Travel Channel has big plans for next month's fourth annual "Beach Week" — the programming stunt that typically puts the channel in the swim with its strongest ratings of the year. The network will not only hitch its first tie-in "Beach Week" affiliate promotion to that star, but it will use it to debut its makeover as well.
The new look, to be unveiled when the beach party begins on March 3, is its first major redesign and new logo since 1998 —shortly after Discovery Communications Inc. acquired it.
Travel will also premiere seven new specials: Spring Break Fever (March 3), Europe's Hottest Beaches (March 4), Top Secret Beaches (March 6), America's Best Beaches 2002 (March 3) and World's Best Beaches 2002 (March 4), among them. Jenny McCarthy serves as the host for the latter two programs and also introduces each of the "Beach Week" shows.
Last year's version of the stunt outperformed 2000's "Beach Week" in the Nielsen Media Research household ratings by 36 percent and in its target adult 25-to-54 demographic by 41 percent.
The design overhaul will include the new logo and on-air and online looks under the Discovery umbrella. Changes will be seen in everything from program titles and off-channel marketing materials to the network's Internet site — the previous revamp was limited to logo and IDs.
Travel vice president of marketing Mary Hicks said, "Our goal with this dramatic redesign is to express the core idea of the network — [namely] the fun, fascination and freedom of travel.
"We had a shift in programming emphasis over the past year to more popular destinations and diversions" rather than exotic adventures, she added.
Hicks — who moved over last September from a similar marketing post at Discovery Digital Networks — declined to reveal the costs relative to the marketing support level or the revamp.
The new logo will feature a series of moving, wave-like bars using a variety of colors: blues and aqua tones for "Beach Week;" red, white and blue for Travel's upcoming "American Icons" series of specials; and shades of green and brown for "Majestic America Week" and National Park Service-related programming.
In some cases, the bars will morph from their abstract form to become, say, a blue wave on a sandy beach.
To promote both "Beach Week" and the attendant online affiliate sweepstakes, Travel will run cross-channel promos across all the Discovery networks as well as on MTV: Music Television's Sports Illustrated swimsuit-issue special and on TV Guide Channel. The media schedule also includes spot cable, spot radio and such publications as Esquire, ESPN The Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, GQ, USA Today and the TV Week Sunday supplement in 19 markets, Travel spokeswoman Gillian Renault said.
Travel also has been touting the "Beach Week Sweepstakes" via a flash electronic-mailing to those on its www.TravelChannel.com newsletter mailing list.
The sweepstakes, with 150 participating systems and interconnects reaching 10 million subscribers, began in mid-February and runs through March 9, the last night of "Beach Week," said Discovery Networks U.S. promotions director Beth Meyer. The grand prize: a Caribbean $45,000 vacation for 10 people at a semi-private British Virgin Islands resort.
The network will also be giving away a first prize — $250 worth of travel-related paraphernalia — in each market
Materials distributed to affiliates earlier this year sported the old logo because Travel did not want to release the new one ahead of schedule, Hicks said.
Discovery Networks, which asked that affiliates support the program with 150 sweepstakes promos and 100 tune-in spots, will give those providing affidavits an "Ultimate Beach Party Prize Pack." That can be used as an internal sales-incentive or advertiser gift, Meyer noted.
Affiliates were urged to use the promotion to "make a splash" in signing or upgrading subscribers and selling local advertisers.
Operators were urged by Discovery to target such categories as amusement and theme parks, fitness centers, camera retailers, tourism boards, spas and the more traditional auto dealerships and financial services.
The biggest local sale so far has been a $400,000 deal by the New York Interconnect, Meyer disclosed.