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Promo Close-Up - A Caped Crusade

A fun promo becomes an instant collectible.

Warner Bros. Entertainment soared above other brands at the most recent San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) show – not because of its TV programs or movies, but thanks to a clever promotional item. The unique giveaway – a branded backpack with a detachable cape – was so popular among enthusiasts that it hit collectibles websites within hours of its release. “We know it’s a hit when our stuff ends up on eBay,” says Lisa Gregorian, the chief marketing officer for Warner Bros. Television Group.

Of course, most of the 130,000 attendees kept the bag and cape combos – which were produced by I.D. Me Promotions (asi/385312) – as SDCC mementos, even sporting them throughout the event. Warner Bros., meanwhile, benefitted from the tremendous exposure its TV, motion picture and animated movie offerings received.

“Con is a huge showcase for us,” Gregorian says. “It’s the one time where Warner Bros. is front and center with the fans and with our brands.”

SDCC is undoubtedly a key event for media companies. It’s the world’s largest gathering of pop culture lovers under one roof – a four-day show that draws passionate fans of a wide variety of entertainment mediums. It’s common for attendees to demonstrate their excitement 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, a giveaway that fans always look forward to. “There is always complete insanity at our booth,” says Gregorian.

Year after year, the anticipation drives Warner Bros. to offer something different that will appeal to gear-crazed fans. In 2012, the company changed its bag style to a backpack, to make it easier to carry. Gregorian’s cape idea was a new and fun touch – one that was as practical as it was playful. Because the capes can be detached, kids will be able to use them as part of costumes in the future – rewarding the next generation of loyalists. “We give away the bags as a thank-you to our fans,” says Gregorian.

Each of the latest bags featured double-sided artwork: One side carried the official Comic-Con design, and the other highlighted titles from the Warner Bros.’ entertainment stable. The media company usually offers about 10 designs per convention, and incorporates all of its divisions, including DC Comics, WB Gaming, Theatrical and Television, says Gregorian. The planning process for the artwork and the bag starts at least six months ahead of the SDCC, held annually each summer.

Gregorian estimates some 40% of convention goers of all ages were wearing the capes in San Diego. Some Warner Bros. TV show stars even tweeted links to the bags, generating so much buzz that the company’s press site went down for 30 minutes. While the logoed backpacks were the big SDCC hit, Warner Bros. also gave out branded T-shirts, hats, books, masks, figurines, iPhone covers and medallions, as well as nearly 40,000 branded hotel key cards.

“At Comic-Con, we all stand together and the entire company is represented,” Gregorian says. “It’s the power of the shield.”