“Ahsoka“—the latest Star Wars Disney+ series—premiered last week and with it came a lot of fanfare. Part one of the series, “Master and Apprentice,” was the most-watched title on Disney+ this past week, notching 14 million views.
It makes sense why. Ahsoka Tano—the titular character and double lightsaber wielding Jedi of the series—is one of the most popular characters from the galaxy far, far away. Ever since her debut as Anakin Skywalker’s Padawan apprentice in 2008’s “The Clone Wars,” Ahsoka has made a lot of fans along the way as a beloved female hero.
With the new live-action series starring Rosario Dawson putting the character front and center, we asked Brittney Todd—Disney’s VP of Marketing Strategy—and Kyle Rodri—VP of Creative Advertising—how they marketed the new series to not only expand the Star Wars universe but introduce Ahsoka to whole new galaxy of fans.
Star Wars is one of the most beloved brands. The name Star Wars itself is a marketing tool. With Ahsoka, how do you use the brand to market the series?
Brittney: Lucasfilm and Star Wars has built such a strong brand and reputation. Just seeing the Lucasfilm and Star Wars name stirs all these emotions and nostalgia, and it’s really just about taking care of that and knowing that people have these memories—these core memories—that are connected to the brand. You have to go into it knowing that people feel so close to this story, and it’s just about keeping that top of mind with everything that you do from beginning to end. “Ahsoka” just falls within that world but knowing that people feel really connected to this universe is something we have to be aware of throughout everything we do on the project.
Kyle: Obviously, these filmmakers have crafted a story that is new, and so you can’t rest on what we’ve done in the past. I think we have to establish that this is an event that is here to excite fans. I think fans deserve to know that a character like this—which has had such a long history in animation—is getting her own series. And I think that the event nature of it deserves a marketing campaign that is specific to it.
Ahsoka is set around a female character. In fact, multiple female characters. How does that impact the marketing strategy around it?
Brittney: I think that females have always been a part of the Star Wars galaxy. They’ve always been a part of the stories that Lucasfilm and Star Wars have told. But truly being centered in this story, I think is something that’s been very unique and something that we want to be able to celebrate in all of our marketing. Not necessarily pivot from anything that we’ve done in the past or totally go outside of what we would do for the Star Wars fandom, but really be able to celebrate it as an opportunity to bring in some new fans and maybe find some new champions for the series as well.
Ahsoka Tano is one of the most popular characters in Star Wars history. Does that make it challenging to tell her story to fans in Ahsoka?
Brittney: Anytime you’re dealing with a character that’s beloved, well known, has a history and a connection, it just takes that extra bit of care. And you have to take that into consideration in anything that you’re doing in the marketing realm. You want to make sure that you have those Easter eggs. You don’t spoil anything. You keep it exciting for the people that are already those core fans, but then also offering an opportunity for someone new who is maybe on the outside.
Kyle: Also, I think at this point the character has earned this level of attention in the series and in the marketing.
Why is it important to expand the Star Wars brand to people who may not already be fans? And how does Ahsoka help that cause?
Brittney: It goes without saying that it will help the fandom to live on. It’s a truly multi-generational property. It’s great to be able to build something that’s going to mean something so specific to audiences of a certain generation and now have an opportunity to bring in a new generation that will grow that same love and affinity. I think it’s important for us to bring in an audience of a younger generation so that we can build on that great storytelling that’s been already set for us. “Ahsoka” is just the next story in that legacy.
Kyle: Star Wars has permeated culture. It’s transcended whether you know who Darth Vader is or not. We can all relate in some way to the characters in the stories. We know that Star Wars—as a marketing term—is “for everyone.” If you’re a fan of action, if you’re a fan of science fiction, we have that, but also if you’re a fan of storytelling. It echoes our day-to-day relationship. These stories, especially these series, are really drilled down into the intimacy of the characters. For me, that makes it feel like this galaxy that’s far, far away is actually closer than we think. We also have to remember it’s a galaxy. There are a multitude of stories, and you don’t necessarily need to know all of them to be able to relate to whatever you find. You can come in to “Ahsoka” and understand that it is a standalone story. You don’t have to have any preconceived notions of the past. So—for me—people that might not already be fans, I think there’s a huge opportunity to bring them in.