Hollywood has long embraced motorcycling leathers brand Belstaff. And now, Belstaff is officially doing the same.
"Luxurious irreverance [sic]" is how Belstaff's Facebook page describes its l2012 Autumn Winter campaign featuring Hollywood star Ewan McGregor. But even as Belstaff embraces a silver screen spokesman and has one of its most prolific, blockbuster product placement years ever, the brand could be doing a great deal more to capitalize on its success.
McGregor -- famous for portraying characters as varied as the young Obi Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars franchise to heroin-addled Renton in Trainspotting--is a perfect choice for Belstaff. Not only does McGregor perfectly embody Belstaff's image of a charming, rakish, scofflaw, he's also a genuine motorcycle aficionado.
The actor and his pal have made two road tripping documentaries -- Long Way Round and Long Way Down -- about motorcycle trips that covered tens of thousands of miles. Practically groomed for the spokesman position, McGregor told Style.com, "I started wearing Belstaff motorcycle jackets about ten years ago. I feel like I’ve always known about them from photos of old motorcycle heroes and legends, as they are often wearing Belstaff."
Belstaff's raised profile has resulted in more mainstream partnerships with brands like J Crew and Tommy Hilfiger and won the brand suggestive questions like The New York Times asking "Is Belstaff the next Burberry?" (It just so happens that Martin Cooper, Belstaff’s new chief creative director, came from Burberry.)
Aside from the explicit embrace of Hollywood, Belstaff, as it has long done, is impregnating the year's hottest films with its product. The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, The Bourne Legacy were all Number One box office hits and all featured lead characters wrapped in Belstaff jackets.
Belstaff got an especially good amount of press out of The Dark Knight Rises, considering its jacket was hard to identify on the villain, Bane. For example, just part of an exchange between Dark Knight Rises costumer in GQ Magazine:
GQ: What about Bane makes you think he'd own a Belstaff-like jacket?
Lindy Hemming: If you've ever seen European mercenaries, they're all like that—they have a waxed cotton or old combat jacket that's become oily and greasy. Imagine it's not a Belstaff jacket, but a green combat jacket covered in oil and worn in jeeps and tanks. Belstaff jackets have the right kind of stitching and that strength, so it seemed obvious to get them to do it for us.
Of course, we think about European mercenaries having "a waxed cotton or old combat jacket that's become oily" because that's how costume directors in Hollywood, like Hemming, have always portrayed European mercenaries. And, quite often, they've used Belstaff jackets to do this. So, the great irony is that Hollywood considers Belstaff jackets perfect for portraying certain characters because they are the most like how those characters have always been portrayed by Hollywood. Rinse. Repeat. (Except, don't rinse for a truly oily European mercenary look.)
And the brand isn't done with 2012. Sure-to-be box office-toppers Skyfall (James Bond) and Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2 have both already teased Belstaff product placements. Belstaff has become so prevalent this year that it's a mild surprise to learn that Belstaff does not seem to appear in box office topper The Expendables 2 even though it is literally a story about a bunch of mercenaries in Europe -- and Belstaff even sponsored the premier of the first Expendables film, which did feature Belstaff product placement. "Our brand is for tough people with style," said Belstaff's Italian then-owners at the premier.
Meanwhile, Belstaff needed no help draw attention to its role in the final Twilight film. When the costumes were put on display, Twibloggers from sites like Insidebellascloset.wordpress.com quickly announced it to the world. Belstaff's role in Skyfall was tweeted by the brand itself, as was its role in Bourne Legacy.
The one challenge plaguing Belstaff fans when it comes to these valuable placements is that Belstaff does not seem to provide much a resource on exactly where to get the jackets. While the brand tweeted a link to the jacket Bane wore in Dark Knight Rises, other roles have left fans skulking around the internet looking for the jackets, something that carries hidden dangers of knock-offs. But it was not always as hard as it is now.
The co-founder of Filmjackets.com, a website dedicated to confirming the brands of jackets in films, Rick Theriault, told Brandchannel that, before the Labelux Group acquired the brand, he used to get occasionally tipped off by Belstaff about film appearances. But that has since changed, as has the brand's website, which may be a lot flashier, but has jettisoned the entire section on the brand's famous film roles. Theriault told us that in addition to the missing film section, the site has lost "another important tool," the counterfeit Belstaff site list. Theriault explained, "When you find a Belstaff jacket on the web for $650 you do not always know if it is a tremendous deal or a horrifying loss of money to a counterfeit site." Belstaff Theriault says, used to maintain "a section of the site that had a drop down box of all the counterfeit vendors."
Theriault told Brandchannel, "I have contacted the new owners of Belstaff several time about reviving the list, and each time, I am told that the correspondence is being forwarded to the 'correct department' which could very well be the trash folder. I have yet to receive a response… I have even asked if they could send me the list and I would host it on my site so that information is not lost." He has received no answer.
Theriault's has a theory about the new Belstaff: "It seems like the marketing department under the old management may have been more focused on the general public awareness of their jackets and the movie tie ins. The new management, not so much. Again, at least, not yet."
Jettisoning the brand's tie-in information for movie fans isn't the only connection Belstaff has severed since coming under new management. Despote making him its new poster boy, Belstaff shut down its tie-in site to McGregor's Long Way Down film. Odd, since just three years ago, Belstaff went to lengths to promote McGregor's "Long Way Down Jacket."
Belstaff did not respond for requests for comment.
Belstaff is clearly and wisely repositioning itself since under its new Swiss owners. Simple product placement and its reputation are no longer enough for a brand that is clearly aiming to challenge top tier luxury clothiers like Burberry and Hugo Boss. But in the attempt to tighten up, the brand should make sure it is fully capitalizing not just on its latest film roles, but also on its legacy as Hollywood's brand of choice and the fans that continue to fuel that legacy.