Nerds Run to Comic-Con for a Good Cause. With Lightsabers.

Raising Funds (and Awareness) With a Strong 'Force'

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Call it the running of the nerds. With lightsabers. Some of the biggest names at Comic-Con have found a way to truly make the geek-fest a "force" for good.

Lucasfilm, Nerdist Industries and Machinima are co-sponsoring "Course of the Force" a five-day, Olympic torch-style relay from Santa Monica, Calif., to San Diego, arriving on the opening night of Comic-Con International. Yes, they will run with lightsabers. Each quarter-mile of the run will raise $500 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

"This is a great opportunity to raise funds and awareness while letting "Star Wars" fans celebrate the favorite saga," said Kayleen Walters, senior director of marketing for Lucasfilm. Nerdist will film the exertions of the fanboy faithful, while founder/host Chris Hardwick provides analysis and commentary; both Nerdist and Machinima will cover it as it unfolds. Mr. Hardwick will announce the event in an appearance on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon " Thursday night.

Non-entertainment brands have a checkered past in trying to use Comic-Con to connect to fans, but a charity event that means something to geek-hood, is another story. "One of the reasons this is an interesting proposition for brands and marketers is the audience we are addressing is really hard to penetrate," said Nerdist Industries co-founder Peter Levin. "Lots of brands go down Comic-Con, but how do they contextually engage this audience?

MediaLink CEO Michael Kassan is connecting the runners with brand sponsors. "We think this is a gigantic opportunity for brands we work with to capture hearts and minds of this demo in the best way they can," he said.

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