Renowned for its dizzyingly implausible marriage of ichthyology and meteorology and an everyone-in-the-pool indulgence for B-lister cameos that culminate in spectacular death, Syfy's "Sharknado" franchise has established itself as cable's campiest rite of summer. And while youth-targeting movie studios, automakers and purveyors of munchies are always quick to snatch up the available advertising inventory, "Sharknado" perhaps makes the biggest splash with its custom integrations.
As Syfy preps for the premiere of "Sharknado 4: The 4th Awakens," the NBC Universal ad sales team has hooked the franchise's biggest fish to date, as Fiat Chrysler's Dodge division will use the movie as a showcase for three of its seven current models. Along with the in-show integrations (one of which features the Dodge Charger SRT 392 in what Syfy is calling the most audacious stunt in "Sharknado" history), the package includes a series of vignettes, placement on various digital and social platforms and a presence during this month's San Diego Comic-Con.
According to Dan Lovinger, exec VP-sales, NBC Universal Entertainment Group, the big Charger stunt features the catastrophically luckless Fin Shepard (Ian Ziering) and the 1,149-foot tower of Las Vegas' Stratosphere Hotel. (Yes, "Sharknado 4" takes place in the Mojave Desert, roughly 282 miles from the nearest ocean. It's not supposed to make any sense.)
"I feel like I've reached the pinnacle of my sales career with this deal," Mr. Lovinger said, tongue lodged firmly in cheek. "But really, Dodge is the perfect partner for this. Just like 'Sharknado' can be, their brand is cool and testosterone-fueled. It's a lot of fun."
Along with the very active Charger integration, Dodge will be featured in a few more passive set-ups. As billionaire playboy Aston Reynolds, a heavy who develops a technology that allows him to weaponize the weather, "Sharknado" newcomer Tommy Davidson can be spotted zooming around town in a lethal-looking Dodge Viper. Later in the film, a member of the antagonist's security detail pulls up in a Dodge Durango.
Universal McCann, Dodge and Syfy also put their heads together to develop a series of five 30-second vignettes that offer a behind-the-scenes look at the planning, preparation and execution of the Charger stunt. Three of those spots will air on NBCU cable nets in the run-up to the "Sharknado 4" premiere, while the others will be assigned to social media platforms. One of the three linear vignettes will run within the movie itself, appearing in the "A" position of the first commercial break.
One of the vignettes that will air on TV features "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" alum and pro-am racer Alfonso Ribeiro as the stunt driver who ostensibly fills in for Mr. Ziering during the Vegas shoot. "The makers of 'Sharknado' came up with a stunt so dangerous, so insane, there was only one man and one car for the job," the actor says over a series of glamour shots of the Charger. "This baby roars louder than any shark I know."
As for Comic-Con, Mr. Lovinger said that a "sharkified" version of the Charger will be parked on the floor of the San Diego Convention Center during Syfy's three-day tenure at the show. The network will air its first live Comic-Con special on successive nights from July 21 to July 23. Will Arnett has been tapped to host the event, and before Syfy pulls up stakes, one attendee will drive off with the tricked-out Charger.
Mr. Lovinger said that Syfy has developed some unique packages for some other advertisers, although none will be "quite as robust" as what his team has cooked up with Dodge. These sponsors include a quick service restaurant, an internet service provider and a wireless company.
As Dodge was awarded category exclusivity, no other auto brands will advertise in the "Sharknado 4" premiere.
The Dodge package has been in the works for the better part of a year. "We got way ahead of this," Mr. Lovinger said. "The agreement was part of last year's upfront discussions, and it all started to come together in late fall."
While the turnout for "Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!" was a bit of a disappointment -- per Nielsen live-same-day data, the movie delivered 2.81 million viewers and a 0.9 rating among adults 18 to 49, down 31% from its predecessor's 1.3 demo draw -- it still dwarfed the average rating for all of Syfy's extant original scripted series (0.2).
"It's become kind of a pop culture phenomenon," Mr. Lovinger said. "'Sharknado' is the highest-demand program on Syfy."
"Sharknado 4" bows Sunday, July 31 on Syfy.