Superheroes Go To College With Russell Athletic

Spiderman-ARussell Athletic has partnered with Marvel Entertainment for a cross-promotional campaign directed at college students. 

The program visits 200 colleges starting this summer before the beginning of the academic year. Russell will sell T-shirts and hoodies bearing representations of Marvel characters like Spider-Man, Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor and Wolverine.

The superheroes will wear each college’s respective school colors along with their mascots and logos. Universities participating in the program include biggies like UCLA, Michigan State, Baylor, Kansas State, Mississippi State, the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, Ohio State and University of Iowa.

Starting next month, the Russell apparel will be at college bookstores, arenas, sporting goods retailers and mid-tier stores, per the company. The move is consistent with Marvel's push into sports. Does it make sense? Well, last year the National Hockey League did a deal with superhero co-inventor Stan Lee to create a superhero character for each of the 30 teams in the NHL. The program, "The Guardian Project," involved a joint venture between Lee's SLG Entertainment and the NHL, called Guardian Media Entertainment. 

Before becoming superheroes, a few Marvel and DC Comic characters were students: Peter Parker was a high school student, and in one iteration The Flash, Jay Garrick, was a college student who gained superhuman powers -- extreme speed in his case -- in a college lab accident, à la Parker. The Thing, one of the Fantastic Four, was from a Jewish family on the Lower East Side, and went to Empire State College and got an engineering degree.

Marvel says the deal with Russell Athletic helps extend the reach of its characters to new audiences and retail channels. Current Marvel co-branded sports apparel programs include the NBA and the Dallas Cowboys.

"A co-branded college program seemed like a natural extension as our characters generate great appeal to this student and family demographic," says Michael Jerchower, director of licensing for Marvel Entertainment. He tells Marketing Daily that Marvel brought the program idea to Russell Athletic, since they -- Russell - already hold the college licenses.  "We offered them the opportunity to secure a license with Marvel and then develop the co-branded product.

Matt Murphy, SVP of sales, retail, and licensed products for Russell Athletic, explains that, for its part, Russell Athletic is using social media, its website, trade, and industry publications to market the Marvel line. "We will certainly work on other ways to market the program as it evolves," he says.

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