By Jane Witherspoon and Michael Roddy
LONDON (Reuters) - James Bond is back, and companies such as Omega watches, Gillette shavers and Belvedere vodka have paid undisclosed sums for product tie-ins with "Spectre" in sponsorships that one marketing specialist says are cinema's version of the Olympics.
Being a sponsor allows companies to show Bond-themed adverts, as both Gillette and Heineken are doing, or to mount lavish drinks parties -- featuring Belvedere martinis, as the spirits company plans for Tuesday night to celebrate the film's British premiere on Monday. It has its U.S. launch on Nov. 6.
"We can't disclose the actual cost of the franchise but we do invest significantly," David Lette, premium brands director for Heineken UK, told Reuters, adding that both Bond and Heineken beer have "global appeal".
For Gillette, the Bond sponsorship is new with this film, but Kara Buckley, associate director of communications for grooming products at Procter & Gamble, Gillette's owner, said it was a way to diversify from sports promotions.
"We found that film is another great way to connect with guys, particularly younger guys," she told Reuters at a "Spectre" product tie-in party in London.
Jacques de Cock, a marketing consultant and lecturer at the London School of Marketing, said the half-century-old Bond franchise is cinema's marketing equivalent of the Olympics, even if the sponsorship money for the Games is in the billions of dollars, while the Bond money is in the tens of millions.
"The marketing and co-marketing of the Olympics is close in terms of branding -- in terms of revenue, no," de Cock told Reuters. He estimates Bond movies have earned some 11 billion pounds ($16.90 billion) - in 2015 prices - at the box office, and another $4-5 billion from marketing since "Dr. No" in 1962.
Although figures are not divulged, he said the marketing and promotional activities associated with a modern Bond movie could run to 150-200 million pounds, or roughly the cost of making it.
"I looked at 'Star Wars', I looked at 'Harry Potter', they actually make more per movie, but they are only seven or eight movies long in terms of franchises. It's the longevity and depth combined that make Bond unique," he said.
But not everyone who benefits pays to be seen in, or associated with, Bond. The green dress and hexagonal earrings that Lea Seydoux wears to an intimate dinner with Daniel Craig's Bond on a luxury train, have been plastered on billboards and buses across London -- without anyone paying for sponsorship.
"We're all just kind of gobsmacked about the whole thing," said a delighted Sameera Azeem, head designer for British-based Ghost, which produced the 225-pound ($345) slinky "Salma" dress that the French actress Seydoux wears to the dinner that ends abruptly when a would-be assassin pounces on Bond.
The dress, and the pair of "DiamonDust" earrings Seydoux wears, produced by the London-based jewelry firm Daniel Deyong, were simply bought from shops by costume designers for the film, both firms said.
"I would have liked nothing more than a celebrity to wear my jewelry, it's been my dream," Emma Ben-Yair, director of David Deyong, said. "This has been really something because it's global."
(Reporting by Jane Witherspoon and Michael Roddy; Writing by Michael Roddy; Editing by Alison Williams)