The 28th annual Shark Week, Discovery Channel's biggest event of the year and television's longest running summer special event, begins Sunday night at 8 p.m. with ad avails and sponsorships across all seven nights of primetime programming once again sold out.
This year's Shark Week is kicking off earlier than ever before and in addition to its July programming, Discovery will also offer a special weekend of all-new Shark Week programming in late August. In all, Shark Week will include 19 hours of primetime programming, in addition to the nightly Shark After Dark show that will air beginning 11 p.m. each night.
Ben Price, executive VP of ad sales for the network, says moving Shark Week up to start on July 4th weekend helps better accommodate advertisers who want to reach a mass audience at the start of summer.
“This year it will kick-off summer and the timing works out really well for categories like quick service restaurants, beer, automotive and especially movies,” Price says. Add in insurance and department stores, and those are the major categories that have filled up the commercial time of the seven nights of prime time programming.
Price says next summer’s Shark Week is already being sold in current upfront, and now is when most of the sponsorships are locked in.
Volkswagen is back as a presenting sponsor for the fourth consecutive year and Dunkin Donuts is back for a second year with a major sponsorship. Other returnees include Southwest Airlines, Cold Stone Creamery, Great Clips, Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics, Georgetown Cupcake and Oceana.
MillerCoors’ Redd’s Apple Ale is the official beer sponsor for Shark Week. Other first time advertisers for Shark Week are Macy’s and sunglasses company Knockaround. Disney Studios will also be promoting the release of its latest film Ant-Man.
Shark After Dark returns for its third consecutive year with a new host – film director, producer, writer and actor Eli Roth.
Redd’s Apple Ale is not only the official beer sponsor for Shark Week, but it will also be featured as the Shark After Dark’s “green room” bar where the show’s guests will be able to drink some ale before and after their segments.
Custom-made Redd’s Apple Ale vignettes will also air throughout Shark Week.
Dunkin’ Donuts is back as a major sponsor with on-air commercials, custom-made on-air vignettes and its iced coffee will be the featured coffee drink on Shark After Dark. Dunkin’ Donuts will again be selling specially make Shark Week donuts in select stores – The Shark Bite Donut and The Great White Donut.
And similar to last year, Dunkin will be sponsoring a “Take a Bite, Take a Pic” contest. Consumers taking pictures of themselves eating Dunkin Donuts products will get a chance for their photos to be shown on Shark After Dark or on Dunkin’s Times Square digital billboard.
Actor Paul Rudd, who plays Scott Lang/Ant-Man in the movie, shot a special integrated tune-in spot for both Shark Week and Shark After Dark. There will be multiple custom vignettes airing all week, along with special sneak peeks from the film.
Macy’s has been running in-store promotional displays tied into the Shark Week theme in its stories in New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Orlando.
Southwest Airlines through July 12 will be showing exclusive Shark Week content on its Wi-Fi equipped planes via free TV. And Southwest is also sponsoring a “Dare to Dive” sweepstakes that will give one person a chance to win a vacation to Aruba that includes a private snorkeling excursion.
Cold Stone Creamery stores, through July 14 are offering special Shark Week themed ice cream and a contest where a customer can win a trip for four to the Bahamas.
Knockaround has created custom, limited edition Shark Week sunglasses and the company is donating $5 from every pair to conservation group Oceana’s shark protection efforts.
Last year’s Shark Week drew over 42 million cumulative viewers who watched each program for six minutes or more. Discovery says those totals included the most women 18-49 who’ve ever tuned into Shark Week, surpassing the previous high total established in 2000.
With many brands renewing their sponsorships each year, marketers wanting to get into next summer’s Shark Week would be wise to begin those conversations with Discovery during the current upfront negotiations.