Struggle Sony Against Disney: Spiderman Franchise

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Introduction

In August of 2019, Sony Pictures had been in hot waters after the dispute with Disney, Marvel Studios’ parent company over the film rights over Marvel Comics’ beloved Spiderman. However, Disney wanted a 50/50 share for the next films for the Spiderman franchise and also to expand the cinematic universe of Spiderman. But; Sony declined the negotiated deal as they, Sony already have plans for the growth of Spiderman’s Cinematic Universe with its own Sony Spiderverse. In addition, Sony is already working on two in production phase films that are part of the Sony Spiderverse. Moreover, Sony still has the film rights over Spiderman since the acquisition in 1999. And, Sony would be fine without the involvement of Disney. Paraphrased from Deadline’s report by Mike Fleming. With the current dispute that Sony has with Disney, the majority of the public painted Sony as the villain opposing to Disney. This is crisis management for Sony and its stakeholders.

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1. Executive summary

The overview of this Public Relations plan is to help Sony regain the public’s trust with their statement that the company does not need Disney’s involvement to produce a Spiderman film. Not only that, but this PR plan will also be a review and guide for Sony’s internal division regarding the dispute with Disney. Not only that; this plan will also benefit Sony on how to address the dispute publically without any biases. This PR plan would as cover the budget of the whole campaign and the whole purpose of this plan is to reestablish the trust for Sony and the contributions they gave for the film industry. In addition, this PR plan will also help subtly change the way of how the managerial staff deal with public disputes such as this. Lastly, the whole campaign is to mend the bridge that was severed by the public with Sony and to also help Sony to deal with the crisis that they are facing as the general public tends to favor Disney rather than Sony.

2. Communication process

​The communication process of the PR Campaign is the basic communications process. Sony is the sender; the PR Campaign is the message; while the public will be the receiver. However, the noise would be Social Media. As it is the 21st century most of the humans have access to social media; the PR campaign may be in jeopardy if social media activity goes unmonitored. Not only that, with social media as the noise element; it is a very challenging hurdle to get by as social media has the fastest news updates as of now. Sony’s workers have to work 10 times faster and more efficient to prevent any miscommunication and or misinformation. As for the feedback, Sony should listen to what does the public has to say about the campaign while the public should evaluate the message conveyed by Sony and their team before deeming them redundant. The communication process for this campaign is simple to understand but it would be a challenge to execute as social media is tricky to navigate especially Twitter with their fast pace news updates and its advantages with the hashtags to categorize viral news and trending information.

3. Background

According to Sony’s Corporate Report 2019, The vision of Sony is: Fill the world with emotion, through the power of creativity and technology. While the company has 4 mission statement with its own goals.

The 1st mission statement is Dreams & Curiosity, pioneer the future with dreams and curiosity.

The 2nd mission statement: Diversity, pursues the creation of the very best by harnessing diversity and varying viewpoints. 

As for the 3rd mission statement: Integrity & Sincerity, earn the trust for the Sony brand through ethical and responsible conduct. 

The 4th and last mission statement is;: Sustainability, which fulfill our stakeholder responsibilities through disciplined business practices. While Sony Pictures is a subsidiary of Sony Company, they do have their own business mission.

Which is produce and distribute world-class movies, television, video, and mobile game entertainment to consumers globally around Sony IP. By understanding the vision and mission of Sony and Sony Pictures, this campaign has to be done as Sony Pictures is one of the pioneers of the film making industry in Hollywood, not only that Sony Pictures also begin to devote cross-company collaborations to produce films. Referring to the Corporate Report Sony Pictures’ growth is also based on the 4 pillars: 

  1. Strong IP, 
  2. Strength, as an independent studio, 
  3. A rich library of content, 
  4. One Sony collaboration. 

Sony Pictures also garnered a whopping 11% in U.S. Box Office Share in revenue. To further support the need for the campaign, Sony Pictures by 2018 had 986.9 Billion Yen in sales and operating revenue; which solidifies their placement in the filming industry. Which would also affect how does the filming industry function if Sony Pictures were to cease to exist.

4. Situation analysis

As for the major issues and related facts for this PR plan to deal with; one of the issue that stuck out like a sore thumb is the report of Sony Pictures’ CEO, Tony Vincequerra and Disney’s President of Marvel Studios, Kevin Feige on the revenue share regarding Spiderman’s Box Office revenue. As prior to the dispute, both Sony and Disney had settled with Sony offering Disney a 30% share of Spiderman. Disney also negotiated to put Venom, one of Spiderman’s iconic enemies into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) which Sony is reluctant to abide by. Another major issue that this PR plan has to deal with is.

Both Sony and Disney had been negotiating for months on the co-financing of Spiderman, Sony offered a 5% revenue on Spiderman’s earnings, as this was Sony’s initial offer which did not sit right with Disney as they wanted more of the share. While Disney wanted a 50/50 agreement but Sony declined and refused to have a comeback counter.

The third issue for this PR plan to deal with is the state of British actor Tom Holland, the 23-year-old was the latest actor to be cast as the wall-crawling hero for 2016’s Captain America: Civil War. Tom Holland is the 3rd actor to portray Spiderman succeeding both Toby Macguire and Andrew Garfield. Holland was not aware of the ongoing dispute. Unless a deal between Sony and Disney is offered, Tom Holland would not be involved with any MCU films. It would be a waste of resources to recast Spiderman another time for Sony.

5. Message statement

The major idea for this PR plan to proceed is to mend the trust of the public towards Sony Pictures regardless of the decision made by Sony’s higher-ups on the issue. Not only that, as this PR plan would utilize the emergence of Social Media to aid this plan. In addition, the theme for this ordeal is trust.  Trust is a key contributor for a company to have with its external stakeholders. In Sony’s case, the public has lost their trust with the company for they turned down Disney’s negotiation deals without hesitation. In order to regain the public’s trust in Sony. Sony has to address the issue. Another idea for this PR plan to proceed is to have Sony be a better pioneer company in the filming industry, the optimistic look towards this is to have Sony gain experience from this and grow as a better company with better understandings.

6. Audiences

The constituencies that were, directly and indirectly, involved with the issues are Disney, Sony’s investors, actors affiliated with both Sony on this issue, and lastly, the general public. Although it is a hard pill to swallow, Sony and Disney should mend the crisis regardless as in a business standpoint; there is no bad business deals but just the wrong person to make a deal with.

Next, are investors of Sony. As they are as important as mending ties with Disney; as the investors would invest huge sums of money for Sony to produce movies, games, technological appliances. It would be a huge business loss for Sony to lose their investors and it would also be tough for Sony to look for other investors if their current investors pull out their share; it would give out a message on Sony not being a company that is worth investing in.

Third on the list would be the actors that are affiliated with Sony regarding this issue, British actor Tom Holland is signed with Sony to be the latest iteration of the titular superhero Spiderman, with this issue currently on the radar; it would be a waste of resources to recast Tom Holland again. ‘​No ​State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility’. ​A company must not breach their contract regardless as it would be a felony against the state.

Fourth and last on the list would be the general public; as the public are the consumer of what Sony produces and they are also contributing in supporting their favorite actors. However, they have a strong voice by voicing out on social media. Sony must keep a close and transparent relationship with the public; not everyone would be pleased easily​.

7. Key audience messages

Trust would be the ultimate key message in this situation where it all began due to a lacksture of trust for one another between two major companies which made them do abrupt decisions and taking matters into their own hands in hoping to have a better outcome which plunged them into an unprecedented split that left fans in despair.

Sincerity would be the second key message that can be established in this whole debate where the sincerity of both companies are willing to work out their problems and set aside their differences which can be adopted by many others as an example to follow.

8. Implementation

The duration of the campaign would be 2 months from the beginning of the crisis. Mid-August to Mid- November. As Sony needs a lot of time and preparations to convince the public that what they did is a good choice for the company. While the cost for the entire campaign would not exceed $​1,000000 as it is not a world-ending crisis. While the timing for this campaign to work would be before the end of 2019, as there would be plans for Spiderman in 2020.

As for the expected outcome of this campaign, everyone that is directly and indirectly involved would have a compromise and understand the choices made would be rational and just. However, the media would also need to evaluate on this issue for the public to understand.

The media for this campaign for Sony to reach out to would be the press and entertainment media as this crisis involves the entertainment industry. The media would have to report the good and the ugly of the situation without any bias or favoritism of other companies. Not only that, social media would also be one of the media used for this campaign to monitor online activities.

For the method of evaluation, every month there would be a biweekly follow up on social media moderation as social media is the current most effective and active platform for companies to interact with their constituencies and staff. Not only that, a month before the campaign ends; there will be an evaluation on the campaign and progress to deem it as a success or failure.

9. Budget

Considered Elements Costs Estimation

Press Releases/ Press Kits $ 5,000

Social Media Optimization $ 10,000

Press Conference $ 20,000

Miscellaneous $ 3,000

Total: $ 38,000

The budget suggested is a rough calculation on the whole PR Campaign. However, the biggest expenditure would be for the press conference as the whole ordeal is a crisis and it is needed for a press conference to address the issue. Next on the budget with $ 10,000 as proposed is social media optimization as social media is the current most effective tool for companies to reach out to their target audiences. As for the miscellaneous cost, it would be for any unlisted and unforeseen expenses. It would be wise to have a small amount of money ready for any extra cost. $ 5,000 is allocated to press releases and press kits for the press and media to have a jist of the situation.

10. Monitoring and evaluation

In the course of this issue that has left fans divided on opinion what can be done is that a lesson should be taken into consideration to not have this situation be repeated in the future so that any major companies can avoid any entanglement of rights. By referring to the benchmark set by Sony from their corporate report 2019. Sony wanted to have more inter-company collaboration projects such as Sony Pictures, Play Stations, merchandise, etc and large-scale vertical consolidation in the industry which includes the combination of high-speed connectivity of advanced hardware immersive popular reality experiences. Moreover, this method taken will access the AI input content that has multiplied increasingly thereby increasing the importance of the story (characters) and relationships with the creators. In addition, for evaluation; the biweekly and monthly reports as proposed would help to understand the trials and tribulations of the whole campaign ordeal.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the campaign for Sony is to mend the trust that was severed by the public and the company in regards to the news outbreak. Sony, by taking on this PR campaign would have a better chance of redemption for the general public to fully accept Sony’s plea to appeal back into the favour of the public, after being viewed as the villain in this heated debate of two giant companies, and to take this as a lesson and reflection to not just throw away what has been offered although it may not seem like the outcome that is being expected. As the saying goes, the higher the expectation; the higher the disappointment will be.

Reference List

  1. Jr., M. F. (2019, August 20). ​Disney-Sony Standoff Ends Marvel Studios & Kevin Feige’s Involvement In ‘Spider-Man’​. Retrieved from Deadline.com: https://deadline.com/2019/08/kevin-feige-spider-man-franchise-exit-disney-sony-dispute-avengers-endgame-captain-america-winter-soldier-tom-rothman-bob-iger-1202672545/
  2. Sony . (2019). Corporate Report 2019. Tokyo.
  3. Abell, B. (2019, September 12). ​Sony reportedly offers Disney 30% of Spider-Man, wants Venom in MCU​. Retrieved from insidethemagic.com: https://insidethemagic.net/2019/09/sony-disney-spider-man-ba1/
  4. Sposato, S. (2019, August 20). ​Disney/Sony standoff ends with Kevin Feige axed from Spider-Man franchise​. Retrieved from insidethemagic.net: https://insidethemagic.net/2019/08/kevin-feige-axed-from-spider-man/
  5. Coggan, D. (2019, August 24). ​Tom Holland opens up about Spider-Man’s future in wake of Disney-Sony rift​. Retrieved from ew.com: https://ew.com/movies/2019/08/24/tom-holland-spider-man-future-disney-sony/
  6. U.S. Const. art. I, § 10​.
  7. https://deadline.com/2019/08/kevin-feige-spider-man-franchise-exit-disney-sony-dispute-avengers-endgame-captain-america-winter-soldier-tom-rothman-bob-iger-1202672545/
  8. https://deadline.com/2019/08/kevin-feige-spider-man-franchise-exit-disney-sony-dispute-avengers-endgame-captain-america-winter-soldier-tom-rothman-bob-iger-1202672545/
  9. https://insidethemagic.net/2019/09/sony-disney-spider-man-ba1/
  10. https://insidethemagic.net/2019/08/kevin-feige-axed-from-spider-man/
  11. https://ew.com/movies/2019/08/24/tom-holland-spider-man-future-disney-sony/
24 May 2022

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