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Ice Cream Fit for a Jedi

The force is sweet with this one.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the latest film in the Star Wars pantheon, is set to begin playing in U.S. theaters on December 15. An Everest-sized swell of branded merchandise is expected to support the film. For fans with a sweet tooth, a favorite among the merch could very well be a new Star Wars-branded offering from Ample Hills Creamery.

In a licensed collaboration with Disney and Lucasfilm, the Brooklyn, NY-based ice cream maker has created three limited-edition flavors that celebrate Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Inspired by the heroes, villains and enduring themes of the iconic film franchise, the interstellar ice cream is available in a three-pack that includes a specially designed, limited-edition pint of each of the three flavors. If that weren't a sweet enough deal (pun intended), there's also this: Each three-pack ships in a specially designed box with a punch-out X-wing fighter.

Here is Ample Hills' description of the flavors:

  • First Order: A celebration of the monolithic, fierce power of the First Order. Embrace relentless villainy with this salted deep dark chocolate ice cream, made with intense cocoa powder, bittersweet chocolate and a dash of powerful espresso.
  • Resistance: A celebration of the spirit and determination of the motley band of resistance fighters, it's a brown sugar and vanilla bean ice cream with a wild assortment of mix-ins: passionate, fiery red velvet ooey gooey butter cake, hard-edged toffee pieces and spirited, hopeful mini-marshmallows.
  • The Force: A celebration of the power and beauty of the Jedi. Bring balance to the Force with the harmony and serenity of this sweet cream ice cream (the light side), but beware the seductive swirls of rich chocolate fudge (the dark side) – an epic conflict set against a galaxy of white and dark chocolate pearls.

We don't think were the only ones whose tummies are grumbling with nerdy anticipation after hearing those descriptions.

Ample Hills says the limited-edition ice cream should be available at least through the end of March 2018, but you might want to act fast. As Bloomberg reported, Ample Hills also made two special ice cream flavors for the 2015 release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The Light Side and The Dark Side, as the ice cream offerings were called, sold out faster than an A-wing Starfighter.

New Stranger Things Merch Collection Is Off-Beat 80s Nostalgia Perfection

'80s nostalgia and an intoxicatingly dark storyline with elements of sci-fi and horror have earned the Netflix series Stranger Things a loyal – and growing – following of devoted fans.

Now, with season two launching last weekend, Netflix has teamed up with retailer BoxLunch to create a new collection of branded merchandise that seeks to capitalize on the enthusiasm around the show.

Inspired by scenes and '80s-tastic styling cues from the first and current season, BoxLunch and Netflix are offering a capsule collection of apparel, accessories and collectibles, some pieces of which you can see below.

For the uninitiated, Stranger Things is set in the fictional town of Hawkins, IN, in the 1980s. The plot centers on the investigation of a disappearance of a young boy and supernatural events that include a young girl with psychokinetic abilities who helps the missing child's friends in their search for their friend. The second season picks up the story a year after the events of the first season.

If you haven't yet indulged in binge-watching the show, give it a look and you'll see why so many people have done just that. And, why they're so excited about the new merch collection, which includes a Stranger Things Holiday Sweater; Hawkins High Crewneck and Duffle Bag; the '80s-arcade styled Pixel Tee and Merrill's Farm Tee; and three additional shirts that feature imagery from Season Two. Plus, there is a trio of limited-edition Madrid Skateboard decks and a line-up of Funko Pop! vinyl figures.

Just as cool, Strangers Things is spawning ancillary merch opportunities. As the StarTribune reports, fans are going bonkers over the retro purple sweatshirt from the Science Museum of Minnesota that character Dustin wore on the show. Sharp to spot an opportunity, the Science Museum is going to create a line of the imprinted hoodies. It's already using Twitter to encourage folks to sign up for the museum's email list to learn when the sweatshirts are available.

If that weren't enough merch-related fun, there is also this candle holder that's as wonderfully weird as the show itself. It's in the shape of psychokinetic character Eleven – wax bleeds through its nose. Available from Firebox, the candle is expected to be available by mid-December. "Easily the strangest thing we've ever created," says Firebox.

Then, of course, there are these rad Stranger Things-inspired sneakers/trainers from Reebok and BAIT.

What's the takeaway for promotional product distributors? Perhaps this: While you certainly can't rip off Stranger Things, you can tap into the same market current as the show. That's to say, there's a definite appetite for offbeat, retro '80s entertainment and products from both millennials and those in their later 30s and early 40s. When end-buyers target such audiences – particularly in urban areas, at cultural events, product launches, music festivals and the like – engineering a promotion that involves merchandise and messaging that draws on the quirky vintage vibe from the decade of MTV and big hair could be a smart move.

Branded Tees at Center of Beer Feud

Craft beer maker Arrogant Brewing is cleverly promoting its bad boy image and delivering an upper cut to competitors it calls "sellouts" with a new antagonistic promotional campaign that puts branded T-shirts in the spotlight.

With its "Unworthy Beer T-Shirt Amnesty Month" campaign, the Arrogant Brewing team is inviting suds lovers to send them the T-shirts of beer brands that were once independent breweries but have since sold to become part of global beer conglomerates.

Based in Escondido, CA, Arrogant Brewing says it will then either donate the T-shirts to charity or mail them in a show of cheekiness to corporate beer behemoths Heineken International or AB InBev.

In addition, Arrogant Brewing is offering to sell consumers who mail in "sellout" brand shirts an Arrogant Brewing T-Shirt for the reduced cost of $15 – a charge that includes shipping and handling.

To encourage participation, Arrogant Brewing stays in tough-guy character with its marketing of the campaign. Its website thus sets the stage for Unworthy Beer T-Shirt Amnesty Month: "Face it, there are brands out there you used to love. They meant something to you, and you thought they stood for something. And then the rug was pulled out from under you, all for a stinkin' big fat check. What did you get for your fandom? Jack. And now wearing that sellout brand's T-shirt doesn't feel quite so cool does it? Of course not. They're sellouts. That's simple math."

While some will object to the thrust and tone of Arrogant Brewing's campaign, there's no denying that it is a potentially powerful marketing initiative. It taps into the ethos of the brand's core audience, which values drinking the American-made beers of independently owned U.S. breweries; paints competitors in a light that undercuts their credibility with that core audience; strongly promotes its own brand image; and helps stoke sales of its T-shirts.

Unworthy Beer T-Shirt Amnesty Month is the next generation of Arrogant Brewing's "Fizzy Yellow Beer T-Shirt Amnesty Program." That "program allowed those that had recently converted to real beer to turn in their old corporate fizzy yellow beer T-shirts," Arrogant Brewing says.

Despite all the chirping about sellouts, it should be noted that Stone Brewing, Arrogant Brewing's parent company, appears to have some outside capital backing itself. "In 2016, they accepted a $90 million investment from VMG, a venture capital firm that specializes in food and drink investments, although it would seem this minority ownership doesn't currently jeopardize their ability to be labeled as 'craft' beer by the Brewers Association," Paste reports.

Washington Capitals' Gravy Boat Giveaway is Promo Gold

The Washington Capitals will be doing their bit to moisten overcooked turkeys this Thanksgiving courtesy of an uncanny promotional product.

Fans attending the NHL team’s Nov. 22 game against the Ottawa Senators will receive a gravy boat in the form of a mini ice resurfacer. "Ice resurfacer" is the generic term for what fans typically call a "Zamboni" – the man-driven machine that comes out between periods in hockey games to smooth the ice. (To be a true Zamboni, the resurfacer has to be made by the Zamboni Company, but we digress.)

To the gravy boat at hand:

Fans willing to pay for theme night packages (starting at $69) on Nov. 22 will receive the unique piece of branded dinnerware just in time to grace their Turkey Day tables the next day with a showing of team pride that is sure to irk visiting family members who do evil things like root for the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers.

As a hockey fan, you have to love a clever one-upper like that, eh hoser? Just think of watching your Penguins-loving cousin having to decide between conceding to use the Capitals gravy boat or trying to scarf down grandma’s dry turkey without the gravy’s lubricating assistance. It’s schadenfreude as delectable as apple pie.

As a promotional initiative, the Capitals are scoring big with the gravy boat, which is being presented by Walmart. After all, it’s unique, memorable, timely, useful, and genuinely expressive of the brand – all elements of a winning promotion.

In fact, the Capitals seem to have a knack for successful game day promos. This year, other branded products fans will receive with purchases of theme night packages include a puck-shaped bottle opener and a nifty Capitals ice scraper that features the shaft of a hockey stick that ends in an ice skate at the scraping edge.

Taco Bell, Forever 21 Launch Joint Fashion Line

Promotional clothing lines are a serious marketing opportunity for brands. Need proof? Consider the latest iteration that was unveiled this week in California.

Fast fashion retail chain Forever 21 and fast food chain Taco Bell have teamed up to launch the limited-edition Forever 21 x Taco Bell Collection, which officially hit the apparel retailer’s website and select brick-and-mortar stores this week. It debuted at a fashion show in Los Angeles on Tuesday and was announced on Taco Bell’s Instagram with the hashtag #F21xTacoBell.

Among the apparel pickings are cropped hoodies with the food chain’s iconic bell logo, graphic T-shirts, shiny metallic anorak jackets, and even colorful bodysuits that mimic Taco Bell’s hot sauce packets, featuring slogans like “Fire! Don’t Wait Up.” There are also youth T-shirt, hoodie and jacket options, along with iPhone cases. The men’s styles (including an anorak jacket with major color-blocking) are already sold out.

Taco Bell says the unconventional offerings are a serious part of its marketing strategy, which has focused on social media and millennial-centric branding in recent years.

“We really took pains to make this a legitimate collection that is relevant and fun and modern,” Marisa Thalberg, Taco Bell’s CMO, said in a statement. “We’ve seen our fans get individually creative in expressing their love for Taco Bell through fashion, and we believe this collection with Forever 21 is going to be everything they would expect from us in extending the Taco Bell lifestyle to fashion: original, affordable, creative, a little quirky and definitely fun.”

Taco Bell, which operates 7,000 locations across the U.S., is no stranger to branded merch. At the food chain’s online Taco Shop, fans can shop graphic T-shirts, hoodies, jewelry, notebooks, pencils and phone cases. One of its first forays into the fashion world was in 2014, through a partnership with Los Angeles-based streetwear brand The Hundreds to offer custom socks. And in 2016, Taco Bell opened a brick-and-mortar Taco Shop in Las Vegas, which sells apparel, towels, bikinis and swim trunks, caps, tie-dyed T-shirts, taco-shaped pillows and more.

In general, fast food fashion and branded merchandise are having a moment. Pizza Hut, owned by Taco Bell parent company Yum Brands, released a Hut Swag line in 2016, featuring items like snapback caps and T-shirts with slogans, such as “My Pizza My Life.” Another Yum brand, KFC opened the KFC Ltd. ecommerce store earlier this year, offering sweatshirts, T-shirts, socks, jewelry, scarves, lapel pins and pillowcases. And this summer, McDonald’s unveiled a playful Big Mac collection featuring pajamas and pillows, among other items.

Additionally, it seems tacos in particular have major branding power. The Fresno Grizzlies, a minor league baseball team, rechristen the team as the Tacos once a week during the season, with special Taco-emblazoned jerseys and caps. The name originated from Californians’ long-time affinity for taco trucks. “It definitely targets a younger crowd,” Sam Hansen, director of marketing for the Fresno Grizzlies, told Advantages magazine earlier this year. “Or at least that was the intention – I’ve noticed a lot of older people starting to wear Tacos jerseys and hats.” 

WrestleMania Promos Take Over Orlando

A week of magic and mayhem has ended as World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) presented WrestleMania 33 – professional wrestling’s annual promo-filled Super Bowl inside Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida. And, Counselor was on the scene to see all of the promotions that sponsors and hosts were running.

An all-time Orlando Citrus Bowl attendance record of 75,245 fans from 50 states and 62 countries made the pilgrimage to witness their favorite athletes clash at the nearly seven-hour event. WrestleMania 33 gained a record 18 million social media fan engagements, up 66% from last year. Digital and social media video views reached 133 million, skyrocketing 105% from 2016. For the first time, WrestleMania was made available in China on a pay-per-view basis via PPTV’s digital platform.

“WrestleMania made a triumphant return to Orlando and again broke multiple records,” said WWE Executive Vice President of Special Events John Saboor in a press release. “This success would not have been possible without the tireless support of Mayor Dyer, the Local Organizing Committee and all of the public and private sector partners throughout Central Florida.”

WrestleMania 33 grossed $14.5 million in revenue, down from the company’s record $17.3 million for last year’s event. It also generated an estimated $125 million in economic impact for the Central Florida area. That’s why each year cities bid on hosting the pop culture extravaganza – New Orleans has been chosen over Philadelphia and Minneapolis to hold WrestleMania 34 next year as part of the city’s tricentennial celebration.

"WrestleMania Week was a tremendous success for the city of Orlando and it was an honor to host WWE and their fans back in our community," said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. "This is a testament to the investments we've made in our community venues that continue to attract these showcase events and solidify Orlando as the nation's leading sports and entertainment destination." Orlando is home to many WWE operations including its developmental brand NXT and its training facility the WWE Performance Center.

As soon as fans arrived at Orlando International Airport, they were greeted by WrestleMania signs at baggage claim and rental car stations. The streets of downtown Orlando were plastered in WrestleMania banners showcasing top stars such as Brock Lesnar and Goldberg. There was even a 30-foot-wide, 12-foot-high championship belt replica on display at Lake Eola.

Throughout the week, fans mobbed the Orange County Convention Centerin Orlando for WrestleMania Axxess, an annual fan fest with autograph signings, exhibits and merchandise. Attendees scooped up hats, shirts, wrist bands, posters, foam hands, and inflatable Bailey buddies, all emblazoned with the WrestleMania and WWE logos. Snickers sponsored the event for the second straight year, giving out free candy bars and sharing clips through social media and YouTube. During the WrestleMania broadcast, an ad featured WWE Hall of Famer Ric Flair and WWE Superstars Charlotte and James Ellsworth as part of the “You’re Not You When You're Hungry" campaign.

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