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Are the products of different famous brands like 'Converse', 'Nike', 'Diesel', 'Calvin klein' (to name a few), be it shoes or clothes, worn by the stars in Hollywood movies part of advertisement. Does the company pay them to wear them or it is just the will of the costume director and has nothing to do with promotions?

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Just a disclaimer, I'm not a lawyer or branding expert, please don't use this as advice for how to use logos in your project. If I've misstated anything here, please comment and I'll fix it!

Often, when someone wears a recognizable brand in a movie or TV show, it is part of product placement. It's generally very popular for brands to use this form of advertising because it can be extremely lucrative. If someone relates to a character, they may choose to mimic the character's choices, including what they wear, eat, drink, or what car they drive.

Sometimes they're obvious and overdone, sometimes they're hidden:

I will say, this video is a bit deceptive... according to the Snopes article, Hershey's didn't actually pay $1 million to have Reese's appear in ET...

Hershey did not pay to have Reese's Pieces used in E.T., but it did agree to do a tie-in between the movie and the candy after the film was released. A deal was inked wherein Hershey Foods agreed to promote E.T. with $1 million of advertising; in return, Hershey could use E.T. in its own ads.

And on that note, it's clear that the owner of the brand doesn't always pay to have their brand appear.

Occasionally, the person who writes the show wants to use a particular brand because they really love it or they think it fits the characters... in this case, they may ask for permission to use the product/logo and, if the brand is comfortable with how it will be used and don't feel it hurts their brand image, they may give permission.

For example, Apple is well known for not paying cash for product placement, though they apparently may give you the product for free... Which sort of counts as paying for it but, when you compare the cost to Apple of a few iPhones/iPads or MacBookPros and the amount some companies pay ($45 Million by Heineken?), this is tiny.


So, you may ask, "Could someone just not ask to use a brand?"

The answer is, it depends.

As someone who works in Indie film, I can tell you that much effort is made to avoid logos. Usually this means buying items that don't have brand logos, and, for items that do have them, removing them or covering them up with black electrical tape, marker, stickers... etc so that you've disguised or completely obscured the logo (this is called greeking).

The last thing you want is to negatively affect a brand. For example:

A character drinks a beer in your movie, out of a Budweiser can. Later, they go out for a drive, get in a car accident and kill someone.

Budweiser would sue you blind for this. No alcoholic beverage company ever wants to be associated with car accidents. But, no logos, no problems. Remove the label (or replace it with a fake one), cover the logo, or put the beer in a plain pint glass and have fun with your drunk driving story.

So, could you get away with it if it wasn't negative?

Again, it depends. The bigger your film/TV show is, the more likely the answer is no.

You would think that any brand would love free advertising. Unfortunately, if they don't protect their branding/logos, it can actually negatively affect their ability to successfully sue people who are misusing their logo. It has an effect similar to uncontrolled licensing.

  • If someone knows the correct term for a company failing to protect their brand from unlicensed use, please let me know! – Catija Feb 20 '15 at 20:50
  • I seem to recall rumors that Cliffhanger was sued by Black Diamond over the harness/buckle failure at the start of the movie and that wasn't even conspicuously branded as Black Diamond gear in the movie. – Erik Feb 19 '16 at 21:16

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