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NatGeo Wild Roars For Big Cat Week

National Geographic Wild has been looking to make big noise for its "Big Cat Week."

The network expects to programming stunt to result in its highest-rated week for the third straight year. But on top of producing programming and attracting an audience, the channel is involved in programs designed to learn more about and preserve the big cats.

NatGeo Wild executive vice president and general manager Geoff Davis says Big Cat Week, which this year is the culmination of a year-long commitment to the magnificent beasts, is more than the channel’s version of Discovery’s venerable "Shark Week."

“It’s very much a brand-definitional event for us. The kind of content that we’re able to showcase really represents that best attributes of our brand,” Davis said.

Davis points to a show highlighting snow leopards in Afghanistan featuring Boone Smith. “We were able to take one of our guys, who was working with scientists in one of the world most dangerous places,” he said. “It’s not only awe-inspiring programming that is edge of the seat kind of drama, but we’re actually able to contribute to real scientific research.”

Sponsors Geico and Hershey’s Ice Breakers, have backed quarterly specials throughout the year and will be prominent during Big Cat Week, with special vignettes highlighting their brands.

Two-year-old Wild has been making a multi-faceted marketing effort to get people to tune in.

In addition to on air promos and traditional off air ads on cable, print and digital, the network has launched some unique promotional efforts.

“We tried to create some really buzz-worthy, breakthrough marketing tactics that hopefully reach an audience and drive them to tune in,” said Courtney Monroe, chief marketing officer for National Geographic Channels.

The network has had a presence at 26 NBA games in New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Dallas and Washington, D.C., that includes distributing big foam claws to fans, a Big Cat Cam, an Unleash the Roar noise meter. In Washington, the Wizards’ cheerleaders performed a Big Cats inspired dance.

An iPad app allows users to play a Big Cat Week “Quest for Survival” game in which they take on the role of lioness hunting prey in the African savannah.

Wild also formed a partnership with that encouraged consumers to share their best roars. For each video uploaded, the network made a donation to the Big Cat Initiative, designed to protect the endangered animals.

The network also worked with 20th Century Fox and its film Life of Pi, which features a tiger, on a PSA campaign running across Fox networks (Wild and 20th are part of News Corp.)

Wild is also running its own PSA campaign for its Big Cat Initiative showing animals trying out to be the King of Beasts. “While really devoted to raising awareness and money for the cause, obviously has the halo effect of driving awareness and tune in for Big Cat Week as well,” Monroe said.