I generally don’t have a problem with the product placements in movies. After all, they finance large chunks of the cost of filming. Also, it seems a little silly to me to go out of your way to invent new things or to avoid brands altogether–say, at a sporting event scene where you just know sponsors would be slathered all over it.
There were 2 obvious product placements (obvious meaning here “I noticed them.”) in Real Steel. One was for Dr. Pepper, which annoyed the Kid but not me. Hey, the character had to be drinking something, after all. The Kid’s complaint was that was all that Max drank, but then again, all I drink is Cherry Coke when I have the chance, so I get brand loyalty there.
The second stood out to me much more so. Sprint was a prominent sponsor in the Real Steel final tournament. Note that this movie takes place in 2020. I’m not saying Sprint isn’t going to be around in 9 years or so. That’s certainly possible. What I did spend more time than I should have is wonder that in 9 years, they are using the same slogan? Advertising slogans change all the time. Will they still be just using “The Now Network?” It’s possible, of course. Yet it did momentarily knock me out of the story while I puzzled that over.
Product placement automatically dates your story and/or movie. It’s inevitable. Writing a historical and these can give specificity. Do it wrong, and you risk throwing your readers out of the story.