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Spider-Man campaign aims to snare femmes

Sony enlists 400 promo partners as it looks to grow fanbase for webslinging franchise

Sony Pictures has never had a problem attracting men to its Spider-Man franchise. But as the studio reboots the franchise with the bow of “The Amazing Spider-Man” on July 3, the studio is weaving an intricate web to attract more women.

As the studio’s marketing team hypes the series’ first 3D installment, the “untold story” of Peter Parker (now played by Andrew Garfield), his budding romance with high school crush Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) and new villain the lizard (Rhys Ifans), Sony has secured its largest lineup of promo partnerships to date with one goal in mind: broaden Spidey’s appeal beyond its core audience.

To do that, Kellogg’s and beauty brand OPI are now in the mix with companies like Carl’s Jr., Twizzler, Schick, Walmart and Target in the U.S. to back the webslinger’s new adventures, guaranteeing Sony access to different demos on TV, online, radio, print, in stores and theaters.

Altogether, around 400 promo partners worldwide have ponied up an estimated $200 million in marketing support for the film.

In a summer in which Disney’s “The Avengers” has earned more than $1.4 billion in worldwide grosses, Sony and the brands hope much of that audience returns to the megaplex to watch another Marvel character save New York City.

The prior Spider-Man trilogy proved a hit with 18- to 34-year-old men, earning $2.5 billion, and Sony now sees an opportunity to grow the franchise with a new fanbase — especially young women and moms — that the studio considered “underserved” in the past, according to George Leon, Sony Pictures’ executive VP of worldwide promotions.

“While we have a lot of impactful promotions in place to reach men and boys, creating partnerships and in-store programs that target younger women and moms has been one of the priorities for us,” said Jeff Blake, chairman of worldwide marketing and distribution at Sony Pictures.

That became such a priority that Sony’s strategy was clear from the beginning when it hired Marc Webb, who garnered critical praise for helming the relationship drama “500 Days of Summer,” to direct the new $220 million-budgeted “Spider-Man” tale.

Kellogg’s will reach out to mothers, plastering Spidey on 75 million boxes of the company’s 45 food brands. It will also reach younger girls with an exclusive line of nail polish from OPI, with seven shades like “Call Me Gwen-ever,” tying in with the Gwen Stacy character, played by Stone, who is a spokeswoman for Revlon.

As rising ticket prices have forced families to shell out more coin for movie tickets, the Kellogg’s campaign will offer codes for free tickets and 3D upgrades. Kellogg’s is paying for the tickets. Similar deals are expected for other films in the future, given that “it’s considered the ultimate premium” with consumers, Leon said.

OPI has previously produced custom nail polish colors for Disney’s “The Muppets,” the fourth “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Alice in Wonderland,” supporting the films’ release with marketing buys in fashion magazines like Elle, InStyle, Cosmo, Allure, Seventeen and Teen Vogue, as well as People and Vanity Fair. It will produce 100 million bottles of nail polish to be sold in 100 countries for “Spider-Man,” also promoting the pic in women’s mags that studios often ignore

The promo deals, brokered by Leon, are part of an overall marketing strategy spearheaded by Blake and Marc Weinstock, prexy of worldwide marketing for Sony Pictures.

Among Sony’s other Spider-Man partners, whose campaigns run through August, the studio supported the Stand Up to Cancer charity with its “Be Amazing, Stand Up and Volunteer” effort in 10 cities on Tuesday. Sony made a donation to the org, co-founded by Laura Ziskin, who exec produced the Spider-Man trilogy and who died of cancer last year. Org is selling a limited line of branded T-shirts to help raise awareness and support for cancer research.

In the past, Sony has supported UNICEF with “Smurfs,” and Feeding America with the release of “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.”

Twizzler, Hershey’s largest non-chocolate brand, is also backing “Spider-Man” with its first theatrical campaign.

“Spider-Man’s” core audience is still men, however.

Carl’s Jr. is aggressively going after that audience with two custom spots, the newest of which offers a free grilled cheese burger to moviegoers who visit one of its restaurants wearing a Spider-Man outfit on July 4.

Fast-food chain has enlisted Stan Lee to judge costumes and determine the rules of what makes a good Spidey outfit. In six markets, Carl’s Jr. also covered stores in webbing as a visual stunt.

Schick also is targeting 17- to 24-year-old men with its razor blades.

The promos primarily focus on Sony’s overall theme of “wish fulfillment,” Leon said. “Everybody wants to be Spider-Man.”

Disney is handling the release of consumer products like toys and apparel, considering Spider-Man is a Marvel character. The Mouse House bought back rights to Spider-Man licensed merchandise from Sony last year.

“This transaction will allow us to control and fully benefit from all Spider-Man merchandising activity, while Sony will continue to produce and distribute Spider-Man films,” Disney chief Bob Iger said last year during a call with analysts.

With Spider-Man products typically appealing to boys 10 and under, Sony is leaving it up to retailers to promote the pic to that demo. Target, for example, has an ad featuring a young boy dressed as Spidey swinging through New York City and meeting the superhero, who wears a backpack he purchased from the retailer. Walmart launched a “Web Slinger” app-based game with Sprint similar to the kid-friendly game it produced with Marvel for “The Avengers.”

Sony’s relationship with Disney has been positive, execs said, given that each studio benefits from the new film’s success. The success of the Spider-Man films launched an evergreen line of Spidey products that sells year-round.

As part of the collaboration, “The Amazing Spider-Man” will be the first movie promotion to air on Disney Channel from another studio.

Overseas, the 400 partners are split across key territories, with Carl’s Jr. replaced by Burger King, McDonald’s and Subway in some countries; Pepsi and Sony Mobile also partners. The sheer volume of deals signifies the growing importance for brands to stand out in individual territories and the more rigorous juggling act and managerial skills required of studio execs these days.

“It’s the biggest campaign by far around the world for us,” Leon said, adding that while the number of partners may seem daunting, “having a character as popular as Spider-Man is a good problem to have.”

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