Pfizer and BioNTech go to Hollywood with splashy Oscars sponsorship

Oscar-winning actor Will Smith slapping comedian Chris Rock made the biggest headlines out of the Oscars Sunday night. But the sponsorship from Pfizer and COVID shot partner BioNTech was for the pharma marketing world a bigger moment.

The vaccine-making pair, which teamed up two years ago and produced the world’s biggest-selling product last year in Comirnaty, their COVID-19 shot, joined forces again to sponsor the biggest night in Hollywood.

“Pfizer is proud to support the Oscars, and we are heartened to see the film industry gather in person and alongside fans to celebrate the talent and artistry produced during the past year,” a Pfizer spokesperson told Fierce Pharma Marketing.

The sponsorship—and the in-person event—come after the Oscars was forced to go virtual during the pandemic. Its return, one could infer, was made possible predominately by vaccines, including Pfizer and BioNTech’s mRNA shot Comirnaty, which is one of the two main COVID vaccines in the U.S.  

Pfizer’s spokesperson hinted at this point, saying: “The available data continue to show that broad utilization of COVID-19 vaccines and boosters can help prevent disease and protect lives, and our sponsorship highlights the impact they can have for individuals pursuing their livelihoods.

“The film industry has embraced vaccination, masking and other protocols designed to help prevent disease and avoid serious illness from COVID-19 and we are pleased to work with it to further promote public health.”

Pfizer is certainly used to worldwide commercial success, big ad spending and blockbuster sales, given its work on Viagra and Lipitor in the past. But this is also a major moment for German biotech BioNTech, which originally developed the mRNA shot. Before its deal with Pfizer in April 2020, it was a little-known startup; now it's really made it, U.S. style, and gone full Hollywood. 

It’s also noteworthy that BioNTech, in the sponsorship message, is shown and spoken ahead of Pfizer’s name—perhaps a nod to its being the vaccine's original creator. 

Alongside the sponsorship, which was announced at the start of the show, Pfizer also ran an older commercial during the Academy Awards. Known as “Remarkable,” that TV ad first aired back in December last year.

The ad doesn’t mention the words “COVID-19” or “vaccine,” but the spot takes the viewer to “the pursuit of normal," featuring the deliciously mundane aspects of everyday life: hanging at the bus stop with friends, going to the barbershop, sharing a bowl of popcorn for movie night, shopping for produce on a Sunday—all maskless and without fear.

Pfizer would not share details on how much it spent on the Oscars, but according to the ShowBiz Cheat Sheet, last year, the event brought in $115.3 million in advertising revenue while a 30-second ad, like Remarkable, reportedly went for somewhere between $1.7 million and $2.2 million.

We can only assume that sponsorship cost a lot more than an individual ad.

The pharma pair shared Oscar screen time with the likes of Rolex, Verizon, and, the first cryptocurrency company to advertise during the Oscars.