When you walk through a grocery store do you ever come across an item that gives you a food association? You know what I mean, like when you see Peeps and think about the Easter Bunny, or a can of cranberry sauce and all of a sudden you smell the turkey cooking in your grandma’s oven for Thanksgiving. Well for me, when I see a blue can of Planters’ honey roasted peanuts I think back to my childhood, and the Sundays when my father and uncles would sit around the TV watching the Nascar races and eating these peanuts (they were of that variety of food in my house, saved for very special occasions and we children were never allowed to eat them…and by special occasion, yes, I do mean Nascar).

To me those peanuts could very well represent Nascar, although I am not quite sure if it’s even a sponsor (Hey Planters people, you should look into that!). As any person who has ever seen a Nascar car, or even the driver’s suit, knows, Nascar is a sport that relies heavily on endorsements and corporate sponsorship, each car is outfitted with a primary sponsor and smaller brands covering the rest of the car. When comedic actor Will Ferrell wrote and starred in the 2006 movie Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, it seemed more than likely that the movie would spoof Nascar’s reliability on brand sponsors, and boy did it ever! 

I recently re-watched this movie when I was home for a weekend (I couldn’t take the DVD to school with me for fear of upsetting my father, it combines two of his favorite things Nascar and Will Ferrell movies) and decided to put my advertising major skills to the test and spot the product placements throughout the film.

In short, Talladega Nights is about winning Nascar driver Ricky Bobby (Will Ferrell) who is attempting to get back into the driver’s seat following an accident on the track, where his car crashed after trying to beat his French opponent Girard (played by Borat actor Sacha Baron Cohen), which then set him on fire.

The three largest products to be seen in the movie are the cars themselves, which are in Nascar fashion decorated with the primary sponsors logo. For Ricky Bobby, this is Wonder Bread, with the blue and red coloring of the bread packaging being displayed on the car’s hood as well as Bobby’s racing suit. Bobby’s teammate and best friend, Cal Naughton Jr. (who then becomes his ex-friend after stealing Ricky’s wife) is sponsored by Old Spice deodorant, and his enemy Girard is sponsored by none other than the French water Perrier. These Nascar sponsors are so bold and in-your-face that would be hard to forget the images of these products’ logos, long after the movie has ended.

One of the best scenes of the movie occurs at the beginning, at the height of Ricky Bobby’s career. His wife Carley yells up the stairs for the family to come down for a dinner she has “slaved over for hours”, the camera pans out and we see the dining room table covered in KFC, Domino’s, Taco Bell, Country Crock butter, and of course Wonder Bread. The drinks that appear on the table Budweiser, Coca-Cola, and Powerade are shown again in different situations through out the movie, with Coke being the only soda cups you see in the film and Budweiser signs plastered all over the bar. As the Bobby family sits down to enjoy their “home-cooked” meal, Ricky leads a prayer of grace which includes him naming all the brands seen before him and he concludes by thanking Jesus and Powerade…stating that that he must mention Powerade at each grace because of his sponsorship contract.

Following his product-full grace Ricky and Cal do their handshake which concludes with them yelling the words “Shake n’ Bake.” Although Kraft’s box of bread crumbs does not actually appear anywhere within the movie, the “Shake n’ Bake” became one of the most well-known quotes from the film, which is basically just continuous free advertising for the company, because when someone thinks of Talladega Nights, they then think of Shake n’ Bake.

Perhaps the finest product placement plug throughout the entire movie is for the restaurant chain Applebee’s. One entire scene occurs at an Applebee’s with Ricky and his family sitting in one of their red booths talking about how they are “Eatin’ good in the neighborhood” which I am sure many will recognize as Applebee’s tagline. Later on in the film, in about the last 15 minutes of the movie, Bobby and Girard crash on the speedway in what the announcers for the race claim is one of the longest car accidents they have ever seen. So long in fact that they decided to go to a commercial break and Boom!, an entire 20-second Applebee’s commercial appears on the screen.

There are so many instances through out this movie of blatant product placement that it almost became hard to catch every brand shown, thankfully there are people out there who actually counted for me! Overall though I would have to say that Talladega Nights’ most successful use of shameless product placement is Nascar itself and the different races that make up the sport’s championship, hey one of Nascar’s speedways is the name of the movie! If that isn’t good advertising then what is?!

Watching movies and TV shows I have often found that product placement is one of the must un-subtle, easiest ways for a company to receive advertising, sometimes I even make a game out of trying to spot brands placed strategically in the shot. For Will Ferrell to create a movie based almost entirely on product placements, yet to do so in a way that is both hilarious and unforgettable, and here I am going to use unforgettable in reference to all the products used throughout the movie (it’s hard not to think of Talladega Nights without imagining Ricky Bobby is his Wonder Bread themed suit), well maybe Mr. Ferrell should think about quitting his day job of “acting” and going to work over in NYC for those long-suffering ad-execs on Mad Men.

  • Do you find it easy to spot product placement on TV or in a movie?
  • What’s your favorite example of product placement?