Malick Ba

Star Wars Rogue One: Marketing Success

December 20, 2016


2016 has seen some big movie releases, but none bigger than the critically acclaimed “Star Wars: Rogue One”. The film hit theatre last week and has since raked in about $155 million in North America alone so far. Pretty good right? Well behind the scenes, this film faced a few challenges in terms of advertising and marketing. With less than a year’s removed since the release of the last Star Wars film (The Force Awakens), check out some of the challenges that Rogue One had to overcome to succeed in 2016.


Star Wars Hangover

When Star Wars: The Force Awakens came out last year at this time, it was the biggest movie on the planet. Disney spent over $250 million on promoting the next chapter in the franchise which meant we literally saw ads every single place that we looked. Billboards, pre-roll, and print insertions were just a few of the ways that the film covered all bases in terms of media and it ultimately proved to be extremely effective. This year for Rogue One, advertising efforts were scaled back due to an overlap with another similarly named film in July. Rogue One featured three trailers (that were awesome by the way), and not nearly as much promotion (online or out of home) as The Force Awakens giving it a more normal marketing approach with a unique appeal to the franchise.

Selling the Story

Rogue One sells itself differently than The Force Awakens did. As Chris Thilk from Adweek explains, The Force Awakens sold us on nostalgia. The trailers and promotional material from the latest episode allowed us to remember characters and scenarios from the original Star Wars films we know and love. Rogue One had to do it differently. It’s not selling us that appeal to nostalgia, rather, it’s giving us a backstory for a plot that was never accurately provided throughout the series: How did the plans for the death star get obtained?

No Lightsabres

After doing some research (aka watching the trailers over and over and over and over…), I realized something very unique about the way this film was being promoted: no lightsabres. If you’re a Star Wars fan by any means, the lightsabre is probably the most iconic weapon in sci-fi film history. Rogue One completely avoids using the one thing that makes Star Wars…well Star Wars. According to Daniel Ricwulf from, in all marketing materials related to this film there are not only no lightsabres, but also no droids, and a completely new group of actors. This presents a huge challenge. How would people connect Rogue One to the rest of the franchise when so many things are different? Using the Star Wars brand as leverage of course.

Since its release on December 16th, Star Wars: Rogue One has gained almost unanimously positive reviews. What I think this film has done so successfully in terms of marketing is that it had a unique selling proposition. Ultimately, Rogue One was successfully able to use marketing to attach itself to the franchise but separate itself to be different than every other film in the series.

Malick Ba is an advertising and marketing specialist currently living in Toronto, Canada. His academic background includes a Bachelor’s of Arts in Communications with a minor in Sociology from the University of Ottawa. Currently, Malick works at an advertising agency in Toronto and is looking forward to how he can leave his mark upon the advertising and marketing world. Follow him on Instagram, and connect with him on LinkedIn.

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