SBJ/Feb. 7-13, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

Superheroes show off their team colors

The NBA and Marvel Entertainment are launching a co-branded merchandise line that puts Marvel’s biggest superheroes, including Spider-Man, Iron Man and Captain America, in uniforms that have team colors.

The multiyear deal calls initially for apparel and headwear. Products will debut at Jam Session during All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles later this month, with the NBA and its teams subsequently responsible for marketing the products.

Financial terms of the deal were not available. Mike Jerchower, director of licensing for Marvel Entertainment, called it a “co-branded partnership deal.”

“Both of us go out and add licensees,” Jerchower said.

Deals have been secured with New Era for headwear and C-Life for apparel.

This partnership is not related to an agreement between Marvel and ESPN that featured NBA stars on Marvel comic book covers earlier this season.

Marvel Entertainment is owned by Disney, parent company of ESPN, an NBA television partner.

After the new merchandise line rolls out at All-Star Weekend, it will be made available nationally through NBA distribution channels and via sporting goods retailers. Marvel officials said Modell’s has been secured for distribution, with other deals expected.

Prices for the products will be set by the individual teams and retailers.

The line will be branded for each NBA market. For example, apparel will have The Hulk wearing a Boston Celtics jersey and Spider-Man wearing New York Knicks colors. Plans call for each NBA market to have co-branded products available by April, with playoff teams being the prime targets.

“For us, it was an interesting partnership, and we are creating both adult and youth products,” said Lisa Piken, senior director of apparel licensing for the NBA. “We are seeing more cross-licensing. It helps with distribution and it’s more a fashion [merchandise line] versus hard-core fan gear.”

The NBA and Marvel likely will add novelty merchandise — such as mini-basketballs and pennants — along with the apparel and headwear.

“[The NBA’s fan base] and retail distribution channels provide a great opportunity to expand the reach and exposure of our brands,” said Paul Gitter, president of consumer products for Marvel Entertainment, in a statement.

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