Volkswagen Goes Under Water to Sponsor ‘Shark Week’

Volkswagen has been aggressive in its creative campaigns for its new Beetle Turbo, and in its latest marketing for the car it’s growing bolder, taking a deep-sea dive with Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week” that will place an advertiser’s product into the program for the first time.

As the exclusive sponsor of the tentpole event, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary, the automobile maker teamed up with the cable network, a marine biologist and media agenciesMediaCom and Deutsch, to build the “Volkswagen Beetle Shark Observation Cage.”

The shark cage, which plays on the silhouettes of a shark fin and Volkswagen’s Beetle, will drive along the ocean floor, giving viewers an exclusive look at the sea creatures to be found there. Volkswagen parts were used in the design of the shark cage, which maneuvers like a Beetle and has the VW logo prominently displayed

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“The biggest task for us was how to integrate VW and Shark Week without it just being tacked on,” said Scott Clark, one of the creative directors for the project at Interpublic Group’s Deutsch. “We tried to find the similarities between sharks sand the Beetle, but there weren’t a lot. Instead we took the fun and playfulness of the Beetle on land and brought it under water.”

Mr. Clark said the team also had to consider scientific elements for Discovery, ultimately leading to the idea for the shark cage. Essentially, the cage is the VW Beetle in a wire form. It has the same shape, wheels and logo, but no body panels.

Discovery Channel will turn the design, construction and submersion of the Beetle shark cage into a series of three one-minute segments to air during Shark Week in August.

While this is the first time Volkswagen will sponsor Shark Week, it has worked with Discovery Channel in the past, sponsoring “Life,” the network’s 2010 nature documentary.

“When Volkswagen approached us asking, what’s the next big thing we have going on this year that they can align with, Shark Week was a natural choice,” said Scott Felenstein, SVP-ad sales, Discovery Channel. “Shark Week is Discovery’s Super Bowl.”

“This is the right property for us with a huge fan base and quality content,” said Justin Osborne, general manager, marketing communications at Volkswagen America. “This is a good platform for us to be creative. Since it’s the 25th anniversary there will be even more attention paid to the tent-pole event. We try our best to not just do sponsorships, but fun integrations.”

Social-media elements include the hashtag, “VWSharkWeek,” which will help fans view conversations about the shark cage; a simultaneous broadcasting application with audio syncing to the TV programming; and exclusive content provided by VW on its Facebook page, including a custom “Shark Bites” video playlist and timeline photos.

Discovery will also air “Shark Bites,” vignettes that celebrate the greatest moments from past Shark Weeks, and “Sneak Peeks,” short segments that look ahead to this year’s event.

Shark Week kicks off on Aug. 12, and Discovery said this year will include the most hours of programming in the history of the event.

This is the latest creative partnership Volkswagen has done in the past several months for the Beetle Turbo. In June, it worked with IFC’s new improv series, “Comedy Bang! Bang!”, for a spoof integration, where VW essentially makes fun of product placement while featuring the Beetle.