Ambi Forms Branding Division With ‘Donnie Darko’ Merchandise

Dave McNary
Variety

Ambi Group is launching an in-house brand partnership division, starting with specialized merchandise based on the 2001 sci-fi drama “Donnie Darko,” Variety has learned exclusively.

Veteran marketing executive Keith Snelgrove, who recently oversaw “007” global branding initiatives tied to the James Bond franchise, has been appointed Ambi’s head of global brand partnerships to handle product placement, promotions, licensing and retail engagement, strategic alliance, and sponsorship marketing in TV, film, home entertainment, web, and mobile.

Ambi is partnered on “Donnie Darko” with Funko, a maker of pop culture collectibles. The merchandise includes a collection of Pop! Vinyl Figures and Pocket Pop! Key Chains, which will be introduced in 2017.

“Donnie Darko” stars Jake Gyllenhaal as the title character along with Maggie Gyllenhaal, Holmes Osborne, Daveigh Chase, Mary McDonnell, and Patrick Swayze. Gyllenhaal plays a troubled teenager plagued by visions of a man in a large rabbit suit who manipulates him to commit a series of crimes.

“Donnie Darko” is one of more than 400 titles in Ambi’s film and TV library that it will mine for branded licensing opportunities and broader integrations. The titles include “Memento,” “Begin Again,” “Cruel Intentions,” “End of Watch,” “Ides of March,” “Hit & Run,” “The Mexican,” “Parkland,” “Rush,” “Sliding Doors,” “Snitch,” “Undefeated,” and “The Way Back.”

Snelgrove will work out of Ambi’s Beverly Hills office. He was most recently senior VP of global business strategy at Danjaq, LLC/EON Prods., where he developed strategies for the 007 brand that resulted in significant licensing revenue increases from 2012’s “Skyfall.” Snelgrove also held senior marketing positions at MGM, Frankel and Co., Burger King Corporation, and Campbell-Mithun Advertising.

Ambi co-topper Andrea Iervolino said, “We view branded integrations and partnerships based on our IP as a key avenue for expansion as we move ever closer to realizing our goal of creating a fully-fledged, global studio on par with the industry leaders. We are very fortunate to have Keith on board to lead this new division.”

“‘Donnie Darko’ has such a rabid cult following and we certainly want to keep fans engaged,” Iervolino added. “Partnering with Funko, who are amazingly creative and great at what they do, makes all the sense in the world for us.”

Ambi is headed by Iervolino and Monika Bacardi. Its slate includes heist movie “Finding Steve McQueen,” starring Travis Fimmel, Kate Bosworth, William Fichtner, and Forest Whitaker; James Franco’s post-apocalyptic thriller “Future World,” starring Milla Jovovich, Lucy Liu, Method Man, Suki Waterhouse, and Franco; “Black Butterfly” starring Antonio Banderas and Jonathan Rhys Meyers; a remake of Christopher Nolan’s “Memento”;  and a biopic on Lamborghini founder Ferruccio Lamborghini.

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