Nat Geo is treating sharks like superstar athletes in its campaign for five-week programming event, Sharkfest, kicking off Sunday, July 19.

“This was supposed to be the summer of the Olympic Games in Tokyo,” said Tyler Korba, vice president, creative, National Geographic. “Fans are starved for sports right now. In the absence of almost all of our favorite sports, we thought it would be fun to position sharks as premier athletes.”

The campaign started with a :30 event sell (above) as well as a :20 tease (below). In the coming weeks, the team will roll out sports-themed digital assets, some of them featuring ESPN’s Kenny Mayne.

:20 Tease

“Our digital team got really excited about all of the elements we could copy over from the sports world—there are a ton of stuff to play with. We are even working on a version of baseball cards for favorite players. It needed to be a celebration so the tone had to be playful,” Korba said.

For the event sell, Nat Geo’s in-house team worked with IKA Collective to lean into an old-style NFL look, complete with narration by “The Voice,” Earl Mann. “We wrote an ode to the greatest athletes the ocean has ever seen,” Korba said.

Since Nat Geo is now part of the Disney family, they also reached out to see if ESPN would want to be involved. “It was a bit of a bigger swing,” Korba said. “Our hope was that they would see the fun in the idea and play along. They were really generous about the whole thing.”

Mayne came on board the project, doing some play-by-play analysis of different shark footage for digital and social spots that will come out later this week. “We gave him a bunch of facts and asked him to cut loose,” Korba said.

This year, Sharkfest will run five weeks across two platforms: Nat Geo and Nat Geo Wild. For the first three weeks, the programming will air on Nat Geo and then it will move to Nat Geo Wild for the final two weeks. It also will premiere 17 original shark-themed specials during the event, such as World’s Biggest Tiger Shark?, Most Wanted Sharks, Sharkcano, and Sharks vs. Dolphins: Blood Battle.

Preview of World’s Biggest Tiger Shark?

“Sharkfest has had a lot of fun selling itself in the past, poking fun at ourselves, but this year is a different year,” Korba said. “The event has grown big enough to stand on its own.”


Client: National Geographic

Executive Vice President, Creative: Chris Spencer

Vice President Creative: Tyler Korba

Art Director: Jeremy Tate

Senior Writer/Producer: Chris Costa

Project Managers: Kendrah Polk, Isabella Alonzo

Agency: IKA Collective

Producer: Ian Karr

Post-Production Supervisor: Jonathan Jacobson

Editor: Ronni Thomas

Writer: Robbie Chafitz

Colorist: Karl Pfeiffer

Mix and Sound Design: Rob Kahn/Mixology

Agency: Fogo

Executive Producers: Jeff “Footy” Foot, Dave Gorrie

CD/VP: Jeff Strong

Editor: John Rolewicz

Director of Production: AnChi Laster

Sound Design: Richard Humphries/Takoma Media

Tags: nat geo national geographic sharkfest

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