Sci-Fi Channel Set For Brand Lift-off

Retains Stroman bros. for co-branding muscle

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%%STORYIMAGE_RIGHT%% As the red-hot Sci-Fi Channel continues to reshape its brand to a broader, mainstream positioning, the Vivendi Universal Entertainment cable network has retained Entertainment Marketing Partners to mine co-branding partnerships with consumer brands.

"It's incredibly competitive out there these days and our marketing dollars can't really stack up to other cable networks or broadcast networks or to consumer product brands in general. So what we're looking to do is add our brand as one to another brand as one to create five," said Adam Stotsky, Sci-Fi's VP-brand marketing. "It's not about product integration; it's about mutually beneficial brand partnerships."

This could take many forms: consumer promotions, event marketing, or a public-affairs initiative. EMP, the outfit launched by former Endeavor Marketing Solutions execs Mark and Erik Stroman, have already got the ball rolling, engaging brands in preliminary discussions.

"Adam is right. We're not here saying how many advertisers can we cram into a Steven Spielberg mini-series. That's not what it's about," said Mark Stroman, whose clientele includes JetBlue, the low-cost air carrier. "The ROI that the packaged-goods companies are looking for is much more stringent. They have limited budgets and the ROI has to be very tangible long-term."

%%PULLQUOTE_LEFT%% Stotsky pointed out that what brands would get by partnering with the channel—Sci-Fi is one of the crown jewels of VUE assets that are on the block and has everyone from General Electric to Viacom's Sumner Redstone salivating—would include a 24-hour cable network and an associated Web site that averages 2.5 million unique visitors a month, potentially a powerful asset for direct-response database marketers.

"It's about expressing our brand in a way that we can't currently do with our existing assets… What we're looking for in these brand partnerships is different and innovative," said Dave Howe, senior-VP marketing and creative at the network. "We're looking for pioneering and experimental ways to express the notion of the brand using other brand partners."

Sci-Fi Channel's nationwide carriage by MSOs has scaled the 80 million mark and the network has experienced 15 straight months of year-over-year ratings increases. The network's many programming successes include last December's Spielberg miniseries "Taken."

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