Mazda initiative courts the comic-book crowd

SAN DIEGO:Borrowing a game plan used successfully in the past by the TV, movie, and video-game industries, Mazda has begun reaching out to the comic-book audience through a relationship with Marvel and a big presence at last week's San Diego Comic-Con International.

SAN DIEGO:Borrowing a game plan used successfully in the past by the TV, movie, and video-game industries, Mazda has begun reaching out to the comic-book audience through a relationship with Marvel and a big presence at last week's San Diego Comic-Con International.

The automaker was there for the unveiling of the first book in the Revved series of graphic novels that will prominently feature branded cars, including Mazda's RX-8, in key roles. Revved, published by Marvel affiliate Top Cow, is generating a lot of interest. Fox Television Studios is already developing a TV show based on the series.

Debbie Park, SAE with mPRm Public Relations, which is working on the launch with interactive marketing firm SpaceDog, said Comic-Con is the perfect place to unveil a consumer-facing communications program for Revved.

"It's still sort of a niche show, but with the popularity of superhero movies, that niche is becoming very mainstream," she noted. "Comic-Con is this Mecca for young adult males. That's who many companies want to reach."

It wasn't just the sheer number of attendees, which this year again topped 100,000, that made the four-day event so influential, notes Bender/Helper Impact director Jonalyn Morris. The firm is representing SBG/b EQUAL, which is showcasing a new "CSI: Senses" board game.

"Companies view Comic-Con more seriously for announcements because you're going directly to the buzz makers," she said. "For our clients, this is truly about generating word of mouth among a targeted group of fans."

 But despite its higher profile, Morris said that the best PR strategy for Comic-Con was still giving attendees exactly what they wanted - access to movie stars such as Samuel L. Jackson (pitching Snakes on a Plane) and free stuff. "It's the tchotchkes that create buzz rather than press releases," she explained.

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