Altoona, Pa Renamed In Documentary Publicity Stunt

Apr 26, 2011, 15:31 by John Steele

In a publicity stunt to promote an upcoming documentary by acclaimed filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, Altoona, Pa will be temporarily renamed "POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold."

The documentary of same name, which opened in Los Angeles last week, examines product placement, advertising and unconventional sponsorship. The Altoona stunt seeks to make a point that, for the right price, everything is for sale.

"We live in a place and a time when it seems like everything is brought to you by some sponsor," Spurlock told The Associated Press. "It starts to become this question of, 'Where does it end?'"

Spurlock, most famous for gaining 20 pounds on an all-McDonalds diet in the 2004 film "Super Size Me," is planning on opening the film in Altoona, where a big part of the film takes place.

But the town of Altoona wasn't the only institution getting in on the product placement action. POM Wonderful, a Los Angeles-based juice company, paid $1 million to be title sponsor. The company, along with 14 other businesses, bankrolled the movie, all for a shot at this tongue-in-cheek premise.

According to the Associated Press, a key sponsor is Altoona-based Sheetz, Inc., a family-owned convenience store chain with about 400 locations in Pennsylvania, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Stan Sheetz, president and son of founder Bob Sheetz, said he was skeptical when Spurlock first pitched the concept to him, his uncle Louie Sheetz, who handles the chain's marketing, and cousin Joe Sheetz.

That two-hour meeting has been boiled into about six minutes for Sheetz' "role" in the movie, for which the company paid Spurlock $100,000 with escalator clauses that will likely rise to $250,000 if the film and its subsequent DVD sales perform as projected.

"I'm hoping people will be saying, 'Well, that looks like a fun place, those look like cool people, and a brand I want to associate with,'" he said.