What is a Tie-In?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A tie-in is a type of promotional campaign which combines multiple media for maximum public exposure. Tie-in campaigns can be quite extensive, often saturating urban areas. Usually tie-ins are used by the movie industry, which cooperates with publishers, toy manufacturers, and others for additional advertising power. The tie-in is viewed as a very effective way to get consumers to purchase more products and to stimulate enthusiasm for an upcoming film.

Popular tie-ins include books and activities based on a current film.
Popular tie-ins include books and activities based on a current film.

In the film industry, multiple tie-ins are often used. In many cases, major action films are accompanied by video games which are released on the same day, or within the same week. Movie goers are encouraged to purchase the video game to experience aspects of the film at home, and gamers are encouraged to see the movie if they enjoy the video game. Movie studios work hand in hand with game development companies to make sure that the video game is realistic and meshes well with the film.

Tie-ins may be used by fast food restaurants and coffee houses to get more customer into the store.
Tie-ins may be used by fast food restaurants and coffee houses to get more customer into the store.

Special editions of books which have been made into films are frequently used for tie-ins. In some cases, a book tie-in may simply involve the replacement of the cover with one related to the film. In others, a book about a movie may be simultaneously released with it, for consumers interested in knowing more about the film. Many publishers work with movie studios to offer special movie tie-in packages to bookstores which include a cheaper package price for tie-in products.

Toys are also often used in tie-in campaigns. Many businesses such as fast food establishments give out free toys as part of children's meals to not only promote the film, but bring in customers as well. In some cases, the restaurants pair with movie studios to release action figures of movie characters for children's films. For adult movies, other collectible items such as figurines, plates, and similar items may be released in other markets in conjunction with a major film.

A well executed tie-in campaign will cover multiple industries. For example, a major children's film might be released in coordination with a video game. In addition, figurines from the movie would be available, while bookstores would feature a special edition book based on the film. If the film was based on a book, publishers would release a movie tie-in version for bookstores to sell. This saturated advertising campaign would translate to an increase in sales for all of the industries involved, making it a practical cooperative effort.

Tie-in promotions may include free or reduced tickets to see a movie.
Tie-in promotions may include free or reduced tickets to see a movie.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


When I think of tie-ins I always think of the one from a few years ago where Mountain Dew released a special soda to coincide with the release of one of the Halo games. I'm pretty sure it was called gamer's fuel. There was just something so silly and vaguely disappointing about the entire thing that has always made it stick in my mind. I can't help but think of how many thousands of gallons of that stuff were drank while people frantically played that game. Or maybe the fact that I've always remembered it means that it is effective advertising.


I know someone who created a Fanzine site for a famous movie. She got an official warning letter after posting tribute videos, which involved a group of like minded people acting in additional storylines using the original characters.

In my opinion that is a riduculous way to treat people who are not trying to profit from any kind of direct money making tie-in.


@Potterspop - You are 100% correct. I work in the media marketing field and our legal department is always kept busy trying to deal with unofficial tie-in products. I imagine it's the same or worse for those dealing with major stars and writers.

Really we need the general public to stop buying these unauthorised products, for moral and safety issues. Not only is the correct person being robbed of profit, but many of the things on sale don't meet required safety standards.

What makes it a tricky area is that some clever folk capitalize on a household name, and use that to make money, rather than an actual item they sell. Think about 'guides to xxx movie' or books which claim to offer insider opinions on something well known.

Legally it can be a gray area, as a certain amount of leeway is given to people so that they can criticize or review a character, book, film or whatever. This is why so many things go unchallenged, or the copyright owners request changes rather than trying to ban something altogether.


I don't have any problem with tie-ins, so long as the profits are being shared by the original copyright owners. I say that because I'm betting there are plenty of unauthorised products kicking around, just waiting to reap the rewards of a popular movie, book or character.


I have to admit that this kind of cross promotion is a pretty clever way of making a bit of extra cash from consumers.

I've seen similar things when I go to a ballet, concert or stage show. Last year I had to fight my way through the crowds trying to buy things before and after a Cirque du Soleil event.

While I can understand people wanting to buy a DVD or a musical soundtrack, I bet there were plenty who regretted the expensive jesters hats and T-shirts they bought that night!

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