way, voiced by actors Jon Heder, James Woods, Mario Cantone and Jeff Bridges, and learns character-building lessons about what it really means to win.

The climatic range of Cody's geographic journey allowed for weather-related promotional themes. Marine life park Sea World is branding the penguin exhibit at its San Diego location with the film.

In its first promotional partnership with a studio, Old Navy will be a licensee, using images on warm-weather gear like t-shirts and flip-flops for kids. The struggling Gap-owned chain also will do in-store, online and print promos for the film.

Baskin-Robbins will brand a sherbet flavor, Surf's Up Splish Splash, that will resemble a blue and white wave, consistent with the surf imagery prevalent in the film. It also will conduct a mobile tour to screen scenes from the film, as well as a contest called "Catch the Wave to Big Prizes" via two TV spots.

The McDonald's deal--its first with Sony--will include promotions at 32,000 McDonald's locations in 119 countries, as well as TV ads, in-store displays and Happy Meal tie-ins. The deal follows the expiration of McDonald's10-year exclusive promotional partnership with Disney.

Safeway will offer free movie tickets with a minimum purchase at 1,600 stores in June and July, and may re-up the campaign for the film's DVD release.

ConAgra is involving three of its brands--Act II popcorn, Crunch 'n Munch and Kid Cuisine--in its promotional efforts, putting movie art on packaging for each product line and creating and running a contest with 2,000 movie-related prizes.

Video game company Ubisoft, which partnered with Sony for the companion game for its first animated release, "Open Season," will also release the video game for "Surf's Up."

Penguins, animated and otherwise, are continuing a two-plus year, so-cool-they're hot streak, capped by dancing, singing penguin romp "Happy Feet's" Oscar win for Best Animated Feature at this year's Academy Awards. Penguin mania arguably began with 2005 Academy Award winner for Documentary Feature, "March of the Penguins," and their cute-ability factor had made them a natural for licensing and cross-promotions.