National Geographic’s ninth annual Sharkfest kicks off Monday, July 5 with the exclusive premiere of Shark Beach with Chris Hemsworth preceded by the first episode of When Sharks Attack.
Having a global movie star front and center gave Nat Geo an easy hook on which to hang its marketing campaign.
“When your kickoff show has Chris Hemsworth, you’re off to a great start,” says Chris Albert, executive vice president, marketing strategy and global communications, National Geographic and Disney Branded Television. “The show is a passion project for him and he was really into it. He’s an avid surfer and he really cares about the oceans and the sharks and what’s happening in Australia.”
Producing Shark Beach was an opportunity at least partly created by the pandemic because Hemsworth was at home in Australia during lockdown and so was the production crew. Typically, Hemsworth is hard to schedule but he had time while he waited for movie production to begin again.
“It was something we had been talking about but the opportunity to do it aligned because Chris had time, we had a crew and all of the experts were already there,” Albert said. Hemsworth also is starring in another upcoming series, Limitless, for Disney+, in which he explores secrets of human longevity.
Shark Beach also features globally known shark specialist Valerie Taylor who takes Hemsworth on a shark dive to see grey nurse sharks and it showcases other shark experts who are exploring ways to avoid unexpected shark-human encounters.
“Because of our brand we have access to the world’s preeminent explorers and scientists and almost all of our shows have a scientist involved,” Albert said.
Taylor, who appeared on the June 1973 cover of National Geographic Magazine, also stars in the documentary Playing with Sharks, which Nat Geo acquired after this year’s Sundance Film Festival and premieres on Disney+ on July 23.
Playing With Sharks
For the first time, Disney+ will play a large role in Sharkfest as one of five featured platforms. Nat Geo already occupies its own tile on the Disney+ platform, and the streaming service is creating a Sharkfest hub that will feature all of the programming from the past eight years. After certain Sharkfest content premieres on the Nat Geo channels, including Nat Geo Wild and Nat Geo Mundo, it will then make its debut on Disney+ every Friday of the six-week event. In addition, some Sharkfest content will appear on Disney XD.
“We’re leaning into the fact that we’re now fully a part of Disney and the opportunity is there to make Sharkfest a huge event across our networks,” Albert said.
Besides its linear and digital campaigns, Nat Geo is taking Sharkfest to the beach on both the East and West Coasts. Double-decker wrapped buses are cruising the beaches in New York, Delaware, Miami and Los Angeles. Chalk artists are creating shark-themed art in public gathering places across Los Angeles, including The Grove in mid-Wilshire, the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, and Hollywood and Highland. And in an attempt to terrify hotel visitors into watching Sharkfest, Nat Geo is putting sharks at the bottoms of pools at such Los Angeles hotels as the Hyatt Regency and the Mondrian on Sunset.
Finally, just for fun, Nat Geo released the below video across its social platforms set to the tune of “Thank You for Being a Friend,” from the Golden Girls’ theme song.
Thank You for Being A Shark
[Images of Chris Hemsworth courtesy of National Geographic/Craig Parry]