Disney Pilots $6 Billion Marvel Licensing Machine: Retail

Photographer: Zade Rosenthal/Marvel via Bloomberg

Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans in "The Avengers." Close

Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans in "The Avengers."

Close
Open
Photographer: Zade Rosenthal/Marvel via Bloomberg

Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans in "The Avengers."

Ever wonder what the Incredible Hulk smells like? Try Indian sandalwood, musk and sharp cedar.

“It’s more of an earthy fragrance,” said Andrew Levine, chief executive officer of Jads International LLC, the Hunt Valley, Maryland-based marketer that signed on to produce a line of “Avengers” scents, including Smash, a cologne based on the green superhero. “You have to mimic the character.”

Dozens of companies are tying in with “Marvel’s The Avengers,” the Walt Disney Co. (DIS) action film opening today in the U.S. With its Captain America character dating back to World War II, “The Avengers” has an unusually broad appeal, attracting licensing and sponsorship deals that go well beyond toys, including ones for hotels, fragrances and luxury cars.

Searching for revenue beyond the box office has been a big part of the strategy at Disney, where the Marvel division generated $6 billion in retail merchandise sales last year, according to License! Global magazine. Disney’s consumer products division produced operating income of $816 million in 2011, more than the $618 million brought in by the company’s original business, its film studio.

“The superhero transcends age, gender and ethnicity,” said Robin Korman, head of loyalty marketing at hotelier Wyndham Worldwide Corp. (WYN), which is offering a ticket giveaway for guests. “It really is one of those genres that’s universally embraced.”

The film features cars from Acura, Honda Motor Co.’s luxury division, including customized versions of the MDX sport-utility vehicle, which starts at $43,000, and an NSX concept car driven by Robert Downey Jr.’s “Iron Man” Tony Stark. The picture also includes Harley-Davidson Inc. (HOG)’s $15,500 FLS Softail Slim motorcycle, the ride of choice for Captain America, played by 30-year-old Chris Evans.

Generations of Fans

Wyndham, based in Parsippany, New Jersey, made collectible room key-cards and commissioned 400,000 copies of a comic book from Disney’s Marvel division to distribute free at its properties. The comic features “Avengers” characters including Iron Man and the Black Widow enjoying loyalty program perks such as free rooms and Internet access. The Hulk works out in a fitness center.

“Please don’t blow up any of our hotels,” Korman asked Marvel’s illustrators.

“Avengers” fans include men age 35 and older, with median household incomes that exceed $75,000, making them target buyers for Harleys, said Dino Bernacchi, director of North American marketing communication for the Milwaukee-based company.

Likely Bikers

The “Avengers” characters, including Captain America and Thor, have decades of history and have sold millions of comic books, Bernacchi said.

“They have a built-in fan base hungry to see this concept come to life,” Bernacchi said, adding “they are 22 percent more likely to purchase a motorcycle.”

Sales of movie-related toys, gadgets and apparel can exceed film receipts, Jay Rasulo, chief financial officer of Burbank, California-based Disney said last year. The company, which didn’t respond to requests for interviews, is scheduled to report fiscal second-quarter earnings on May 8.

Disney rose 0.6 percent to $43.81 yesterday in New York. The stock has gained 17 percent this year, placing seventh among the 16 stocks in the S&P 500 Media Index. (S5MEDA) Discovery Communications Inc. (DISCA), up 35 percent, is first.

Hasbro Sales

Marvel-related toys, such as Thor hammers and Hulk fists, are expected to generate a record $400 million in revenue this year for licensee Hasbro Inc. (HAS), according to Drew Crum, an analyst at Stifel Nicolaus & Co.

“We expect Disney to push the Marvel franchise more aggressively across international markets,” Crum wrote in an April 27 report.

“The Avengers” is the first Marvel film Disney has marketed since purchasing the business for $4.2 billion in 2009. The movie has broken international box office records, grossing more than $281 million overseas as of May 2, Disney said in a release.

Levine, the cologne maker, said the response has been “phenomenal” to his line of “Avengers” scents, which retail for $29.99 a bottle and target customers 16 years and older.

“It’s all about being a hero,” he said. “People want to be part of something good.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Christopher Palmeri in Los Angeles at cpalmeri1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Palazzo at apalazzo@bloomberg.net

Bloomberg reserves the right to remove comments but is under no obligation to do so, or to explain individual moderation decisions.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.