Integrated merchandising strategy poised to pay off

With its PG-13 rating, “The Dark Knight Rises” isn’t a kids’ movie. But Warner Bros. is sending up the bat signal that it’s ready to sell a lot of Batman-related toys.

Warner Bros. Consumer Products is using the start of the Intl. Toy Fair today in Nuremberg, Germany, and the American Intl. Toy Fair in New York later this month to tout one of its largest licensing programs around a Batman film.

Even though Christopher Nolan’s dark film is targeted at older auds, the studio still wanted to create products that would appeal to all audiences and age groups.

Concept is key to how WB wants to treat all of DC Entertainment’s characters and properties moving forward. By hyping one property, in this case the film set to hit theaters July 20, all of WB’s projects that feature the Caped Crusader — animated series, videogames, older homevideo fare — can benefit from the buzz.

Warner Consumer Products already mints $6 billion a year, but with a broader push, the division is aiming to generate even more revenue, aided by the release of a new summer tentpole.Batman is a perennial property for WB given the various media platforms in which the character has appeared over the years. But the studio is expected to release 30% more Batman-related products on stores shelves worldwide because of “The Dark Knight Rises.” And it expects Batman merchandise to earn 100% more in 2012 over last year, when it didn’t have a film in theaters.

It hopes to earn that extra coin from the sale of traditional action and collectible figures from Mattel, the Noble Collection and Sideshow, Hot Wheels and Hornby Hobbies cars and remote control vehicles, Funko and Mezco bobbleheads and vinyl figures, role-play toys from Thinkway and Rubie’s costumes.

The studio’s deal with Lego to produce figures and playsets based on all of DC’s superheroes, including Batman and his villains, lets younger kids participate in the “Dark Knight” fever.

Mattel is even getting in on toddler-targeted action with Fisher-Price’s DC Super Friends Imaginext toy line, which generated $115 million in sales last year. The younger lines didn’t exist when “The Dark Knight” bowed in 2008, earning $1 billion at the box office.

“Batman is among the most iconic superheroes in popular culture, and this year’s merchandise program, highlighted by ‘The Dark Knight Rises,’ reflects the incredible legacy of Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, as well as the longevity of the character over the course of time across all forms of entertainment,” said Karen McTier, exec VP of domestic licensing and worldwide marketing for Warner Bros. Consumer Products.

At the toy fairs, the studio is also promoting “The Looney Tunes Show,” “Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated,” “ThunderCats” and the new DC Nation block featuring “Green Lantern: The Animated Series” and “Young Justice,” all on Cartoon Network — and with their own slew of toy partners, including Mattel and Lego. Division also has the films “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” out in December, and next year’s “The Hobbit: There and Back Again.”

“While Batman leads the way for us this year, we are also excited to have the most diverse portfolio of toy partners we have had for some time — and the content to support them,” said Brad Globe, president of Warner Bros. Consumer Products.

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