Super Heroes, They Use Brands Just Like Us

As audiences celebrate the 10th anniversary of the widely successful Marvel Cinematic Universe, it is easy to forget that Marvel came to life from pen and ink to big and small screens over a few short years.

Iron Man made $585 million at the box office in 2008; Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War have to date collectively raked in over $2.9 billion. Memorial Day with its barbecues and beach weather brought an onslaught of action-packed films. While Marvel’s two heaviest hitters have already graced screens, audiences still have Ant-Man and the Wasp to look forward to, adding to the studio’s continued line up of box office hits.

Marvel films have never been shy about integrating brands into their storylines. From Burger King in Iron Man toLexus in Black Panther, the studio celebrates integrations and embraces them as a way to connect the world of super heroes to our reality. But a partnership with a Marvel film often comes with a requirement to support a large and long-term marketing partnership that extends beyond the big screen.



For brands who understand the possibilities of brand integration, another opportunity exists within the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). As Fortune recently published, cord-cutting remains on the rise as streaming establishes itself as a direct rival to cable TV. Audiences continue to shift towards non-ad supported content and the MCU has been tuned into this trend since the arrival of Daredevil on Netflix in 2015. While audiences still flock to theaters, they have also been drawn to the small screen to follow the various storylines of Marvel’s characters across the seven shows now on Netflix and Hulu. This creates a golden opportunity for brands looking to invest in the MCU. Here are some reasons why.

Audience Size

According to our findings, Marvel’s The Runaways on Hulu pulled in a 30-day audience of 2.8 million this March, while Jessica Jones on Netflix had an audience of 8.6 million. The Punisher had an estimated audience of 5.3 million, while Iron Fist boasted audiences of 3.5 million, impressive for a show that debuted last year. Across Marvel’s seven streaming releases, the studio accumulated a viewership of nearly 30 million in March 2018, despite most shows being several months, or years, old.

Coming off the hype of Black Panther and heading into the anticipation for Infinity War, viewers wanted to consume more content from the MCU and turned to streaming properties to quench their thirst. This means that Marvel has been able to create a collection of streaming shows whose audiences have grown over time. And this is gold for brand owners — by integrating into a property that lives on a platform versus a big screen, brands can be discovered repeatedly, as audiences discover and re-watch content.

Audience Diversity

When it comes to brand integration across streaming platforms, understanding audience size is critical, but reaching a diverse audience is equally important for brands to consider.

Marvel properties resonate with multiple audience demographics. Our research shows that Jessica Jones was the most popular show on streaming among African-Americans in March 2018 and was the fourth most popular among U.S. Hispanics. In fact, five of the top 10 shows on streaming among U.S. Hispanics during March were Marvel shows: The Punisher (5th), The Defenders (6th), Daredevil (8th) and Luke Cage (10th). Meanwhile, Iron Fist and Luke Cage audiences were split fairly evenly between male and female viewers.

A benefit of programming on streaming platforms is the ability to reach niche, engaged audiences. Brands that opt to integrate into Marvel’s streaming properties are setting their products to be discovered by new, untapped audiences.

Product Repetition

We cannot overlook the products themselves and how characters are using them. Tincup Whiskey is unquestionably Jessica Jones’ drink of choice — and those who watch the show know how frequently she makes that choice. Seven times in the second season! Because streaming shows are episodic, brands that integrate into them can do so for multiple chapters. Products are seen not once but many times throughout the viewing journey. And as we have seen with Tincup Whiskey, a brand can establish its role in a character’s routine and over time become an authentic piece of the storyline itself.

Brands that integrate across the MCU’s diverse streaming properties have an opportunity to get into content that millions of viewers are choosing to tune into. While Ant-Man and the Wasp opens in July, the next Marvel movie won’t premiere until March 2019 — that’s eight months during which audiences will turn to streaming to get their super hero fix. By carefully considering audience size and composition and determining how a product can authentically fit into a storyline, brands can become an important piece of the next 10 years of the Marvel world.

1 comment about "Super Heroes, They Use Brands Just Like Us".
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  1. Bob Batchelor from Cultural Historian and Writer, May 31, 2018 at 10:01 a.m.

    I wrote quite a bit about the history of Marvel and merchandising, television, film, etc., in my Stan Lee biography, if anyone is interested in finding out more. Although a cultural historian, I worked in and teach strategic communications, so those ideas always find their way into my work.

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