MARVEL HIRE SIGNALS REVAMP IN MARKETING;COMIC BOOK PUBLISHER PLANS TRANSITION MODELED ON DISNEY

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Marvel Entertainment Group completed the overhaul of its management team by tapping a Walt Disney Co. executive to head a new division.

Ken Lewis joins as exec VP-strategic alliances, from director of participant marketing at Walt Disney Attractions.

The hiring marks a shift in Marvel's marketing approach and rounds out a team put in place by President David Schreff, himself hired in September from a senior marketing post at the National Basketball Association.

Marvel's other new exec VPs include Michael Dresner, former VP-international TV at NBA Properties, now charged with extending the Marvel brand into theme parks and restaurants; and Sandra Wildman Padinos, former president of public relations agency Padinos Ink, who now oversees corporate communications.

Mr. Schreff also got a new boss recently when Marvel parent MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings tapped former Turner Entertainment Group executive Scott Sassa as Marvel chairman-CEO. Messrs. Sassa and Schreff will lead Marvel's transformation from a struggling marketer of comic books and trading cards to a broad-based entertainment company modeled after Disney.

`REINVENT MARVEL'

"We have to reinvent Marvel for a new generation of kids and young adults who have many other competing interests and entertainment options," Mr. Schreff said. "We have to take our properties and make them relevant in all forms of media."

Those properties include Marvel comics, Fleer/SkyBox trading cards, Toy Biz toys and Marvel Studios.

Marvel is trying to rejuvenate core characters like Captain America and Iron Man, while growing its Spider-Man and X-Men franchises. It's also rethinking retail strategies and is expected to create new products targeting demographics other than pre-teen through young adult males.

CHANGING TIE-IN STRATEGY

Mr. Schreff said Marvel is looking to borrow ideas from both Disney and the NBA to create programs for marketers. The company in the past has developed tie-ins with brands like Good Humor, Kool-Aid and Pizza Hut.

"But we haven't sold multibrand, multiyear sponsorships, which is a big transition from where we are now," said Mr. Schreff, adding that he's already put in calls to such big-league marketers as McDonald's Corp. and Coca-Cola Co. "We want to offer marketers one-stop shopping for superheroes. In turn, we need their help in marketing our brands and products."

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