hustle – marketing recap

How Netflix has sold another dramatic Adam Sandler turn.

Hustle movie poster from Netflix
Hustle movie poster from Netflix

Adam Sandler plays Stanley Sugerman, a talent scout for the Philadelphia 76ers, in Hustle, new on Netflix now. While on a recruiting trip in Spain, Sugerman comes across an unknown talent named Bo Cruz (Juancho Hernangómez). When the 76ers aren’t interested in Cruz, Sugerman leaves the team to get the player ready for the draft. Helping him out are his wife Teresa (Queen Latifah) and others.

Robert Duvall, Ben Foster, María Botto and others also star while a handful of real life NBA players make appearances as themselves to add authenticity to the story.

This is just the latest film Sandler has produced and starred in for Netflix, a batch that includes dramas such as Uncut Gems along with lots of the comedies Sandler is well known for. So let’s take a look at how it’s been presented to audiences.

announcement and casting

The project got off the ground in mid-2020 when Sandler signed on. Netflix had acquired the project with Jeremiah Zagar directing a script from Taylor Materne and Will Fetters.

Latifah, Foster, Duval, Bottol and others joined the cast over the last half of 2020.

Netflix released some stills of the cast in October of last year, revealing some of the story points at that time.

In an interview from August of last year, Sandler revealed that Netflix – famous among filmmakers for staying out of production and not sending overly-prescriptive notes – requested part of the script be changed from China to somewhere in Europe because the company doesn’t operate in the former country.

the marketing campaign

Things got started in February with the release of the teaser trailer (2.4m YouTube views). The framing of the trailer is a pep talk Sugerman is giving Cruz about needing to love the game and be obsessed with being the best in order to succeed. While that’s happening we see lots of footage of Cruz on the court and training, sending the message that there will be lots of inspirational montages and other footage as we’re shown how hard he’s willing to work.

We get more of that in the full trailer (4.4m YouTube views), released in May. As it opens, Sugerman is a bit frustrated at being stuck as a scout when his dream is to coach a professional team. His enthusiasm upon finding Cruz is squashed when the team owner says Cruz doesn’t have a shot. So he takes it on himself to train him and after some rough patches things seem to be falling into place, meaning both men may be able to achieve their goals.

The movie’s one poster, which just shows Sugerman sitting on the bench as the blurry bodies of players run past him, also came out at the same time.

Sandler, Latifah and others all spoke at the movie’s recent Hollywood premiere about how they got involved in the project, what it was like to film all those basketball sequences and more.

An interview with Zagler had him talking about preparing for production, including how to best shoot all that basketball action, and what kind of movies he used as sources of inspiration.

That same speech used in the teaser trailer of Sugerman explaining how much he loves the game and how hard Cruz is going to have to work was released on its own as a clip.

Latifah stopped by “Kimmel” to promote the film while Sandler made the rounds of “Kimmel”, “The Tonight Show” and “Late Night” to do likewise while also engaging in some of his usual pranks and such.

There are plenty of pull quotes praising the film – and especially Sandler’s performance – in an extended spot released just the other day. It plays like the second trailer, just arranged a bit differently for a different kind of dramatic impact.


Despite the fact that he’s now established a decent track record of dramatic roles, anytime Sandler steps out of his comedic comfort zone it becomes the centerpiece of that movie’s campaign and this is no exception. That’s powered to a large degree by the reviews that can’t help comparing his performance here to those from his lackadaisical efforts with Kevin James, David Spade and others.

But the marketing itself is pretty solid here, establishing a tone for the movie that’s consistent throughout the campaign. So it works, especially if the goal is to attract the same crowd that gravitated toward Uncut Gems and other similar titles.

Leave No Trace – Marketing Recap

leave no trace posterThe new movie Leave No Trace is the latest in a series of recent films about characters who have intentionally chosen to live off the grid, leaving modern society behind. Ben Foster plays Will, a father who’s taken his daughter Tom (Thomasin McKenzie) and decided to live in a forest far away from everyone else and surviving all on their own.

Everything changes when the authorities catch up with them and force the two to come back to “civilization.” Social services puts them in a house and tries to get Will a job and Tom an education. Neither takes well to their new surroundings and seek to escape the life they’re being forced into and return to the life they knew. The movie comes from director Debra Granik, the first feature from her since she broke out with 2010’s Winter’s Bone.

The Posters

The poster shows Tom and Will hiking through the woods, dwarfed by the massive trees around them. Most of the real estate is devoted to a collection of quotes from critics praising the movie, something that, when combined with the mention of this coming from the director of Winter’s Bone, indicates the studio knows this is going to appeal mostly to the arthouse crowd and so is going after them directly.

The Trailers

Will and Tom are living on their own in the middle of a park and, when the trailer opens, are on the run before Will is arrested. The authorities keep talking about wanting to get Will help – we see he may have trauma from his time in the military – and make sure Tom is taken care of, which she insists her dad has been doing. They’re set up in an actual home and given jobs, but it’s not long before Will can’t take the conformity and structure and so they set out once again. Tom, though, seems to be alright with a more conventionally normal life and so strikes out on her own.

That looks really great, especially the performances by both McKenzie and Foster. She in particular seems to give a powerful edge to Tom’s mix of independence, self-sufficiency and devotion to her father. It’s obvious she’s the heart and soul of the story as it’s her journey and struggle the audience will be asked to primarily invest itself in.

Online and Social

Bleecker Street’s official website for the movie features all the usual information, including a story synopsis, trailers and clips, a photo gallery and so on. Links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles are also featured on the front page of the site.

On the editorial front, there’s a section of original blog posts from the studio featuring interviews and profiles of Granik, Foster and others involved in the movie as well as some with Peter Brock, the author of the source novel, and a wilderness survival expert. Farther down the page is a collection of the earned media with the cast and crew.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

The story was outlined in its most basic form, showing the relationship between Will and Tom and their struggle to live the lives they want to free from interference, in TV commercials that ran long and short. Both name-drop Winter’s Bone, apparently believing enough of the target audience is familiar with that movie for it to provide encouragement to see this one.

Media and Publicity

Critics often called this movie out as one they couldn’t wait to see at the Sundance Film Festival, in no small part because of it being the long-awaited follow-up by director Debra Granik to Winter’s Bone. Around that time Granik spoke about the gap between films as well as how she approached this story and working with the actors to tell a natural, observational story more than anything else. The movie was eventually picked up by Bleecker Street toward the end of the festival.

Later interviews allowed Granik to talk more about the story she was telling with this movie and how she’s determined to carve her own path as a filmmaker and not get caught up in the big spectacle of the movie industry.

In the last week or so there was a big push around McKenzie, with spotlights that said she would follow in Jennifer Lawrence’s footsteps as the next young woman to breakout in a movie directed by Granik. Foster got some attention as well as people reminded us he’s one of those “reliably great in everything” type of actors.


I’m happy to see that Bleecker Street gave this movie some paid support along with the engaging and interesting organic campaign that was mounted. It certainly highlights some of the strongest value propositions available, including the performances by Foster and McKenzie. The latter in particular, along with Granik, were really turned into the focus of the publicity, something that coupled with strong festival buzz should help get the attention of those looking for a smaller-scale theatrical outing.


There’s a new TV spot designed to show off some of the positive reviews the movie has received and help it build on very solid word of mouth.