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Sep 26, 2002
How To

DC Comics' Joel Ehrlich on Promotional Partnerships with Batman and Superman

SUMMARY: Think a superhero endorsement could help your sales? Joel Ehrlich, DC Comics' SVP of Marketing & Promotions, is the man you have to pitch your idea to. Check out our exclusive interview to learn what he looks for in a co-promotional campaign.
Want a famous superhero such as Batman or Superman to star in your company's promotional campaign? DC Comics' SVP of Marketing & Promotions Joel Ehrlich is the man you have to pitch your idea to.

In fact, DC Comics is very interested in co-promotional ideas, as long as they are brand-enhancing ones. "The world of cross-promotion is as important to us as branding," says Ehrlich. However, "Tie-ins have to be very special, the product or service has to connect closely with his image and mythos. The association can not cross that set of boundaries commercially that might bring Batman away from what people feel and expect to feel from him."

Plus, co-promotions can be very profitable.

DC Comics measures the lift amount of merchandise sold in the consumer product division. "When there isn’t a movie happening, and no major campaign, there is a noticeable difference. We’ll see spikes in the purchases of licensed merchandise during a campaign and we have quantitative numbers that show we’ve sold millions and millions more merchandise from these associations."

Ehrlich adds, "It also affects sales of home video and comics and everything else we do. The more people see these characters in an exciting light the more they want to take part in their world: See movies, go online, buy merchandise."

Ehrlich cites GM's OnStar campaign as an example of a tie-in that worked. "It made sense in this case because the product was something that Batman himself would have in his Batmobile. He has always been way advanced in terms of technology. He was using computers in 1939 when he first appeared in comic books."

During the promotion, Batman was featured in all OnStar online, print, direct mail promotions as well as a major television campaign. "We had the opportunity to make commercials in the same vein as the Batman movies we do, while doing a total integrated campaign with a major automobile company manufacturer."

Plus, GM also ran an online campaign including a series of online adventures and games as well as a sweepstakes. Ehrlich says, "For us it was great because visitors could play with Batman and get excited about character as well as the technology."

Another successful promotional collaboration teamed Superman with NASCAR. "In that instance we believed there was an opportunity to tie in to a place cars are literally flying and the drivers are superhero’s themselves," says Ehrlich.

Sometimes partnerships do not work as well as Ehrlich hopes.

A few years ago DC Comics did a promotion with one of their lesser-known superheroes and a confection company. "It wound up being a parody of the superhero and at the end of the day we realized the consumers didn’t like seeing our character in a silly, compromising light. These characters have a place in the consumer’s heart, they’re on a pedestal and they don’t want to see their superhero looking foolish or anything less than what they are."

Ehrlich vows, "We’ll never let that happen again."

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