What Morgan Spurlock Can Teach Us about Brand Sponsored Entertainment

Morgan Spurlock’s new documentary “Crafted” explores the worlds of Georgia knifemakers Bloodroot, San Francisco restaurant Bar Tartine, and Nagatini Pottery in Japan. By integrating age-old techniques with modern technology, these modern artisans are giving greater meaning to their wares.

Unlike many documentaries, the subject matter for “Crafted” originated with everyone’s favorite sophisticated sounding, faux European ice cream: Haagen-Dazs. As it happens, Haagen-Dazs was looking for an unique way to promote their new collection of artisan ice creams.

A Morgan Spurlock documentary seemed like the perfect vehicle to accomplish this.


The pitch to Morgan Spurlock was simple: “We want to make a movie about artisans.” From there Morgan responded with his vision for the film, and the rest is history. The 25 minute documentary made its world premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival and was released on Amazon Instant Video.

Following the screening of “Crafted,” there was a reception featuring both an open bar and an open ice cream parlor where you could sample Haagen-Dazs’ new offerings. Although this may seem like an oddball pairing, it turns out that Maker’s Mark and Haagen-Dazs are a match made in heaven!

Morgan Spurlock’s Brand Sponsored Entertainment

“Crafted” is not Morgan Spurlock’s first foray into the world of brand sponsored entertainment. In recent years he has also directed short films for GE and Toyota. In Morgan’s opinion, working for global brands is similar to working for studios.

Morgan Spurlock only has two rules. One, he doesn’t want to collaborate with a company that is “looking to shove brand messaging, identity and product down my throat.” And two, he won’t sign on to a project unless it’s a story that he wants to tell.

While “Crafted” is not an overt advertisement for Haagen-Dazs – There aren’t any direct references to the new artisan ice cream collection or any products lurking in the background of the film. The documentary at times feels a little-too-promotional. Nevertheless, “Crafted” is worth watching for foodies and filmmakers interested in exploring brand sponsored entertainment.

How To Leverage Brand Sponsored Entertainment

Given the fierce competition for filmmaking grants, some producers may be better served connecting with appropriate brands rather than playing the subsidy lottery.

For example, the Italian coffee maker Illy backed the documentary “A Small Section of the World” about a group of female entrepreneurs who run a sustainable coffee production business in a remote Costa Rican village.

And in the interest of full disclosure, my own documentary “The Rivalry: Red V. Blue” about the basketball war between the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky was sponsored by American razor giant Gillette.

In each of these cases, the brands help generate exposure and goodwill within their target markets by sponsoring interesting content, and the filmmakers were able to complete their docs and share them with the world.

5 Tips For Brand Sponsored Entertainment

1. Beef Up Your Social Media Following: Make sure to grow your facebook fans and twitter followers as your project develops. The larger your online community is, the more attractive your project will be to brands.

2. Identify Brand Managers: We attracted the attention of a Gillette brand manager during our Kickstarter campaign. He sent us a direct message on twitter, and the ball was officially rolling. Another good place to find brand managers is by searching LinkedIn. Brands love LinkedIn!

3. Embrace Your Inner Don Draper: After expressing interest in sponsoring our documentary, the brand manager connected us with Gillette’s advertising agency. The agency holds the purse strings and doles out the money, so get in good with them and always meet your deadlines.

4. Love Your Brand: Don’t get into bed with any brand that you would be ashamed to wake up next to. Gillette put a widget on our website, an advertising insert inside of our DVD, a logo before our trailer and a 30 second commercial that preceded our theatrical screenings. They even sent us a lifetime supply of razors. Actually, they didn’t really give us razors, but that would’ve been awesome!

5. Be Patient: Corporations are like small governments. Decisions take time to be made, and even after your deal is approved, the wire will be at least a month away depending on how they manage their books. Budget accordingly.

Although we might not all have the resume of Morgan Spurlock (or his agent at CAA), with the right idea (and timing) you may be able to partner with a big brand to finish your film and expand its audience. Just remember not to tattoo any logos to your forehead, at least until the check cashes!

Photo of author

ARTICLE BY Guest Blogger

This post was written by a guest filmmaker blogger. Please see more information about their bio in the post above. If you'd like to write a guest article for Filmmaking Stuff check out our Write for Filmmaking Stuff page for details about how YOU can share your ideas to the filmmaking community.