Growing up in the 90’s was quite a rich experience. Alongside the bright colors, turtle necks, and psychedelic patterns that we all wore, an amazing new shoe graced the decade that had all of the kids talking. It was marketed as a shoe that could make any kid run faster, jump higher, and practically defeat gravity.
It was the PF Flyer.
These particular shoes were worn by Benny “THE JET” Rodriguez; the star of the movie, The Sandlot, who became the instant role model for every young boy dreaming of a baseball career. While wearing these shoes, Benny caught a baseball that was signed by the world famous player, Babe Ruth; diving for it against the clutches of a monstrous guard dog.
After this movie hit screens, kids in the 90’s just had to get their hands on these PF Flyers. These shoes were marketed as something magical, all because of one slow-motion movie scene. They could not only make you run and jump higher, but these shoes were also instantly associated with the heroic catch made by Benny Rodriguez. If Benny could catch that ball, so could you. But only if you had your pair of PF Flyers.
At the time, kids did not have the knowledge to dissociate Benny’s success among his friends and baseball from mere product placement. The placement of these shoes during such a critical point in The Sandlot was no mistake. Marketers from the brand knew very well what they were doing, and they did it well. The PF Flyers became a staple sneaker for every young kid in the 90’s. Perhaps the successful sales numbers were not solely because of the appearance on Benny Rodriguez’s feet, but it was simple placements such as this that made the brand attractive to families across America.
Today, we see this kind of marketing everywhere we look. Movies and television programs lace their characters and settings with products as a result of eager marketers trying to solicit their image. When the marketer has the opportunity to take advantage of a hopeful, entertained audience through something as simple as product placement, they are diving into more than they may have originally intended. They are not only selling a product, but they are selling a brand message. By choosing which scene, character and setting to place products, the marketers are aiming to take advantage of a relationship that has been built between the audience and the movie. In doing so, they can only hope that the audience will feel so related to the movie that they will be reminded and persuaded about the “value” the product had in the film.
So, would Benny Rodriguez have caught the infamous catch if he was wearing LA GEARS or NIKES? The marketers of PF Flyers want you to think not.
Sally Shupe, Jared Sales, Oliver Evans