What Marvel’s 2021 Marketing Channel Choices Tell Us

It's time for the superpower of cross-promotion

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Marvel is old. To be exact, 82 years. But they always kept their youth with cool big-screen characters such as Iron Man and Spiderman, and are always able to make millions of fans rush to the cinemas with a snap of the finger.

Younger and livelier than ever, Marvel chooses to broaden marketing channels with the likes of soccer, basketball and even luxury watches.

How they go about it and what we can learn from it: broadening their market channels.

Play ball

Recently, Marvel revealed it’s teaming up with the NBA for a first-of-its-kind superhero-themed broadcast/game called Marvel’s Arena of Heroes May 3. Given the fact that both Marvel and ESPN are owned by Disney, this joint effort to bring new revenue streams and approach new marketing channels isn’t surprising.

What is interesting, though, is the fact that this doesn’t seem like Marvel is testing the waters, but more of a full-on dive, as “elements from an original Marvel story” will be presented. Unique scoring systems will be shown, and superstars like Steph Curry and Draymond Green will be the focus alongside on-screen virtual 3D superheroes like Iron Man and Black Panther.

Is this Marvel’s attempt at imitating the live version of the famous Space Jam movie and collab between Warner Bros’ Looney Tunes, Michael Jordan and, more recently, LeBron James? Time will tell.

Marvel set its eyes on a different type of ball as well. 

The soccer game has the biggest fan bases and viewership numbers in the world, and if it’s good enough for American billionaire Stan Kroenke of Arsenal to buy into, it’s good enough for Marvel to try and test the waters.
The partnership with Adidas to launch soccer shoes based on the famous Predator model worn by superstar Lionel Messi yielded a new superhero collection of boots; a pair of fashionable Tony Stark sneakers and two of Marvel’s oldest and most recognized superheroes, the famous X-Men: Wolverine on the Predator Freak and Cyclops on the X Ghosted soccer shoes.

Marvel knows the time

In recent years, due to the age of Instagrammable saturated pictures, influencers and rappers flashing their wrists, the phenomenon of watch-wearing has skyrocketed, and the market is now gushing like an erupting volcano.

Even Jacob & Co. is what got Adidas and Marvel talking about luxury watches as a marketing channel. What started back in March as a heavy press-covered bromance on the official AP website called “Audemars Piguet x Marvel: The Story Begins” between AP CEO François-Henry Bennahmias’ and Don Cheadle (who plays the Avenger War Machine) resulted in one of the most prestigious watchmakers in the world and Marvel creating one of the most outrageous pieces the luxury watch market has seen in years: The AP Royal Oak Concept Black Panther Flying Tourbillon, which sold for $5.2 million.

Nicknames for luxury watches date 50 years back; a quick search on the official Rolex website for the word “Batman” actually gets results.

A coincidence? Not if you ask Marvel and AP, who want in on this superhero watch trend.

Young soul

Heritage brands like Rolex and Lamborghini didn’t advertise on social media four years ago. Heck, Lamborghini didn’t advertise at all. When asked why they don’t use TV commercials, its CEO replied “our clients don’t waste time watching TV.”

But times change, and new, younger money cohorts are on social media. 

Marvel is the perfect bridge between generations. And the marketing tactics show they know it.

Going after younger audiences, knowing where they spend their time and money, and capitalizing on modern trends using channels other than cinema, while targeting different socioeconomic classes with products ranging from sneakers to luxury watches, shows immense market knowledge and advertising prowess. 

Marvel’s new marketing channel choices tell us that generations change, and advertising should change with it, or adapt at the very least.