In case you weren’t clear, Tony Stark/Iron Man is in the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming movie. Now that Sony (which owns Spider-Man and has released five wall-crawling movies featuring two different actors so far) and Marvel/Disney (which owns the Avengers and other characters that aren’t part of the Fantastic Four or X-Men, both of which are owned by 20th Century Fox) have come to an agreement, there’s some latitude for characters from either studio to appear in the movies of the other. That agreement began with last year’s Captain America: Civil War, in which star Tom Holland first appeared as Spider-Man in an extended cameo, and now continues with Homecoming.
Iron Man has been all over the campaign. Robert Downey Jr. appears in almost half the running time of most of the trailers, more so than Michael Keaton, who plays the Vulture, the movie’s primary villain. He’s appeared on almost all the posters. And when Iron Man isn’t there, you can usually see Avengers Tower in the background amid the rest of the New York City skyline. It could not be more clear that Spider-Man is now living in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Riffing off that, one of the big aspects of the Homecoming campaign has been the help and guidance Tony Stark gives to a young Peter Parker. That includes helping him get his footing as a superhero—there are frequent entreaties for Parker to stay in his lane and leave the world-threatening stuff to the grownups—and giving him a new suit that upgrades the cloth-and-stitching original to one that features the latest Stark Technology toys. With so much focus put on it, it’s not surprising that if you do a Google search for “spider-man homecoming high tech suit,” you’ll see that’s the angle almost every site that wrote up posts about recent trailers took. Marvel.com did the same thing in sharing the trailer, and producers and other execs have hammered the advanced nature of Spidey’s new suit in interviews as well.
That runs counter to one of the core aspects of the Spider-Man character, which is that he doesn’t have access to the same tech that someone like Stark or the Fantastic Four does. His costume is simple and homemade. It wasn’t until the mid-2000s, when Spider-Man joined the Avengers in the comics (in the lead-up to the original version of Civil War) that Stark gave Parker a fancy, advanced costume.
To return to that handmade concept, Sony Pictures reached out to digital content agency Portal A, which launched the Spider-Man DIY campaign. The agency was tasked by Sony to produce a video that was focused on the costume, and so Portal A recruited a number of YouTube stars, including RoxyRocksTV, AWE me, RobotUnderdog2, TechnoBuffalo and Professor Pincushion.
Those stars were brought to a special “Spidey Lab,” created by the agency, and given the job of creating their own Spider-Man suit. The five influencers were brought into the custom-built design studio at YouTube’s L.A. headquarters, stocked via a partnership with Goodwill, and given access to whatever materials they needed to bring their vision to life. At the same time, fans on Twitter were asked to submit their own custom Spider-Man suit designs using the #SpiderManDIY hashtag for a chance to win a trip to the movie’s world premiere.
See the results here:
The results are a mashup of the artistic sensibilities of each creator. Some, like AWE Me, created a suit that’s wholly original. Others, such as TechnoBuffalo and Professor Pincushion, wound up creating costumes that resembled existing characters the Scarlet Spider and Spider-Gwen, respectively.
Regardless of the concrete results, which were shown off to star Tom Holland once they were done (see below), the goal here was to activate a number of influential online creators to get some additional buzz going for the movie, on which Sony has a lot riding. Back in April, a Collective Bias study showed influencer marketing had a bigger impact on activating consumer behavior, a trend that was certainly behind the adoption of this tactic.
While it might be slightly—OK greatly—incongruous with the tech-heavy tone of the rest of the Homecoming campaign, this tactic gets back to Spider-Man’s homemade roots, reminding us of one of the core character traits that has made him so relatable in the more than 50 years since his debut.