Planning a road trip to Altoona? Not so fast. On April 27 the city nestled in the Allegheny Mountains officially changed its name to "Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold." No need to panic; the move is part of a promotion for Morgan Spurlock's new documentary by the same name, and will only last 60 days.
The Altoona City Council unanimously approved a resolution allowing Spurlock, an Oscar-nominated filmmaker probably best known for his film "Supersize Me," to purchase the naming rights of the municipality. Locally based Sheetz joined with Spurlock to lobby the council members to give the deal a thumbs up.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Spurlock paid $25,000 for the rights, which the governing body will use to benefit the police department in the town located 85 miles east of Pittsburgh.
Spurlock's new movie takes a satirical look at advertising and product placement in the film industry. In fact, the film itself is entirely funded by product placement and advertising. Sheetz is a top sponsor of the film.
"We didn't really know quite what to expect when we first started this thing. We took a chance getting involved in this project," said Stan Sheetz, president and CEO, Sheetz Inc. "We could look like total idiots or complete geniuses when it's all said and done... so far it's working out in our favor."
As for Altoona's name change, "Practically everything in America is for sale these days," Altoona Mayor Bob Schirf added. "Sporting events, stadium names, they all have a price tag, so we thought, âwhy wouldn't we market our town the same way?' It's all in good fun."
The film, which opened in theaters on April 22, points out that everything is for sale, even a small town in Pennsylvania. In the film, Spurlock visits the Sheetz Inc. corporate office in Altoona and has a meeting with company executives Stan, Louie and Joe Sheetz. During the meeting, company President and CEO Stan Sheetz asks Spurlock one of the more pertinent questions in the film, according to the Altoona Mirror's report.
"Is there a plot or just shameless marketing?" Stan Sheetz asked.
He also expresses concern over potential negative publicity during that scene, which lasts about 3 1/2 minutes and represents the majority of Sheetz's onscreen exposure.
At the conclusion of the scene, Sheetz agrees to make a baseline investment of $100,000 to be part of the film. The company has committed to an additional $150,000 if the film reaches certain criteria such as number of theaters that show it and DVD sales.
In the end, Sheetz officials considered the investment money well spent. "It is absolutely worth the investment," said Fred McConnell, director of brand development. "We've all been pleased with the amount of exposure we have received. It goes a long way in helping us to redefine our stores as not the typical gas and convenience store. It lets people know they can buy restaurant-quality food at a gas station."