Startups & Private Equity Buy Hollywood Branding, From ‘Avatar’ Transmedia Marketers

on December 30 2013 9:19 AM
A man dressed as a character from the movie Avatar takes part in the "Moto Halloween Party 2010" in Cali
A man dressed as a character from the movie "Avatar" takes part in the Moto Halloween Party 2010 in California. Reuters

Consumer private equity business Raptor Consumer Partners is betting that Hollywood marketers can help boost the profile of its startups, partly by adopting a technique known as "transmedia" marketing.

Transmedia marketing develops brands across platforms, including the Web, social media and traditional ad channels, by creating an internal narrative universe and consistent but independent characters. Starlight Runner Entertainment did this for several blockbuster movies, including "Avatar," "Pirates of the Caribbean" and the "Transformers," and said in late October it would do the same for three startups under the Raptor portfolio.

With the film franchises, Starlight worked on books, comics and video games, building brand mythology and extending the narrative universe from the film alone. Starlight also did this for Microsoft Corporation’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) video game hit Halo.

Raptor will likely pay a hefty price for the privilege, though. Starlight CEO Jeff Gomez told IBTimes that the company typically quotes clients from the hundreds of thousands to more than $1 million for short-term marketing campaigns, though it can be “significantly higher” for engagements lasting longer than a year.

Gomez said Raptor’s tab lands within the six-figure range, a small share of its overall fund dedicated to acquisitions, but said this represented a “substantial” discount from the Hollywood-project prices.

Starlight sometimes even receives equity in the creative and intellectual properties it helps develop, though Gomez declined to provide further details. He said Starlight takes equity interests more frequently in startups and young companies.

There’s already been evidence that this transmedia technique is yielding significant returns,” Gomez told IBTimes. The success and buzz around his transmedia work, which took off slowly in the past decade, has allowed Gomez to demand steadily higher quotes from clients.

The Raptor companies to which Gomez will lend his touch include Unreal Brands Inc., which sells "unjunk" candy – those free of genetically modified ingredients, corn syrup, and other artificial ingredients. Epic obstacle course Spartan Race, associated with Reebok, is another client.

“Entrepreneurial startups, or very young companies, have a great need to tell their story, to make their way through the chaos,” Gomez told IBTimes. “Who better to do that than people who have been doing it for a decade in Hollywood?”

Raptor’s parent fund, Raptor Capital Management LP, maintained equity holdings of $181 million, according to its latest regulatory filings, with much held in shares of corporate America. Its consumer equity fund launched in 2011 with $100 million, according to filings.

Raptor founder James Pallotta has fallen from heady heights recently, though, with his hedge fund falling steeply in assets managed around the time of the financial crisis, from a peak of $11 billion, according to Hedge Fund Letters. It eventually closed.

Starlight's Gomez will also teach transmedia at a recently launched Brooklyn film and media hub backed by the New York City government.

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