Marvel and Vans - Co-Branded Collaboration

Marvel Goes “Off The Wall” in Co-Branding with Vans

Anyone close to me knows that I’’m a huge Vans enthusiast. I have somewhere between 15 – 20 pair of OG Classic Slip-Ons, Authentics and Chukkas peppering the shelves of my closet at any given moment. And anyone who knows our agency’s history understands how important Marvel has been to our success. Our relationship with the entertainment powerhouse spans almost our entire 28-year existence. We’ve partnered with them so many times over the years that the heroes of the Marvel Universe are like extended family to us. So, you can imagine why I was pumped to learn that two of my favorite brands have come together again – this time with a massive collection of beautifully designed, co-branded licensed products featuring our favorite super heroes.

Their first collaboration took place in 2013 and focused primarily on accessories and footwear. This season’s collection, dubbed Marvel x Vans, boasts more than 70 footwear, apparel and accessories products for men, women and kids. Aside from the broad range of footwear profiles, the offering includes backpacks, socks, t-shirts, pullovers, jackets and hats.

What I love about this co-branding isn’t simply the fact that these two brands are coming together again. It’s how the products are conceived in a highly dedicated manner. And my favorites are among the footwear styles. Sure, there are quite a few designs that feature beautiful overall prints of character icons, heads, full-body poses, and dynamic, dense character montages. But the best designs are more purposefully executed with custom components.

Take the custom Old Skool profile that combines aspects of the 4 lead characters from the Avengers into a single design. The blue toe-box and shield graphic on the heel counter represent Captain America. The tongue is stylized to look like part of Iron Man’s red and gold armor. The silver leather eyelet panels and wings on either side pay homage to the Almighty Thor. And the bright green foxed outsole with purple stripe speak to none other than the Incredible Hulk. The only branding: the iconic Vans ‘Off The Wall’ bumper at the heel. Even without the support of a Marvel logo on the outside of this shoe, Marvel Fans will know that this is all about The Avengers.

Even more dedicated in its design is the Sk8-Hi that perfectly takes on the persona of Black Panther. Its black-on-black suede and canvas uppers in conjunction with the iconic triangular motif debossed into the outsole represent King T’Challa’s vibranium suit. Gold claw elements from his necklace set into the top 3 eyelets on either side of the shoe complete the design.

Although their design was much simpler to pull off, my favorite design in the collection are the slip-ons with the Incredible Hulk’s feet tearing through the classic Vans black and white checkerboard patterned uppers. A dedicated piece of art is all that was needed to do this bit of storytelling. The combination of character art and pattern perfectly and harmoniously communicates both brands.

Think about it. How easy is it to throw an all-over print and a property logo onto a backpack or some character art onto a t-shirt? It’s what most licensees do, right? What resonates most with fans, however, is when a partner takes the time to capture the essence of the property through a much more dedicated approach to product design – custom printed black and red leather with battle damage on the Deadpool-themed high-tops; black rubberized logo applique outlined in red on Black Widow-themed slip-ons; and leather gold star cut out of the heel counter and custom gold star eyelets on the Captain Marvel-themed Sk8-Hi. This is the kind of product design that taps the emotions of fans, creates desire and drives purchase decisions.

What are your thoughts on the collaboration between Vans and Marvel? Do you favor the more dedicated designs, like I do? Or are you more of a more conservative all-over print fan? How do you feel about the approach to product development and the product offering included in this initial collection?

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