Long John Silver’s Bites on Discovery’s Shark Week

Yum Brands’ fast-fish chain Long John Silver’s has re-upped as a sponsor of Discovery Channel’s Shark Week franchise, buying on-air tune-in spots designed to lure viewers into trying its new Shrimp Trio meal.

Co-branded 15- and 30-second spots for the programming tent pole and the Louisville-based chain went live this week and will remain on Discovery’s air through August 8. Created in-house by the Discovery Studios unit, the spots feature two regular Joes enthusing about Shark Week and LJS’s $5.99 shrimp offering.

“You know, when you’re watching Shark Week you want someone to share it with…but when you have a Long John Silver’s Shrimp Trio, not so much,” says one of the actors as he steers a yellow LJS bag out of his friend’s reach. A great white shark is then seen breaching with a seal clamped in its jaws, and as a pile of shrimp cascades from a colander, a voiceover relates the price point.

The spots conclude with a title card that reads “Happy Shark Week” and the Discovery logo and tag line (“The World is Just Awesome”).

The :30 spot will run eight times on Discovery Channel, while the shorter cut will appear 43 times on the flagship network as well as sibling outlets TLC and Animal Planet. As they are designed to echo the themes set forth by the programming, the :30s are running in A-positions and leading out of commercial breaks.

According to Discovery senior vp, ad sales Scott Felenstein, the client quadrupled its year-ago commitment. “Last year, they took a baby step. This year, they’re stepping up in a big way,” Felenstein said, adding that there are “great synergies between the brand and the type of food they sell and the Shark Week programming.”

Felenstein noted that the TV-exclusive deal was a bit of an anomaly for Discovery, which does brisk business on the digital side of the ledger as well. “They seem to be very focused on TV this year,” he said. “Hopefully next year we can pull it all together and carve out some space for them on both platforms.”

Despite the ravages of the Great Recession, Discovery Channel put up huge ad sales numbers in 2009, taking in $550.3 million in client dollars, down just 1 percent from the prior-year haul ($556.6 million), per Kantar Media estimates.

In advance of last year’s Shark Week stunt, LJS bought banners and skyscrapers on Discovery’s dedicated microsite. The company also assumed ownership of the online “Sharkrunners” game, which allowed users to virtually track and observe sharks in their natural habitat.


The 40-year-old LJS chain is the leader in the QSR seafood space, boasting 36 percent US market share at the end of 2009, per the NPD Group. Yum Brands last year invested $548 million in measured media, an allocation that includes promotional support for Pizza Hut, KFC and Taco Bell. Two years ago, the conglomerate spent $35 million on advertising inventory for LJS.

“We are excited to bring our brands together to support this tent pole programming event under one unifying theme––Discovery on-air talent encouraging viewership of Shark Week and Long John Silver’s Shrimp Trio––a first for Long John Silver’s and Discovery Networks,” said LJS chief marketing officer Barry Westrum.

Swimming into its 23rd year, Shark Week continues to scare up a significant audience for Discovery. According to Nielsen ratings data, the 2007-09 editions now stand as the three most-watched ever, averaging a cume 27.6 million viewers. Shark Week begins Sunday, August 1, at 9 p.m. EDT, leading off with the one-hour special Ultimate Air jaws.

While Discovery first introduced viewers to the hair-raising concept of flying sharks back in 2000, the new gloss on Air Jaws features footage shot by an HD camera that shoots in super slow motion––2,000 frames per second, or 20 to 30 times slower than traditional slo-mo. As a result, the resolution provides so much detail that the viewer can literally count every tooth in the breaching predator’s hungry mouth.

The buy was brokered by agency of record Empower MediaMarketing, which assumed all national media buying duties for LJS in January 2009. (Empower had managed the chain’s media planning since 1998, and handled local buys.)