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Captain America goes patriotic with a corporate flair

This screen shot provided by Dunkin' Brands Inc. shows a scene from the Captain America marketing campaign. (Associated Press)
This screen shot provided by Dunkin' Brands Inc. shows a scene from the Captain America marketing campaign. (Associated Press)

The makers of “Captain America: The First Avenger” are in a must-win pre-emptive battle against superhero fatigue. Their not-so-secret weapon? A patriotic-themed marketing campaign complete with fireworks and red, white and blue doughnuts.

“Captain America,” which opened in theaters Friday, follows a string of action hero movies this summer that have been successful. So, when promoting the film, Paramount and Marvel Studios weren’t taking any chances that moviegoers would write it off as just another superhero flick.

The studios are spending millions on marketing that has included fireworks at baseball games and American-themed products such as Dunkin’ Donuts’ bright red Cherry Coolatta frozen drink, Baskin-Robbins’ vanilla ice cream with blue chocolate chips and a cherry flavored swirl and Wrigley’s Captain America Orbitz White and Juicy Fruit gum.

“That’s the fear, there are so many superhero movies this summer,” said Paul Dergarabedian, an analyst for “But so far no one’s gotten lost in the shuffle. They all opened at No. 1.”

These days, opening at the No. 1 spot is a necessity – not a bonus. Movie ticket sales are at their lowest in years, and a steady stream of superhero movies this summer such as “Thor” and “XMen: First Class” has made it particularly hard to stand out. So, Hollywood studios are willing to shell out millions to promote summer movies, which can cost more than $100 million and make up to half of their total box office receipts during opening weekend alone. For example, “Green Lantern,” which opened June 17, grossed $53 million during its opening weekend, and has made $112 million to date.

The makers of “Captain America” would not say how much they spent to promote the movie. But analysts estimate they spent $30 million to $50 million to create buzz around the movie and its main character. Captain America, or “Cap,” epitomizes pro-American sentiment with his red, white and blue costume and shield. He first appeared in 1941 as a weakling transformed into a superhero to help the U.S. fight the Nazis.

“Certain characters lend themselves to unique marketing and Captain America is playing on the patriotic angle,” said Dergarabedian, the analyst, who predicts the film will make about $59 million to $60 million – a good showing for a summer movie. “Character-specific marketing can be very effective.”

In addition to usual posters and trailers for the film, which will run globally, Paramount played up the patriotic theme that was American as baseball – literally.

In the U.S., Paramount sponsored red, white and blue fireworks on July 4 at 10 major league baseball games, including the Chicago White Sox versus the Kansas City Royals in Chicago and the Rockies versus the Braves in Atlanta. T-shirts and mini posters were also given out at the games. The studio also ran promotional ads during the All-Star Game and Home Run Derby on July 12.

Additionally, the studio played up the character’s military roots. The movie was screened on 30 military bases across the country the weekend of July 16 and 17.

Makers of “Captain America” also teamed up with other companies to get the word out. Marvel had tie-ins including packaging and contests with Dr Pepper Snapple Group and 7-Eleven, a deal with Wrigley that put Captain America on gum and a partnership with Dunkin’ Brands.

In addition to the Coolatta, Dunkin’ is offering a Captain America jelly doughnut with vanilla icing and red, white and blue sprinkles, a Stars & Stripes doughnut with red icing and star-shaped sprinkles and a First Avenger “Tri-Cup” that lets drinkers have three different Coolatta flavors in one cup with Captain America’s image on it. Symantec’s Norton took a slightly different tactic, focusing on the emblematic red, white and blue shield that Captain America uses. They worked with Marvel to create a three-minute featurette with a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the movie and the importance of the shield.

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