Sundance Looks to Humor to Draw Subs

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Forget T-shirts and baseball caps-Sundance Channel is taking the free-clothing giveaway to the next level with its Joe Boxer Corp. premium for first-time subscribers who sign up for the network in June through participating cable affiliates.

After somewhat racier slogans were nixed, the Sundance marketing team came up with the campaign's tag line: "Take a peek at our shorts." The pun promotes the premium channel's short films-especially its "Short Stop" hour, which airs Sunday nights at 8 p.m.

"It's not something you'd expect from your cable operator," Sundance vice president of affiliate marketing Kirk Iwanowski said of the free underwear. "It cuts through the clutter."

Iwanowski added that he has received enthusiastic responses from cable operators during presentations, including some executives donning the smiley-faced boxers right in the middle of the pitch.

For the Joe Boxer campaign, Sundance provides fulfillment services on the premium, and it can also send affiliates customizable TV spots, radio scripts and newspaper ad slicks, all featuring the eye-catching undergarments.

Arguably the only thing more that a local marketing executive could ask for is for Sundance founder Robert Redford to personally model the shorts.

Redford is not involved directly in this campaign. But Iwanowski said Redford has been on hand to help cable operators around the country launch Sundance as they upgrade to digital.

"Redford doesn't just participate in the New York City and Los Angeles events," he added. "He is very much a part of the network."

To take part in the turnkey Joe Boxer promotion, Sundance asks operators to either run 250 cross-channel television spots and mail customized postcards to targeted subscribers or to run 350 cross-channel spots without a direct-mail component.

The target market for Sundance should match the Joe Boxer customer fairly closely, Iwanowski believes.

"These are people who don't necessarily take themselves too seriously," he said. "They seek high levels of entertainment all around. They're irreverent, intelligent, but not necessarily overly academic."

Both Joe Boxer and Sundance customers have strong brand consciousness, he added. "They know pop culture, and it has relevance to them," he said.

In September, Sundance plans to partner with another strong brand, Amazon.com Inc. Cable operators can offer new subscribers to the network $10 gift certificates to the online retailer as a way to promote bundles of video and data services, Iwanowski said.

Sundance has a history of looking to strong brands for promotional partnerships. The network has ongoing relationships with both Starbucks Corp. and Blockbuster Inc. About 3,600 Blockbuster stores across the country feature permanent shelf tags in a "Sundance Recommends" section of library titles.

Late last year, Sundance developed a pilot program in which local cable operators could market directly to renters of Blockbuster's independent films. In the joint promotion, cable customers who upgrade to digital-and to Sundance-are eligible for coupons toward Sundance-recommended films at Blockbuster.

Take-rates from the postcard promotions in the initial pilot markets ranged from 3 percent to 19 percent, Iwanowski said. Sundance plans to expand the program nationally.

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