New Superheroes hoping to put evil on “ice”
by Blaine Meller
Thirty superheroes, each with unique powers and abilities. One uber-villain, bent on mayhem and chaos. It’s the classic battle of good versus evil, and it’s com- ing soon to a National Hockey League arena near you. The NHL is teaming with comic book icon Stan Lee on The Guardian Project, an endeavour that will see the creation of 30 new superheroes based on each of the league’s teams. Lee, former publisher of Marvel Comics, is the man behind Spider- Man, the Incredible Hulk, X-Men and Iron Man.
Literature provided to each of the teams by the NHL describes the concept as “an epic tale of good versus evil” and “taken from the headlines of modern science.” Each of the heroes will have powers and abilities unique to the market and team he or she represents. For example, a report in the Boston Herald has identified the Boston hero as “Bruin,” a bear with a powerful roar that can freeze enemies with fear.
The Guardian Project, which will be officially launched at the NHL’s 2011 All-Star Game Jan. 30 in Raleigh, N.C, will feature webisodes at www.guardianproject30.com, comic books and online gaming. An animated TV series and major motion picture are also reportedly in the works. While the Calgary Flames have yet to announce details surrounding their hero, the organization is excited about both the project and new marketing opportunities it presents. “We are very excited about this,” said Jim Bagshaw, the Flames’ vice-president of advertising, sponsorship and marketing.
Bagshaw said the NHL initially approached its teams about the project back in 2009 during league meetings in Chicago, where it was “exceptionally well received.” Bagshaw said the NHL is planning an aggressive rollout plan, including Comic- Con in San Diego and television appearances by Stan Lee on major American talk shows. “This is going to be pushed and marketed like a major movie launch. The whole concept is very, very exciting,” he said. “We think the project is going to have huge credibility, especially with a legend like Stan Lee behind it.”
One of the challenges in designing the Flames’ hero was identifying what makes the team and market unique. Bagshaw said Flames’ management had “long conversations” about the hero and what his or her powers should be. “We agreed that whatever the powers were, we wanted to free the energy and enthusiasm in youth about hockey,” he said, adding that “full-blown” models were used in the process.
“The trick was to make sure that the superheroes are in fact, superheroes, and are always doing good,” he said. The launch of the Guardian Project also opens up new promotional concepts. While the days of traditional marketing — newspapers, radio and television — are still used, the power of social media is not being overlooked. “It’s definitely a step in the right direction. Social media and marketing is a message feeder. It really does allow us to access different demographics,” said Bagshaw.
The Flames are also in the process designing a local launch, but have not released details as of yet. “Hockey is a business, but a big part of what we do is entertainment. We are in the hockey and entertainment bnesses,” said Bagshaw. “Whatever we come up with will hopefully meet our fans’ expectations.”