Sponsors Keep Biting at Discovery’s Shark Week

Even in the middle of a pandemic, Discovery can count on Shark Week to deliver sponsors.

In its 32nd year, Shark Week has attracted new sponsors including Jeep, Heineken 0.0, Nationwide, Burger King, Home Depot, Modelo, Gorilla Glue and Cooper Tire. Returning sponsors are headed by Geico.

Shark Week shows generated some$28 million in ad sales for Discovery in 2020.

Shark Week shows generated some$28 million in ad sales for Discovery in 2020.

Last year, Shark Week generated $28 million in ad sales for Discovery, according to iSpot.tv. This year, in an environment where analysts are expecting ad revenues to be
down as much as 30% for the second quarter, demand for Shark Week remains high, Discovery executive VP of national ad sales Scott Kohn said.

Commercials during Shark Week, which starts Aug. 9, are nearly sold out. Kohn wouldn’t say how this year’s sales would stack up to last year’s, but Discovery in 2020 made a concerted effort to boost the digital component.

RELATED: Cover Story: Summer of Sharks

“We’re definitely seeing significant growth in the support of Shark Week from a digital perspective,” Kohn said. “This is
how clients are buying and we’ve created much more robust content to view on our digital platforms.”

About half of the Shark Week sponsors made deals in last year’s upfront. The others bought more recently in the scatter market, Kohn said.

“We did see a tremendous amount of interest throughout the scatter marketplace,” he said. “I think people recognize that especially now, when there’s not a lot of competition on the air, Shark Week is going to be the place to showcase your brand message.”

Although Discovery pitches itself as an alternative to sports, Kohn said he couldn’t be sure if some of the money being gobbled up by Shark Week had originally been earmarked for events that were canceled or postponed because of COVID-19.

Many Shark Week sponsors run special commercials and marketing programs around the programming stunt. Despite the pandemic, Discovery was able to produce custom content for clients.

“We’ve been able to produce some amazing programming,” Kohn said. “We’ve taken a lot of best practices and, working with our integrated ad sales and marketing teams and clients, produced custom content during this time as well.”

Alcohol-free beer brand Heineken 0.0 will be integrated into the premiere episode of the event’s aftershow, Josh Gates Tonight: Shark Week. A sweepstakes with a shark dive as the prize is part of Jeep’s on-air and digital program, which also includes Nature Minute multiplatform videos and on-air custom vignettes.

RELATED: Nets Strutting Out Stunts This Summer

Jeep has social videos running on Facebook and Instagram, as well as Shark News videos across all sites and social. Nationwide will be featured on-air with a custom vignette and a Nature Minute video, as well as Shark News videos across social. Burger King will be featured prominently throughout Shark Week with on-air sponsorship and a mid-form series on the Discovery GO app.

Cooper Tire will sponsor tune-ins leading up to Shark Week, as well as digital and social content.

Kohn said he’s begun talking to clients about sponsoring next year’s Shark Week. 

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.