NatGeo Explores New Sponsorships

Sep 21, 2008  •  Post A Comment

National Geographic Channel is exploring the new-media landscape in which content and advertising mate to create a new species.
As part of one of the largest sponsorship deals in its history, the nature network is sending one of its noted scientist-hosts on a quest to find a creature that’s rare in nature but frequently visible on television: the Geico gecko.
Celebrated herpetologist Brady Barr, host of NatGeo’s “Dangerous Encounters” and “Wild,” will appear in a series of vignettes tracking the reptilian insurance spokesman.
National Geographic, founded in 2001, is coming off its best upfront ever. During the upfront, the channel signed two of its biggest sponsorship deals to date: the Geico sponsorship and a deal with Toyota Motor Co., whose Toyota division will be a major sponsor of “The Dog Whisperer.” Toyota’s Lexus division is sponsoring a special about blue whales.
The deals are estimated to be worth more than $10 million apiece.
In the course of the upfront, National Geographic increased its dollar volume by 30%, with rate increases in terms of cost per thousand viewers (CPM) topping 10%, according to industry sources.
“National Geographic tends to be toward the higher end of the CPM increase range historically in the marketplace because of their upscale and engaged viewers,” said David Campanelli, VP and director of national television at Horizon Media, which buys ads for Geico.
Geico has been a NatGeo sponsor since it launched in 2001.
“The network has grown a lot,” Mr. Campanelli said. “This is the first time we’ve elevated to this presenting sponsorship level.”
While car insurance isn’t a subject that comes up in many shows, Geico looks for places where it can use one of its advertising icons, either its cavemen characters or its dapper spokes-gecko. With Geico also a backer of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, the connection to wildlife programming makes sense, he said.
Beginning in the fourth quarter, Geico will be presenting sponsor of “Dangerous Encounters” and “Wild.” Within episodes, Geico ads will run as what the network calls “isolated :30s,” which means they’re in short breaks either alone or paired with a network promo, said Rich Goldfarb, National Geographic Channel senior VP for media sales.
The network also will air Web pointers directing viewers to a Web site and HD snipes, ads that appear in the lower third of the screen during the show. Geico also gets tagged tune-in spots that run on the channel.
NatGeo also is producing vignettes that follow Dr. Barr as he tries to track the Geico gecko through a series of zoos. The custom content is designed to highlight the role zoos play in the preservation of species.
Mr. Goldfarb said NatGeo doesn’t do a lot of product integration, and that the integrations have to conform to National Geographic’s standards and practices requirements.
The network and client are collaborating on research to see how the campaign affects awareness of Geico’s involvement with zoos.
Elsewhere on the channel, Geico in the fourth quarter will be lead sponsor of “Cave of the Giant Crystal,” part of the network’s Preserve Our Planet series of specials. The insurance company also will sponsor a public service campaign promoting wildlife conservation.
In other media, there will be a guide to America’s zoos sponsored by Geico in National Geographic magazine and the insurer will be sponsor of the show’s online, podcast and mobile versions. If that’s not enough, Dr. Barr also will appear at an event for Geico.
Putting together these types of campaigns with multiple elements is much more work than selling spots, but Mr. Goldfarb said most advertisers with significant budgets are looking to get more impact for their dollars and these deals help them cut through the clutter.
“We want to get connected to our clients as deeply as we can, for them, and mutually for us too sometimes, to take advantage of their distribution channels,” he said.
Toyota will be a lead sponsor of NatGeo’s “The Dog Whisperer,” which last week marked its 100th episode. Toyota will be promoting a new crossover model called the Venza that is pet-friendly, with features including a built-in harness for dogs.
Toyota models including the Venza will be integrated into episodes of the series. The Venza also will appear in customized vignettes.
Toyota ads will appear in isolated pods, and there will be Web pointers, snipes, tagged tune-in promos, customized “Did You Know” factoid segments and follow-up research.
The sponsorship extends to broadband and video-on-demand.
Toyota’s Lexus division will be presenting sponsor of “Blue Whale Mystery,” part of National Geographic Channel’s new “Great Quests” series of specials. The special takes people to the previously undiscovered birthing area for the world’s biggest animal, where a 25-foot baby is shown entering the world.
The Lexus sponsorship includes vignettes, VOD, broadband and tagged tune-ins on-air and on other channels the network uses to promote the show.


  1. Lots of good ideas (perhaps even too many). The creative execution will be key–subtlety and humor will be needed to maintain Brady Barr’s professional standing and National Geo’s brand image. But Geo & Geico is a strong combination. As an ad agency type, I’m very interested to see how this delicate assignment will play out.

  2. I really get into the shows. It is so interesting and the kids really do get into it. I have never commented on anything at all . I don’t even what really made me do this. I am rarely on the computer. It is just so annoying the host Brady Barr of the show is so fake we spend so much time laughing at him and we see how he tries to ACT all excited.That we can’t watch the show. Can you give him a zanax before taping or lose him all together. It sucks a great show ruined by the host. the croc hunter wannabe.Try a French guy!

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