Mickey Mouse and his gang took center stage this summer --
literally -- at a series of outdoor events co-sponsored by Disney Channel and several of
its affiliates across the country.
In its third year, Disney Channel's PremEARS in the
Park wraps up its whirlwind, 10-city tour this Thursday (Aug. 5) in San Francisco. For the
programmer, the tour is a chance to extend the Disney Channel brand off-air by premiering
two new original movies from the network, said vice president of marketing Adam Sanderson.
Affiliates were able to leverage the Disney clout to
strengthen relationships with local officials and to showcase new products to the large
crowds drawn to the event.
Local communities also benefited from what Disney Channel
dubbed the "Can Film Festival." PremEARS attendees were encouraged to bring cans
or other non-perishable packages of food, which were then donated to a local organization
of choice by the cable affiliates.
In Southern New Jersey late last month, the local tie-in
was with Camden-based The Food Bank of New Jersey, just down the road from the tour's
stop at the Blockbuster-Sony Music Entertainment Centre.
Suburban Cable co-sponsored the Philadelphia-area event,
which drew an "astounding" volume of traffic from New Jersey, Pennsylvania and
Delaware, according to Bill Kettleson, regional director of community and government
relations for Suburban Cable of New Jersey.
At its free event in Camden, Suburban went through all
3,000 bags of marketing materials and give-aways before the Disney Channel movie even
started, Kettleson said. The E-Centre amphitheater typically plays host to big-name
musical artists such as Bob Dylan and Paul Simon.
PremEARs in the Park events are held rain or shine, but
Sanderson admitted he watches the weather like a hawk on each day of the event.
For the first two years of the program, PremEARS screenings
were held in city parks, but the crowds outgrew those venues. This year, the promotion was
held at larger amphitheaters such as Tweeter Center for the Performing Arts in Boston and
Jones Beach in Long Island, N.Y.
"We've gone from a family picnic in the park to a
family festival," Sanderson said. "This was a great way to freshen the
In addition to the movie screenings, Disney Channel set up
a number of displays designed to entertain families of all ages -- especially children
aged 8 to 12, the network's core audience.
Kids had their pictures taken on six different Disney
Channel movie set stages, and the photos were stored on digital disks. Other stages hosted
live Toon Disney character vignettes and musical performances. Two young bands, Youngstown
and Nobody's Angel, toured with PremEARS this summer.
Cable affiliates also had a strong presence at the events,
sharing billing on signage at the front gate and manning a booth inside the amphitheater.
Suburban also brought its 40-foot promotional vehicle to help demonstrate new products.
The MSO has started its digital-cable launch in several Pennsylvania and Delaware markets
and plans to expand into Southern New Jersey this fall.
"The timing was right to start getting the word out
about digital," Kettleson said.
Suburban also promoted its educational efforts, such as
Cable in the Classroom. And before PremEARS opened its gates to the public, Suburban held
a VIP reception for about 200 local officials and their families.
"There's something very magical about having
Mickey Mouse in an event and having the VIPs there and able to share it with their kids
and grandkids," Kettleson said. That's something that other programmers
can't match, he added.
Sanderson said Disney Channel has already started to plan
for next year's event. The network hopes to sign a corporate sponsor that can not
only share expenses, but also help promote the events to its own customers.
Disney Channel receives many requests from both affiliates
and from cities hoping to host a PremEARS in the Park event, Sanderson said. The network
tries to pick markets where there are a large number of basic-cable Disney Channel