Barbie and Spiderman target grownups

Jul 14, 2014

For more than five decades, both Barbie and Marvel’s iconic superheroes, such as Spiderman, targeted boys and girls. But both are now rolling out extensive licensing arrangements targeting more mature audiences.

For Marvel, the focus is on leveraging the "strength and performance" that its comic-book characters — also including Captain America, Hulk, Iron Man and Thor — are known. Companies collaborating or extending their partnerships with Marvel’s superhero characters include: Under Armour for apparel, Tantrum electronics accessories, Bell performance bike accessories, C-Preme durable helmets, and Sage Fruit’s better-for-you produce.

The broadening of Marvel’s performance push comes as Under Armour’s Alter Ego collection, featuring tight-fitting T-shirts styled on characters from Marvel as well as DC Comics, has been a huge hit for the brand with boys as well as older gym rats. The line was continually sold out in its launch last year.

"Marvel Super Heroes are a natural fit for this exciting initiative," said Paul Gitter, senior vice president, licensing, Marvel at Disney Consumer Products, on Marvel’s overall performance initiative. "We see tremendous opportunity to further build out this performance initiative across all product categories — from consumables and apparel, to electronics and sporting goods."

On the feminine side, Barbie recently unveiled a multi-category line-up of apparel and accessories targeting juniors as well as girls. Featured partners on the broadening collection including Forever 21, Uniqlo Co. Ltd., Primark and Lord & Taylor.

"This is the first time the Barbie brand has leveraged its 55 year heritage to create multiple iconic looks providing retailers and licensees a way to bring the brand to life that best targets their consumer," Jessi Dunne, general manager and SVP, consumer products for Mattel. "Our focus this year across the portfolio is turning moments into memories."

Why after all these years do you think Barbie and Marvel’s superhero characters are presenting licensing opportunities in adult categories? What’s the appeal for adults?

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9 Comments on "Barbie and Spiderman target grownups"

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Gene Hoffman
Gene Hoffman
3 years 2 months ago

A huge portion of today’s adults have become fanatics about youth and their own greatness. They stick to their guns whether they are loaded or not.

Tom Redd

Too easy. Many Millennials never want to leave their past, and in fact it is with them in the way that they live. Many live at home, many are much closer friends with their parents then past generations, and more. This, in a way, extends yesterday.

Next, the gaming industry extends into the 30-year-old range, and leverages the Marvel superhero space. Many gamers like to try and bring to life the roles that they play in the games.

Last, Barbie and the superheros are a way for younger parents to align today with their kids.

Really last, old Boomers like me know that they are as tough as Batman, so we want this logo on our shirts. We are awaiting the stickers for our cars that let people know that they are tailgating the BatMobile.

Have a nice, superhero-like week!

Max Goldberg

Superheroes I can understand. Barbie, not so much. Superheroes are hot right now. Men-in-tights movies tend to dominate the box office, and tie-ins with them are highly sought. Barbie’s popularity has been slipping. Maybe nostalgia for Barbie will drive some sales, but I don’t see great success in licensing the Barbie image for adult products.

Matt Schmitt

Kids today are increasingly obsessed with all things digital—devices, apps, games, content. As toy brands are increasingly challenged to find ways to appeal to kids, there will likely be more of these efforts to branch out and market products that appeal to adults.

As for the appeal to adults of these products, I’d guess that nostalgia and a desire to stay/appear young are the main factors at play.

Roger Saunders

A great preview for adult Halloween costumes. Not certain I see this as a play throughout the year. Then again, when at NFL and NHL games, I’m astounded at the number of jerseys and sweaters that the adult audience members are wearing. A time for the fantasy escape exists for all.

Steve Montgomery

I remember someone once making the statement that “you are what you were when.” This seems to apply to those being targeted by Marvel’s licensing deals. They remember the “they” who identified with characters from their youth.

David Biernbaum

Barbie, and many of Marvel’s superhero characters, are known in the licensing industry as “evergreens.” They last forever, in all seasons, and appeal to all generations. That said, time will tell if grown ups will wear the licensed merchandise, but I think it’s worthwhile to give that an honest effort, because of the potential market expansion for high incremental sales. I think I have perhaps a bit more confidence in Barbie for grownups, because she is associated with everyday trends and fashion, let’s say, more than Spiderman would be!

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.

Adults were huge fans as kids! Creating items for adults makes sense, as long as they do not forgo the kid versions. Keeping the previous fan base while creating a new fan base makes sense.

Giacinta Shidler
Giacinta Shidler
3 years 2 months ago

All of the comments about how adults were huge fans as kids and are tapping into that nostalgia are off-base. Adults ARE still huge fans—just go to a Comic-Con and check out all the adults wandering around in full-on costume. I think the Marvel outreach is a natural.

Barbie, maybe not so much. They should be concerned about cross-pollution of their brand, as the adult Barbie fans tend to approach with a VERY different and counter-cultural mindset, versus the un-ironic adoration of young girls. For example, what is a young Barbie fan to think if she sees the picture of the adult woman you have used in the revealing tank? That just reinforces a negative stereotype that Barbie just can’t seem to get away from.


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