A&E swabs 4-pic promo decks with $10 mil loot

NEW YORK — A&E Network will toot its own “Hornblower” films to the tune of $10 million-plus — an unprecedented amount for a cable event and probably for any television production.

The promotional campaign for the four-film “Horatio Hornblower” series will include everything from mock sea battles in various U.S. harbors to thousands of cut-outs for display at the discretion of the American Library Assn.

But it’s not just money that’s giving firepower to the campaign behind C.S. Forester’s Napoleonic Wars swashbuckler to be show every Sunday in April. John Zamoiski, president of the New York-based Promotion Development Group, which is assisting A&E in the campaign, said, “This is going to make for the case study on integrated marketing. We weren’t turned down for a single tie-in. I’ve never seen it where the glue that binds it all together has been so strong.”

Lashed to the mast

Already integrated into the campaign are tie-ins with:

  • Windjammer Cruises, for more than 40 grand prizes to A&E’s “Sail Away” sweepstakes;

  • Barnes & Noble, featuring Hornblower books from Little, Brown & Co. and other nautically themed offerings;

  • Strategy First, for its “Man of War II” CD-ROM, which allows players to simulate sea battles of the sort detailed in Forester’s 11-book series and depicted in A&E’s four productions. This cross-merchandising effort will include 5,000 retail displays and provide CD-ROM customers coupons for “Horatio Hornblower” videos, as well as video buyers with CD-ROM coupons;

  • American Library Assn., with an “All Hands on Deck” program that provides 8,000 libraries with “Hornblower” cut-outs and guide books for those interested in literature about the Age of Sail; and

  • Local nautical societies, for the staging of tall-ship battles in eight harbors at the end of March and early April. Radio stations in each market will co-sponsor the battles with DJs serving as honorary captains who broadcast their man-of-war maneuvers.

Ads hit the waves

Traditional commercials are part of the campaign as well. Sixty-second spots are already running on A&E and the History Channel; 30-second spots are slated for local cable; and 15-second spots will appear on local broadcast the week preceding the premiere of each two-hour film.

Campaign mastermind Michael Mohamed, A&E’s VP of consumer and on-air marketing, credited Forester himself for the promotion’s “very long tentacles.”

“For children from a certain sector of British society to become men, they earned their stripes at sea,” he said of the novels featuring the protagonist who, as a midshipman, literally sails through the Napoleonic Wars. “Along the way they achieved an understanding of loyalty, fairness and honor.”

Three years in the making, the four “Hornblower” films were directed by Andrew Grieve and co-produced by A&E and United Broadcasting & Entertainment, the U.K. team behind the Emmy-winning drama “Jane Austen’s Emma.”

Filed Under:

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more