How Zendaya’s New Movie Levels Up the Luxury Product Placement Game

Director Luca Guadagnino’s smash-hit tennis drama, Challengers, follows former prodigy turned coach Tashi Duncan (Zendaya) as she navigates a love triangle between her husband, Art Donaldson (Mike Faist), and ex-boyfriend Patrick Zweig (Josh O’Connor), who are set to face off in a one-on-one match. While all eyes will surely be on the messy trio when the movie premieres this weekend, it’ll be hard to miss some of the luxury product placements on screen—and that’s on purpose.

“My whole notion was—instead of playing down the brands—it would be interesting to play up the brands,” Jonathan Anderson, the film’s costume designer and creative director of Loewe, told Bloomberg over email. “It’s not about product placement; it’s about the reality that we live in, that we forget that the wallpaper around us is made up of brands. When you see it, you realize how deep that is.”

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In Challengers, which hits theaters on April 26, Tashi lands an Adidas campaign early in her career before she’s crippled by a knee injury. Later on, Art, who also happens to be Patrick’s former doubles partner, is seen prominently sporting Japanese clothing brand Uniqlo and ultimately ends up nabbing an endorsement deal with Aston Martin.

“In line with his vision to authentically portray the drama of professional tennis, Luca wanted to incorporate Aston Martin in the plot through the fictional endorsement campaign for DBX707,” Marco Mattiacci, the marque’s global chief brand and commercial officer, told Bloomberg.

In the same vein of art imitating life, 20-time Grand Slam Roger Federer has had a long-time partnership with Rolex that extends both on and off the court. Similarly, the legendary Serena Williams has been a brand ambassador for Audemars Piguet watches since 2014, while Rafael Nadal has been the face of numerous Armani campaigns and commercials.

Throughout the movie, Tashi can be seen wearing elegant ensembles from fashion labels such as Chanel and reaching for a luxurious $300 Augustinus Bader moisturizer while she coaches her way through retirement and Art rising up the professional ranks. According to the production’s creative team, each of the carefully selected products plays a part in furthering the narrative that over time, the stakes have definitely changed for all three characters.

“I think the clever thing we did, I hope, is try to selectively pick which brands we were using and have a nice mix,” production designer Merissa Lombardo told the outlet. “We worked with the brands and made sure that it all felt real, and everyone was on board with what we were doing.”

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