This weekend, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice will hit the theatres and thousands of DC Comics fans will be pitted against each other. In the past, Marvel Comics—a friendly rival to DC in their own right—has produced stories of super heroes and beloved characters working in teams or coming together to fight for the greater good. However, this is not the case for Batman v Superman. DC Extended Universe has taken great liberty with this shared world, utilizing cross-overs and combined plots to bring to life a new world that before could only exist in fans’ imaginations.
Sides will be taken, and the internet may explode for weeks after the initial release of the film, a result of every diehard fan arguing their case for their favored hero. Additionally, box office sales will skyrocket. Why? Because Batman v Superman is an epic rivalry crafted through smart and effective branding.
The public loves conflict; it makes for a great story, and an important part of branding a rivalry is branding that conflict. Another brilliant page-to-screen rivalry came in the form of a love triangle between human, vampire and werewolf. Even if you don’t know who or what they are, you’ve probably heard of Team Edward and Team Jacob. Stephanie Meyer’s fiction trilogy blew up in 2009 when the first book, Twilight, hit the silver screen. Teenage girls across the world were swept up into a love story that posed a choice between two guys vying for Bella Swan’s heart: Edward Cullen, a vampire who although broody and sullen displays a love for her that was unmatchable and unprecedented, and Jacob Black, a werewolf who is loyal, passionate and lively.
Once the hype was created, there was no slowing down. A brilliant marketing initiative for the franchise included the hashtags #TeamEdward and #TeamJacob on every social media platform and countless variations of Twilight merchandise that allowed fans to proudly display their choice of sides. The internet was constantly buzzing about the series up until and even after the release of the fourth and final movie in 2012. Still today, you don’t mention The Twilight Saga without also including which “team” you were on.
While this rivalry provided a fun opportunity for fans to be engaged with the competition between characters, another aspect of the success was that the rivalry was centered on emotion. When you tap into human emotions, they in turn become more invested in the brand that triggered the emotion. Batman v Superman encapsulates a range of emotions, which helps to further fuel the rivalry and the desire for the product. Many people grew up reading and watching different series of stories about these characters, and even experiencing different actors for the same characters across time, and the nostalgia aspect of it is just an additional feature to capitalize on.
Another famous conflict takes us to the City of Brotherly Love, where the on-going rivalry between Pat’s King of Steaks and Geno’s Steaks has helped these two establishments to become the best known servers of cheesesteaks in Philadelphia to visitors from around the world. Pat’s claim to fame is that they created the cheesesteak back in 1930, and Geno’s is that they perfected it. However, the general public doesn’t care much for the history. The highly publicized rivalry is in its fourth decade, and the media hype and the willingness of both sides to play along has been mutually beneficial. Even their bread comes from rival bakeries.
I remember when I was a kid and my uncle took me out to get a cheesesteak for the first time. “We eat at Pat’s. Geno’s stinks,” was what he told me, and from that point forward I became a loyal Pat’s supporter.
The optics of Pat’s and Geno’s are very different— Geno’s is equipped with bright and flashy neon signs and Pat’s is much more traditional and old-school in appearance—and the differences in food are down to style at the most, but the true cause of the rivalry is the mere existence of the competition.
The brilliance behind Batman v Superman, the Twilight love triangle and Pat’s vs Geno’s is that the rivalry between them urges you to pick a side, and it highlights the competitiveness that Americans love. We incorporate it into almost every aspect of our lives. Whether it be sports, politics or food, we want our side to win and to be recognized as the best. And with that said, I hereby pledge my support to the Dark Knight. #TeamBatman
Brian Hart is the founder and president of Flackable, a national financial public relations and digital marketing agency. Learn more at www.flackable.com.