Starz Unlocks Marketing Bounty behind 'Black Sails'

Backs Second Season with Twitter Treasure Hunt, Sampling, Advertising
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In a quest to build greater awareness and drive higher viewership for the second season of Black Sails, Starz, with the aid of Twitter, shared some pirate bounty in Santa Monica and Manhattan.

The “Take What’s Yours Treasure Hunt” dug out on Jan. 10 with players following @BlkSails_Starz for clues to Tower 16 near Santa Monica Pier and Trinity Bar and Restaurant in the Big Apple, with the first player arriving 45 and 50 minutes, respectively, after the initial clue was disseminated.

Ultimately, 25 players found keys to the treasure chest at least location, with a winner at each location unlocking $5,000 apiece.

The hunt resulted in a 400% rise over Starz’s typical Saturday Twitter performance, with #TakeWhatYours generating 5.8 million impressions, according to Alison Hoffman, senior vice president of originals marketing at Starz.

"Most of the marketing is reflective of Black Sails' authentic character-driven world. But promos like the treasure chest -- and the Captain Morgan's activation last year -- were a chance for us to have some fun with the genre,” said Hoffman. Starz engaged in a dueling canons gambit with Captain Morgan as a promo for the show's  first season.

Hoffman said the Twitter treasure hunt – before Black Sails makes its second-season bow on the premium network  at 9 p.m. -- continues with “Flock to Unlock." Fans will have to tweet to @BlksSails_Starz#TakeWhatsYours on the morning of Jan. 20 to view the first scene of the new 10-episode campaign, which will introduce a new character. 

To support the second season of its biggest show – Black Sails averaged 5.3 million watchers for eight-episode run in the States and it's available in 130 nations -- Starz is also setting sail with a sampling initiative in which non-subscribers can check/revisit the first three episodes of the series’ rookie run on Starz Play.

Starz on Demand, and the free-on-demand platforms from Charter, DirecTV, Dish and Time Warner Cable will make the first four installments of the inaugural season accessible through Jan. 25.

The premium channel, looking to build and fortify the show's male audience, has also engaged in a lengthy consumer promotional campaign that began in November, with schedules in late-night, and sports fare, including NBA and college football action. There are also print, outdoor, digital and cinema executions, including a trailer and long-form content airing before movies.

"Black Sails is very cinematic in its look. We think the movie campaign is a good match," said Hoffman.

The outdoor campaign features buses and billboards in New York and Los Angeles, including a 3D image on Sunset Boulevard, where the pirate and death climb the mast to reach the flag that extends skyward.

She noted the campaign was atypical for most series’ sophomore runs, relative to its length and strength of schedule.

“The spending is at the same level as the first season,” she said. “We really believe in Black Sails.”

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