Yesterday I told you about the Toyota Prius’s prominent place in the storyline of God’s Not Dead 2, one of the more unlikely product/movie juxtapositions in recent memory. At the time, the word we got from Toyota was that all the Prius mentions in the film were purely coincidental. Since publication, however, Toyota’s media department followed up with updated information, to say that there indeed was a paid product placement deal between Toyota and the production. And that it was initiated by Toyota.
Specifically, by Toyota’s Group Vice President of Marketing, Jack Hollis (who is out this week, which is probably why I got incorrect information the first time around). “It was a passion project for him,” said a media contact at Toyota.
As for why a Prius showing up in God’s Not Dead 2 (as the vehicle of choice for both a pastor and a cancer-surviving religious blogger) was important for Hollis (a former baseball star at Stanford and ex minor leaguer, incidentally) it doesn’t take much digging. In his official profile on Toyota’s website, his biggest initiative is described as “shifting Toyota’s image to a more heart-pounding brand.”
And yes, religion seems to be part of that:
What is your favorite book?
That’s an easy one. My favorite book is the Bible. I have always walked with God. And the Bible to me is amazing. From an Old Testament standpoint, the stories are unbelievable. The New Testament is what life is to me. It’s about people. Think about Jesus’ leadership qualities. Twelve men leave their entire lives behind to follow a guy for two and a half years with no pay. Just to walk with him. What does that say? That’s awesome.
Another profile from 2007 describes Hollis as “a fan of Christian pop music,” which would presumably include the Newsboys, who feature so prominently in Gods Not Dead 2 that the trailer almost feels like a music video. His dream dinner guests? “Jesus Christ, Babe Ruth and Ronald Reagan.”
So, as is often the case, the simplest explanation turns out to be the correct one. What looked like paid product placement was exactly that. And if you think the Toyota Prius is a car for secular liberals, maybe don’t tell that to their GVP of marketing who sponsors God’s Not Dead 2 and wants to eat dinner with Jesus and Reagan.