Warner Bros. Entertainment was flying high at the San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) last summer, when it gave away branded backpacks with a detachable cape that allowed every attendee at the convention to be a superhero. It was the “must-have” accessory of the show, and fans with capes bearing titles from the media monolith’s TV, motion picture and animated movie offerings could be spotted throughout the convention center.
“Con is a huge showcase for us. It’s the one time where Warner Bros. TV is front and center with the fans and with our brands,” says Lisa Gregorian, chief marketing officer of Warner Bros. Television Group. “At Comic- Con, we all stand together and the entire company is represented – the power of the shield.”
SDCC is the world’s largest gathering of pop culture fans under one roof, a four-day event that draws some 150,000 passionate fans of a wide variety of pop culture mediums. Many of the attendees show their enthusiasm for the event by wearing costumes honoring their favorite characters of comic books, movies and TV series.
Warner Bros. has been making the official Comic-Con bag since 2008, and its booth at the convention sparks a frenzy of fans. “We give away the bags as a thank you to our fans,” says Gregorian. “There is always complete insanity at our booth.” Fans use the Warner Bros. bags to tote all the swag and licensed merchandise they pick up at the convention. Over 130,000 bags were distributed at last year’s convention.
Each year, Warner Bros. offers something unique. Last year, it changed its bag style to a backpack, to make it easier to carry. Gregorian has been lobbying for a cape for years, and finally, at the 2013 SDCC she got her wish. The capes, which were easily detached from the backpacks, were a big hit.
Each of the backpacks featured double-sided artwork: One side carried the official Comic-Con design, and the other showcased titles from the Warner Bros. entertainment stable. Warner Bros. usually offers 10 designs per convention, and incorporates all of the company’s divisions, including DC Comics, WB Gaming, Theatrical and Television, says Gregorian. The planning process for the artwork and the bag starts about 8 months ahead of SDCC, held annually in June.
Gregorian estimates some 40% of convention goers of all ages were wearing the capes. “We know it’s a hit when our stuff ends up on eBay,” she says. There is also an active aftermarket for the bags, as fans trade among themselves to get the show or movie they follow. Attendees were tweeting each other, seeking to trade bags. Some of the stars of the Warner Bros. shows were tweeting links to the bags. When Warner Bros. posted the cape backpacks on its “Media To Go” press site, they got so much traffic the site went down for a half hour.
The company also distributed a host of other products at Comic Con, including T-shirts, hats, books, masks, figurines, iPhone covers and medallions, as well as nearly 40,000 branded hotel key cards that provided Warner Bros. TV points of interest to the top hotels in the area.