Marketing a feature film that’s based on a TV show comes with a major advantage: Audiences are already familiar with the concept and the characters. It also comes with a major disadvantage: People might figure they can give the movie a miss, since they already watch the characters for free on TV.
To work around the latter, Nickelodeon Movies and Paramount Pictures wanted to position The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water as a must-see event, featuring everything audiences—primarily kids 6 to 13 years old—love about the TV series but bigger and better. In one way, the new film made this easy, as it depicted the animated characters as 3D superheroes.
In the run-up to the February 6, 2014, release date, Nickelodeon emphasized the difference in creative between TV SpongeBob and film Spongebob with “The Evolution of SpongeBob.” Airing on the Nickelodeon network, it drove viewers to a microsite that served as a hub for movie information, custom games, videos, photo galleries, and more.
Paramount also spearheaded the “Day of Positivity” on January 5, which is generally considered the most miserable day of the year, as the excitement of the holidays give way to a return to the daily grind. SpongeBob is known for his unadulterated optimism (“What’s better than serving up smiles?”), so this proved a perfect occasion to feature interstitials on Nickelodeon in which SpongeBob illustrated humorous tips on staying positive. On social media SpongeBob and his best friend, Patrick, tweeted positive messages from their official Twitter accounts, and Nick.com featured a homepage takeover complete with a “positivity button” offering messages from SpongeBob in his superhero movie form.
“Global SpongeBob,” showcasing clips of the character dubbed in multiple languages for markets around the world, aired closer to the premiere date, as did “Movie Tips,” featuring custom 3D animation of SpongeBob and Patrick inside a live-action movie theater giving advice on how best to watch the upcoming film in theaters. During the week of the film’s release, Nickelodeon prominently featured creative on its network and website promoting the movie as worthy of “Nickelodeon’s Orange Carpet,” a brand seal of approval.
The microsite alone generated 1.9 million page views and 5 million game plays. But most important, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water. outperformed box-office expectation by 60%, with a $56 million domestic opening weekend, up 75% from the opening weekend of The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie in 2014.