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Syfy Plays Up Xbox Link at Comic-Con

IN ITS 10TH YEAR going to Comic-Con, Syfy has something new going for it—a sponsor. The network, which makes a six-figure financial commitment at the show to reach out to fans who are both passionate and connected, is defraying some of its expenses by creating opportunities for Microsoft to plug the newest version of its Xbox video game.

The new game system will be available for fans and celebrities to play with in a dedicated suite at a big Comic-Con party thrown by Syfy and Entertainment Weekly. There will be Xbox Currency branded items and signage during the show, along with video content Syfy is creating for its panels and screenings that will be distributed on the Xbox Live platform.

“We’re trying to make Comic-Con an opportunity for advertisers to get involved,” says Blake Callaway, Syfy’s senior VP of brand and strategic marketing.

It is symbolic of the network’s continued involvement in— and benefit from—the convention. Callaway recalls that the network’s first appearance at the San Diego show consisted of little more than a few marketing people and a card table. These days, there’s hardly a network that doesn’t have a presence at Comic-Con, and most new movies and shows offer previews and panels. “It seems to have morphed into a big media pop culture event,” he says.

As the convention has grown, it’s become harder to stand out, so Syfy has taken its act across the street from the convention center to the Hard Rock Hotel. While the network continues to sponsor screenings and panels, for a second year the hotel’s restaurant has been transformed into the Café Diem eatery from Syfy’s series Eureka. There are Syfy-themed items on the menu, and pictures of shows on the walls—which mostly get stolen by fans, according to Callaway. (Syfy will also be selling some of its tchotchkes and T-shirts at the Hard Rock.)

The effort is worth the expense for exposure alone, Callaway says. “It gives us a chance to super-serve some of our most loyal fans. There are also the fans who are going to be writing about it on their Facebook pages and blogging about it or Tweeting about it. And the journalists are doing the same thing.

“The press alone that comes out of it is a terrific upside for us,” he adds. “We launch so many of our shows in the summer, it’s like another wave of attention for them.”

And Syfy is promising to generate similar excitement for Xbox and other potential sponsors of its Comic-con activities, and Callaway expects a win-win result. “We think we can integrate them in a way that works for us and works for them,” he explains. “We can’t oversell it because we want it to feel like a Syfy branded event. But for the right partner and a product that makes sense, we found creative ways to integrate them into our efforts there.”

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