In Brand Champions (Palgrave 2011), Ian plays with the notion of the superhero employee as “ultimate brand custodian”, suggesting that people are too complex to buy into the alignment logic of many brand campaigns, intrinsically suspicious of internal marketing and PR. He offers the suggestion, instead, that the great brands are built on authenticity both inside and out and are supported by willing advocates who understand what the brand stands for and who see themselves in the values they project be they customers or employees.
Many of our favorite, comic book superheroes, especially popular during tough times, fight crime for the greater good. But what if they were sponsored by brands and made to ‘represent’ the companies that paid them?
Italian graphic designer Roberto Vergati Santos helps to make this point in his illustrated series titled ‘Sponsored Heroes’ which plays with the juxtaposition of personal and corporate branding in the context of icons many consider to be “heroic”.
Taking familiar superheroes from comics and movies, Santos linked each of them to a specific brand by dressing them in colors and logos of the company.
In the series, showcased on the Design Taxi site, ‘Batman’ can be seen wearing Nike gear, while McDonald’s sponsored Tony Stark’s ‘Iron Man’ suit.
“Imagine if one day capitalism reaches the point, where the big brands start to sponsor the superheroes,” Santos explains. “How would this influence their images? Based on this hypothesis, I decided to experiment with some characters, and see what would be the results of such idea.”
The results are fascinating and oddly disturbing but certainly make you think twice about the relationship between brand advocacy, values and endorsement.