LOS ANGELES Nearly three decades after Shark Week first premiered in 1987, Discovery kicked off the popular cable franchise’s 2014 run with its first-ever FinFest, a free fan festival on Hermosa Beach from August 9 to 10.
“FinFest was a great way to take [Shark Week] to the next level and keep it fresh,” said Discovery Communications vice president of global events and brand activation Jeff Kaplan. “Heading into our 27th year, we wanted to continue to push Shark Week to new heights by giving fans an educational and experiential event.”
Indeed, Kaplan and his team, along with the Discovery Channel marketing team, brought the franchise to life in a series of creative, hands-on entertainment options that went well beyond the standard branded props—and attracted sizeable crowds.
Close to 3,000 people lined up during the course of the weekend for the chance to pet baby sharks provided by local marine conservation group Sea Lab. Elsewhere, a whopping 60-foot-long inflatable shark with a mechanical jaw that crushed everything from Jet Skis to surfboards also proved popular. Organizers also engaged fans digitally, allowing them to vote via social media on items they would like to see the shark destroy. (More than 800 people participated in Sunday’s Facebook poll alone, which saw voters preferring a kayak to a bike.)
But it was the FinFest’s surprise Jimmy Buffett concert on Saturday that drew the largest number of fans, attracting more than 15,000 spectators. Buffett, who was one of six musical acts to perform during the two-day event, played on a stage set to resemble a shark’s mouth. Though the stage was flanked by signage bearing FinFest’s name, it was perhaps Buffett’s reworking his song “Fins” to include such lyrics as “Shark Week’s back in town” that best promoted the brand to a captive audience.