Swiss watchmaker Rolex is celebrating the role its timepieces have played in cinematic storytelling by aligning with the 89th Academy Awards.
For the second year in a row, the brand will be the exclusive sponsor of the Oscars Greenroom at the Dolby Theatre Feb. 26, decorating the ceremony’s lounge where VIPs can gather backstage. Celebrating its role in this year’s event, Rolex has teamed with filmmaker James Cameron to share his own story centered on a significant watch.
“Fashion is always the province of the fickle, weak-minded public who often buys into the illogic of celebrity endorsement,” said Rob Frankel, branding strategist & expert at Frankel & Anderson, Los Angeles.
“Some people think James Cameron is a good filmmaker…That’s a matter of personal taste, but has absolutely no connection to Cameron’s qualification as an expert on timepieces.
“Glamor has always been a cheap tool for advertisers, which is why celebrity endorsements work in the short run. They usually sell the celebrity more than the brand, because the brand has nothing it can come up with to sell itself on its own merits. It’s a lazy man’s marketing tool.”
Rolex’s interior design team from Geneva built the Oscars Greenroom last year. The space featured a design indicative of a modern home in the Hollywood Hills, with a cozy couches and framed pictures of famous scenes from classic movies.
This year, Rolex returns as the interior decorator, outfitting the space with a new concept. The greenroom gets traffic from stars coming on or off stage and their posse, which may include their family and film executives.
Promoting its sponsorship to its community, Rolex has decided to tell its own story. The watchmaker tapped director James Cameron to share his Rolex narrative.
The filmmaker’s “Titanic” won 11 Oscars, a record. In addition, his “Avatar” is the highest grossing film in history, grossing more than $2 billion to-date.
In a short film, Mr. Cameron recounts his love of the movies that began in childhood, as he was transfixed by the medium’s ability to transport an audience. He set out to do the same with his own work.
Avatar began as a concept when the filmmaker was 19, and he wrote the script in 1995, but it did not get released until 2009. The sci-fi movie, which centers on an indigenous alien population, led Mr. Cameron to become an activist for the rights of native societies.
In his work, Mr. Cameron visited the Kayapo people in Brazil. After receiving meaningful gifts from the chief, the filmmaker looked to return the favor.
Thinking on what had equal significance for him, he gave the tribe leader his Rolex watch, which he had worn consistently for 20 years. This was the timepiece he wore while diving to look at the wreck of the Titanic and what he wore with his tuxedo to accept his Oscar for the film.
He also refers to the watch on his wrist, a replacement for his gifted Submariner, as a “constant companion.”
A separate film finds Mr. Cameron walking amid the props from his films, from a small replica of the Titanic to masks from Avatar. He talks about wanting his audiences to forget they are watching a movie and enter the world on screen, explaining the detail-oriented mindset needed to achieve this goal.
Rolex presents: James Cameron, the art of storytelling
At the end of the video, a tagline reads, “It doesn’t just tell time. It tells history.”
Rolex’s film affiliations extend beyond the Oscars. In 2002, the brand established its Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative, which pairs budding talents with established artists such as Martin Scorsese, Alejandro González Iñárritu and Alfonso Cuarón for a one-to-one mentorship.
“[Rolex is trying to communicate] nothing other than ‘rich people must know something you don’t, which is why they pay for a Rolex,'” Mr. Frankel said. “By taking this tack, Rolex is doing the opposite of what they should be doing: selling Rolex on its own merits–and Rolex certainly has a legacy it could be leveraging.”
This is not the first time Rolex has partnered with Mr. Cameron.
Rolex introduced its new Deepsea watch along with the release of the director’s and National Geographic’s film “Deepsea Challenge.”
The new watch was part of Mr. Cameron’s historic dive, enduring pressures hardly known to humans, proving to be a truly waterproof design. The release of the Rolex Deepsea watch during the week of the film’s debut allows Rolex to remind consumers about the brand’s involvement with the dive and provides a story for fans to connect with (see story).
As the awards show draws near, other brands are getting in on the action.
Fellow Swiss watchmaker Jaeger-LeCoultre is providing an intimate look at some of cinema’s most well-known faces through a public exhibition.
Ahead of the Academy Awards on Feb. 26, the brand is co-presenting “The Art of Behind the Scenes,” which features candid photography shot on-set of movies, at the Los Angeles gallery KP Projects. The timing of this exhibit will reach consumers as Hollywood is top-of-mind (see story).
The bigger problem is that the timepiece industry–through a lack of brand leadership–has no real leader these days, nor anyone at the helm of these companies who knows how to create and implement a brand strategy that would vault them to the head of the pack,” Mr. Frankel said. “Too bad, because the field is wide open.”