It’s been more than a decade of success for comic book films. In 2018, Marvel Studios celebrated its 10-year anniversary as a film production company, with 21 Marvel movies under its belt. That same year, Marvel Cinematic Universe became the highest-grossing film franchise of all time, having made $14.694 billion at the box office, beating out the Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter film franchises.
DC comics has had rivaling triumphs in the cinematic landscape; between 2005 and 2018 they produced 15 films, including the critically-acclaimed The Dark Knight, Watchmen, Green Lantern and 2016’s Suicide Squad. With some of the world’s greatest comic book characters including Spiderman, Batman and The Avengers team between the two production companies, there’s no wonder that DC and Marvel have become the production houses for some of the biggest and most exciting film franchises in the world.
The popularity of comic book characters and films around the world has interested big brands. Many companies have been looking to incorporate comic book characters as a part of their marketing efforts to attract new audiences. The production companies have reacted accordingly, creating new opportunities for brands to get in on the success of the comic book universe and access its fans.
“If you’re coming in, as a brand, you should not just come in around a big film release, there are many more ways to engage with our fanbase,” says Mindy Hamilton, Marvel Entertainment’s senior vice-president of global partnerships. “As we head more towards a lifestyle brand, how do we continue to serve this-ever growing fanbase? And how do we help brands tap into that as well?”
Here are some examples of comic book characters appearing in other industries.
The Avengers: EndGame & Coca Cola
Coca Cola and Marvel have a history of marketing collaborations.
A 2017 ad featured The Incredible Hulk fighting Ant-man over a Coca Cola Mini in advance of the release of Ant-Man 2. During the 2019 build-up to Avengers: EndGame (now the highest grossing super hero film of all time), Coca Cola released a new collaboration with Marvel.
A collection of Coke cans showcasing The Avengers characters featured the likes of Thor, Iron Man, Hulk, Black Widow, Thanos and more. It’s likely that Coca Cola will continue to work with other Marvel franchises in the future.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 & Ford
In 2017, automaker Ford announced their marketing campaign as part of the release of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Launching with a 30-second commercial featuring the new Ford EcoSport and Baby Groot, it was revealed that the compact SUV would appear in the film on May 5 2017 before becoming available in dealerships across the USA.
Alongside the film and commercial, Ford and Marvel released a limited-edition comic book featuring Baby Groot, the EcoSport and a fictional moviegoer who are attacked by enemies before being saved by the rest of the Guardians.
Colanttote & Tony Stark
Medical-bracelet maker Colanttote got involved in the hype around The Avengers. Their magnetic polarity bracelets were worn by Tony Stark – played by Robert Downy Jr. – in the 2012 film. But the collaboration went way beyond just a bracelet; a Colanttote storefront was featured in New York city street scenes in the film, and the company’s CEO made an appearance.
Replicas of the bracelets – and a kid’s version with lights and sounds – were sold following the film’s release in retail stores.
Red Baron & The Avengers
Frozen-pizza maker Red Baron were another brand to release products in conjunction with The Avengers.
The company spent a reported $5 million for it’s tie-in with the film, targeting kids age 6-17 and mothers age 35-54. The pricetag included The Avengers themed packaging on 13 million of its pizzas, in-store marketing across many of its retailers and a prominent advertising feature alongside Harvey Davidson at the film’s premiere in Hollywood.
Themed slots with comic book heroes
It’s no surprise that the world of comic books has made its way to online slots. While Marvel-related slot games (including The Incredible Hulk, Daredevil, X-Men and The Avengers) were removed from online casinos in 2017, there remains a great number of comic book-themed slots to play — especially from Marvel’s biggest competitor, DC Comics.
DC Comic-themed slots feature Justice League, Batman, Green Lantern, The Flash and Wonder Woman. Players can also enjoy Superman The Movie online slots, which runs on Playtech software as well as Batman & The Batgirl Bonanza.
Nokia and Batman
Phone company Nokia has had a longstanding collaborative relationship with DC’s Batman. The Nokia 5800 XpressMedia phone was featured in the trailer for the 2008 hit film The Dark Knight; in June of the same year, Nokia released a ‘Black Knight’ edition of the Nokia 6205, which featured Batman-related content like backgrounds and ringtones.
Nokia continued its relationship with DC Comics. Alongside the 2012 release of The Dark Knight Rises, Nokia launched a new edition of their popular Lumia 900.
The Nokia Lumia The Dark Knight Rises Edition handset featured a black polycarbonate uniframe with a laser etched Batman logo and pre-loaded Batman content.
Hershey’s and The Avengers
Chocolate manufacturer Hershey’s made a strong point to associate themselves with comic book franchises. Targeting a similar audience as pizza maker Red Baron, the company developed tie-ins with 2012’s The Avengers via branded Hershey’s Chocolate Kisses and other Hershey branded chocolate products. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and York Peppermint Patties both had a Marvel-style treatment; a Hershey’s Avengers Sweepstake offered fans the chance to win a Marvel 5-Film Set DVD, one Super Hero/Hershey’s T-shirt, a code providing access to exclusive Hershey’s branded Marvel products and more.
The future of comic book character marketing
With the boom in comic book-related films, from Marvel, DC Comics and independent production companies, there are so many opportunities for brands to get involved and access new audiences.
We can definitely expect more collaborations in the future, as the Marvel Cinematic Universe expands and fans anticipate future stories from the bright, pop-art colorful world of comics.