With so much material to work with, Fox’s marketing mavens couldn’t help but devise an elaborate marketing campaign to tubthump the new mystery-thriller “Alcatraz.”
The show mines the legends of the notorious federal prison located on a rocky island in the San Francisco Bay. “Alcatraz,” which bows tonight with a two-hour opener, also has hefty built-in marketing muscle: It comes from J.J. Abrams, and other “Lost” alums, notably co-star Jorge Garcia, are also involved.
Fox has seeded promos for the show across the Internet, including a branded placement inside the popular Zynga-distribbed Facebook game “Empires and Allies” (which features prisons as a key part of its storyline). Another widely viewed viral vid has been the faux promo spot for a book about Alcatraz written by the character played by Garcia.
“Not only does J.J. have that built-in fanbase, but add on top of that a great cast and set it in a place called Alcatraz. It’s just a gift to marketers,” said Joe Earley, Fox’s prexy of marketing and communications.
The piece de resistance of the launch ballyhoo was Wednesday’s premiere party held inside the Rock itself — complete with the arrivals line snaking through the prison showers and guests eating spartan chow from metal plates. Many of the 400 attendees were fans who won tickets through local radio and TV promotions.
Logistically, it was a challenge to pull off, because everything had to be ferried over to the island, and planners had only two hours to prep after the prison, now operated as a national park, closed to tourists. Earley credits the determination of the net’s creative services to make it happen for the sheer promo value as the event spurred a flurry of media attention.
“It was well worth it to be sitting in Cell Block D watching those scenes shot in the cell block,” Earley said. “When it’s dark and you’re out there on Alcatraz island, no matter how jaded you may be (about premiere events), you know it’s a really cool thing to experience.”