The Martian — ARES: live | Leave your Mark

Information elements and project structure

Trained to survive (9 September 2015) — Filmed during intense training sessions at a NASA facility, astronaut Mark Watney is in reality also chosen as Under Armour’s commercial testimonial to promote the technical clothing used during Ares III’s athletic training.

1. Introduction

This document proposes an analysis of Ares: live | Leave Your Mark (0:58), promotional video of The Martian (R. Scott, 2015).
The research considers the product and its related materials by studying the creative choices, the informative properties, the modalities of visual representation and promotion.

Introductory note: The Martian (Ridley Scott, 2015) is set in 2035–36. During the Ares III mission to Mars, astronaut Mark Watney is mistakenly considered dead during a heavy storm, and abandoned by his crew. But Watney survives and wakes up alone on the hostile planet. With few supplies available, Watney must use ingenuity, intelligence and a spirit of survival to find a way to report to Earth that he is alive. Millions of miles away, NASA and a team of international scientists work tirelessly to try to bring to program a bold — if not impossible — rescue mission. As these stories of incredible courage evolve, the world unites to support Watney’s return.[1]

1.1. Extended entertainment
During the articulated promotional campaign of The Martian, the series-prologue initiative called Ares: live developed into six main project interventions designed to introduce the fundamental narrative coordinates of the fictional world by outlining scenarios, people, environments, technological context, time intervals and existential conditions related to the film story. Considering the recent sectoral need — which has today become a priority — to transform the promotional campaign of a media product into an additional entertainment experience, the immersive strategies integrated in Ares: live have developed by fragmenting the information into serial videos, with the aim to stimulate commercial curiosity towards the primary product (The Martian), expanding the narrative context with collateral materials
and interdependent informative notions.

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2. Analysis

2.1. The Ares: live channel
Conceived as the official YouTube channel dedicated to its space program, Ares: live hosts 6 promotional videos interconnected with the film story of The Martian, published between June and October 2015.

The video series includes:

  1. Farewell
    7 June 2015
    On board the Hermes space station, astronaut Mark Watney personally records a live video to introduce the crewmembers a few hours before leaving the Earth’s orbit for Mars.
  2. The Right Stuff
    4 August, 2015
    During preparation for the Ares III mission, the crewmembers are interviewed by a NASA psychologist after a 10-day isolation period.
  3. Our Greatest Adventure
    27 August 2015
    The American astrophysicist Neil deGrass Tyson presents a brief fictional
    documentary set in 2035, illustrating the main features of the Ares III mission.
  4. Leave Your Mark
    9 September 2015
    Astronaut Mark Watney is filmed during the intense athletic training phase prior to the Ares III mission, promoting Under Armour’s technical sports apparel.
  5. Bring Him Home
    22 September 2015
    The world population mobilizes in a solidarity campaign requesting to bring Mark Watney home through a recovery mission.
  6. Ares 3: Chem Cam
    8 October, 2015
    Having succeeded in remaining alive on Mars, Mark Watney films himself on video inside the housing unit (HAB) intent on performing some scientific experiments planned during the Ares III mission, commenting on his condition and making fun of the other crew members.
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Visualization and synthesis of Ares: live promotional materials in order of publication (June-October 2015) and in narrative order (2034–2035/2036)
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2.2. Leave Your Mark
9 September 2015

Leave Your Mark (0:58)[2] portrays Mark Watney during the intense athletic preparation phase prior to the Ares III mission of 2035. While in training at a NASA facility [3], Watney is filmed intent on performing a series of physical exercises (running, weights, pull-ups, jump rope, push-ups) wearing Under Armour technical clothing [4], presented as the official technical provider of the Ares space program. The futuristic video is in fact the result of a synergistic collaboration between RSA Films, 3AM, Droga 5 and Under Armour, renowned American sportswear brand interested in creating an advertisement related to the fictional world of The Martian.

“Our goal was to explore the cultural impact of a fictional manned mission to Mars by asking a simple question: what if Astronauts were sponsored by brands in the year 2035?”.[5]

Athlete and astronaut, Watney represents an extraordinary example of strength (physical, moral, mental), a model of will and personal success: the ideal testimonial to underscore the values linked to the world of sports (dedication, perseverance, sacrifice, well-being) and the aesthetic and identity qualities associated with Under Armour.

“Under Armour isn’t an interruption into the movie’s fictional world, it’s realistic and actually adds credibility. The brand helps make their future world seem real, and of course that’s what the movie makers want. For the movie and the brand it is a win-win.”[6]

“This gives brands the ability to create meaningful, culturally relevant content, tied to a property that people care about. And in return, the studio gets to reach an audience that they might not have reached otherwise. And it all works together to form an excellent way to capture interest and get audiences excited without spoiling the entire story or the moviegoing experience.”[7]

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Leave your Mark: visual development synthesis — 1) The astronaut Mark Watney trains with an apparent expression of difficulty and demotivation; 2) Watney resumes and continues training with increasing intensity; 3) Excited, Watney is finally equipped and ready to start as an Ares III astronaut; 4) Ares logo with promotional phrase + Under Armour logo with company role description. Note: the reading order is lateral, starting from the top left. The number of frames shown does not represent the exact visual development of the video.

Main communicative properties:

  • As an interdependent intervention, it broadens the background of the film story and strengthens the protagonist’s stage presence, showing Watney’s training prior to the Ares III mission.
  • Together with Our Greatest Adventure, it bears witness to a further experiment in immersive promotional strategies and new commercial synergies.
  • Spread through the official Under Armour channels (website and social platforms[8]), it reaches a diverse audience, increasing the visibility of company’s products and promoting The Martian.
  • Encourages an instinctive identification with Watney’s psychological profile (a desirable quality in terms of existential condition, aesthetics, physical strength, intelligence, determination) and a feeling of belonging to a specific social group (people involved in sports) favoring positive emotional results (in line with the solidarity required of the survivor Watney).
  • Includes a motivational speech with metaphorical references to sports themes (type of functional training, fatigue, performance) and existential themes (choices, perseverance, self-esteem, meaning, path, success) resulting particularly suitable for reinterpretations and personal connotations, in line with the promotional language of Under Armour.
  • Contaminates the real world with fictional elements, defining Under Armour as the official technical supplier of the Ares space program, publicizing the extreme quality of the company’s technical products.
  • It can stimulate participatory practices involving new types of audiences by encouraging the creation of independent content (e.g., a sports training video to emulate Watney’s athletic performance, or that of real astronauts, also combining scientific or nutritional information).
  • Encourages technological migrations on at least 3 domains (Ares: live YouTube channel, Under Amour domain, The Martian official website + related social platforms), helping to increase media visibility of the movie product and related products on the Internet.
  • Explicits the descriptive phrase associated with the program Ares III: Advancing the Future of Humanity.
  • Shows for the first time in Ares: live material (thus excluding the first official promo), the integral space suit worn by Watney, revealing: small touch screen with biometric functions on the left arm; helmet with internal lighting and two external directional torches; astronaut’s surname (written on the back of the helmet reproducing the original typeface of the NASA logo adopted in 1975); mini video camera (GoPro; seen in Farewell) mounted on the rear module via a metal bar; a variant of the Ares III logo (written vertically on the chest); the current NASA logo (right shoulder); and the US national flag (left shoulder).
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“Progress doesn’t come overnight. Long before you achieve your dream, you have to make the decision to start the journey. You take a step. And another. Each day your journey will bring you closer to your dream. It will be difficult, but carry on and one day you’ll be there.”[9]

Leave Your Mark is a celebration of those that understand that greatness isn’t in the destination itself, but in the journey to get there. […] because when you’re an astronaut, you have to train like survival is your only option.”[10]

See the complete analysis of the Ares: live promotional campaign.

Notes List

[1] Official description on Youtube. The exclusive world premiere of The Martian was hosted during the Toronto Film Festival (10–11 September 2015). See https://goo.gl/MNHGCk https://goo.gl/VcZdsS

[2] In addition to the literal meaning of “Leave your mark”, the title also refers to the actual name “Mark” (Watney). Combined with the imperative form of the verb [to leave] “leave” creates an immediate reference to Watney’s condition, left/abandoned on Mars. See https://goo.gl/uciNMm

[3] The logo of the US space agency is briefly visible inside an elevator used by Watney (0:35).

[4] The Under Armour domain includes a promotional section entirely dedicated to The Martian. The user can directly purchase the technical clothing worn by Watney in the video, or view the entire original clothing collection inspired by the Ares III mission. See https://goo.gl/cYCYid

[5] Chris Eyerman, 3AM. See https://goo.gl/FwisTk

[6] Nick Phelps, Droga5. See https://goo.gl/47qeEg

[7] Alison Temple, 3AM. Vedi https://goo.gl/47qeEg

[8] The full video (9 September; 0:58) is previewed on 7–8 September 2015 with 2 images with Watney in semi-darkness. On 14, 21, 28 September 2015, 3 short alternative videos are aired (0:20) featuring some unpublished shots. Like other sports companies, Under Armour’s promotional activity on official social platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest) includes numerous photos of athletes combined with motivational phrases to spur users during training. See https://goo.gl/xGRAUt https://goo.gl/btJcas https://goo.gl/R9JVDs https://goo.gl/jQLtrz https://goo.gl/N3QAPu https://goo.gl/YFqPdV https://goo.gl/gn1WaA

[9] Motivational phrase recited in the background while Watney trains. It was not possible to identify the actor involved with certainty — believed to be Morgan Freeman or, more likely, Josh Robert Thomson, or Jason Stephens, both professional voice over actors and excellent imitators. See https://goo.gl/YVTQo7 https://goo.gl/yhkYb9

[10] Chris Eyerman. Vedi https://goo.gl/w58zj6

Study method and sources
This document is the result of a compilation process created with scientific and accessibility requirements. Special care has therefore been devoted to coherently structuring the texts and analysis sections, to selecting functional visual devices, and to providing verified information by correctly citing sources of documentation, with the final objective of sharing useful material for the purposes of study, criticism and information. References to all the sources consulted have been inserted using numbers in square brackets [] and reported in the references at the conclusion, with the relative explanatory notes. The hyperlinks’ accessibility was verified in November 2015, date of the document’s first publication. A final revision was made in May 2019.

Legal notice
The iconographic material, the trademarks (registered or unregistered) and all the information reported as being in any case protected belong to the respective owners. The internal use of protected material responds exclusively to a scientific and cultural intent.

The author releases the document through the license:

  • Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0.
    This allows third parties to share the published material indicating the origin, respecting the same type of original license and prohibiting the use for commercial purposes.

Contacts
Humenhoid is a creative research unit specialized in immersive entertainment and transmedia storytelling, with focus on cinema, tv series, and video games.

For information, communications or proposals for collaboration write to
Enrico Granzotto | e@humenhoid.com | Humenhoid.com

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Humenhoid’s projects include:

  • The Road (J. Hillcoat, 2009)
    Narrative structure, information elements, fictional world.
    (120 pp; available upon request)
  • Project Prometheus
    A comprehensive case study on information management and narrative design in the Alien (R. Scott, 1979) and Prometheus (R. Scott, 2012) interconnected franchises.
    (120 pp; available upon request)

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I’m a creative research unit specialized in immersive entertainment and transmedia storytelling with focus on cinema, tv series, and videogames | humenhoid.com

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