What the Avengers Game Learned From Marvel’s Marketing Machine in a Blockbuster-less Summer

With the MCU delayed, extensive brand partnerships helped fuel the Avengers video game

Marvel's Avengers, released this month, fills a gap left by the delayed Marvel Cinematic Universe. Square Enix
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Since 2010, a summer hasn’t passed without a Marvel Cinematic Universe blockbuster. This year it was supposed to be Black Widow, the long-awaited backstory of Scarlett Johansson’s character who has been a through line of the series since Iron Man 2. But with Black Widow delayed until November due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the summer 2020 posed a gap for the franchise. 

The marketing strategy that’s been behind each Marvel movie is one of the most expansive in history. For Avengers: Infinity War, 1,400 screens in New York City advertised the new movie, and the supervillain Thanos became the focus of Fortnite at the height of the game’s popularity. In stores, The Avengers appeared on displays from toys to potato chips to toothpaste. 

This summer, while there won’t be a Marvel movie in theaters, Marvel will still be all over stores. A new video game, Marvel’s Avengers, made its debut this month, and developer Square Enix is employing the same blockbuster marketing strategy that has consistently had Marvel movies on top of box office charts. 

“When a property launches, whether it’s on the big screen or TV, you can tell in the market which properties the entire studio has said, ‘This is going to be our focus,’” said Karl Stewart, head of strategic partnerships for Square Enix. “We looked at Marvel’s Avengers the game and said, ‘This is our blockbuster.’”

That also means bringing in the biggest brands for multifaceted strategic partnerships. There are telecom companies like Verizon and Virgin Media, tech companies like Vizio and Intel, and a CPG brand in Mars Wrigley’s 5 Gum. Even the Ad Council has partnered with Square Enix. 

“The Avengers franchise has ruled the summer for years, but the summer blockbuster is now in your living room, and gamers still want that same level of high-quality entertainment at home,” said Erin McPherson, chief content officer at Verizon Consumer Group. “Verizon already shows customers that we built a network for gamers, but a partnership like this also shows gamers we get them closer to the content they crave at a larger scale.” 

The Avengers franchise has ruled the summer for years, but the summer blockbuster is now in your living room, and gamers still want that same level of high-quality entertainment at home.

Erin McPherson, chief content officer, Verizon Consumer Group

“The goal of an event-level strategy is to have many channels lining up,” Stewart continued. “There’s the old adage of a somatic marker: When you walk around in a day, you want to see a brand three or four times. I live by that. If someone wakes up and goes through their day and they see Avengers here and Avengers there, that feels organic to them. The big movie releases feel like they are bringing everyone up to the same level, they make it an event, and we want to replicate that for this game.”

Take Vizio, the TV brand, which will put the game on every TV in Walmart and Best Buy. Vizio is even changing the supply line—a tough task in times of COVID—to include Marvel on the packaging. Avengers will also appear on 5 Gum, making sure its heroes are the first thing to greet customers when passing the electronics section and the last thing as they check out. 

“We know egamers use gum as part of their gaming ritual, so this was the perfect opportunity for 5 Gum to reach a new demographic,” said Scott Koplowitz, senior brand manager of gum and mints at Mars Wrigley U.S. “This not only delivers a tremendous level of added value to our brand, but continues to keep gum top-of-mind and drive category growth.”

Mitch Reames is a freelance writer based in southern Oregon. A 2017 graduate of the University of Oregon school of journalism and communications, Reames covers a wide range of industry topics including creativity, agencies, brands, esports and more.