Obnoxious Product Placement: Golden Palace Gambles On Rocky
Online casino figures all too prominently in slugger's swan song.
There were plenty of disturbing things about Rocky Balboa -- a movie which could also have been called Rocky LVXI, Rocky: The Golden Years or Sylvester Stallone's Embarrassingly Public Mid-Life Crisis -- but the unholy alliance between the aging Italian Stallion and Golden Palace, the self-proclaimed "number-one online casino," was easily the most upsetting.
Not just because it's a particularly egregious example of product placement in a movie already riddled with it: There's Everlast, the quintessential boxing-movie brand, along with endless plugs for ESPN (DIS), HBO (TWX) and MGM Mirage's (MGM) Mandalay Bay casino, where the (anti-) climactic bout between our beloved South Philly underdog and the arrogant young champ takes place.
Indeed, the presence of the Golden Palace brand name is admirably discreet by comparison - tasteful, really: The logo is most prominently and memorably plastered across the breasts of the bikini-clad models who signal the start of each round.
Of course, this only counts as discreet for a place like Golden Palace, a company whose standard marketing efforts are only slightly more aggressive than Mike Tyson was in his ear-devouring fight with Evander Holyfield.
Cyber World Group, the owner of Golden Palace, has for the most part managed to sidestep Canada's stringent prohibitions on gambling by locating its servers on the Kahnawake reservation, just outside of Montreal. More than 60% of the world's online gambling traffic gets tracked through Kahnawake, which allegedly boasts the largest concentration of bandwidth in North America.
But Golden Palace has always been uniquely gifted at evading the laws (of taste, decorum and decency, to name just a few) that govern the rest of us. In that way, it's just as much of a lone wolf -- a maverick -- as good old Rocky himself.
Some of Golden Palace's more outlandish marketing schemes include:
- The purchase of the so-called "Beckham Ball," which cost England the Euro 2004 Championship when David Beckham sent it sailing over, rather than into, the net. The casino subsequently announced plans to send the orb into outer space via a Canadian space shuttle also to be emblazoned with the Golden Palace brand.
- Buying actor William Shatner's kidney stone (once it was no longer actually inside William Shatner) for $25,000.
- Paying Terri Illigan, a Tennessee mother of 5, $15,000 to legally change her name to Goldenpalace.com. Though the former Terri bravely said she's sure she'll "always be Terri" to her kids and husband, most now call her "the lunatic who changed her name to a web address."
- After losing several family members in a single year -- including her younger sister in a fatal car crash -- Kari Smith found herself on the edge of poverty. But never fear: Golden Palace gallantly offered her $10,000 - for the privilege of having its name permanently tattooed on her forehead.
The casino, having long ago recognized that human skin had been unfairly under-exploited as real estate for advertising, had already paid to brand itself on hundreds of legs, arms, chests and backs - although Smith was the first woman to sacrifice her face to the online gambling gods. Ten thousand dollars. Who says that corporations don't know how to give back?
- Which brings us to perhaps the oddest promotional gambit of all: For $28,000, Golden Palace bought a decade-old grilled cheese sandwich that -- at least according to the sandwich's previous custodian, Diane Duyser -- bears the gentle visage of the Virgin Mary.
The Holy Mother's grilled cheese is apparently incorruptible, and would be just as delicious now as it was when it was first prepared in 1994 - even though it's clearly intended for solemn worship and contemplation, not for lunch. Golden Palace has promised to take the sandwich on an inspirational world tour before auctioning it off for charity.
Some might say the sandwich has finally come full circle: Duyser credits it with bringing her more than $70,000 in winnings at her local casino.
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