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If you’re outside the convention center at Comic-Con, chances are good that you’ll spot 14 guys dressed in black and yellow wearing Syfy-branded capes cruising the streets and playing iconic science-fiction theme songs. The Hollywood Reporter was on the scene for the official kickoff and, as you’d expect, it was like a giant party.
The Arizona-based band Boom played a lively rendition of Star Wars‘ “Imperial March” and as luck would have it, a con attendee dressed as a Stormtrooper happened to be in the crowd nearby. She playfully got into the action and re-created a bit from the sci-fi classic and the crowd cheered as the scene was brought to life.
“The best way to describe it is pure joy,” Alexandra Shapiro, executive vp marketing and digital at NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment, tells THR. “It’s like a flash mob meets a marching band. It’s really informal and fun, and they’re playing all the great songs from iconic properties.”
As for how the tunes were chosen, Shapiro noted a “geek council at Syfy” was in charge of that.
“We have a slack channel for it,” she says with a laugh. “It’s our sounding board for ideas. [This weekend], we’ve got Batman’s 1966 TV intro theme, Spider-Man, “The Imperial March,” Star Trek’s original theme, the theme from Flash Gordon, the Dark Knight theme, Indiana Jones, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Trek: The Final Frontier, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Superman the movie, Jurassic Park, Wonder Woman (the original), Back to the Future, Ghostbusters — gotta have it — Pirates of the Caribbean and then the Star Wars main title theme. And we’re only playing the parts that you love.”
The drumline is only one small part of Syfy’s large presence on the ground at the pop culture con this year. “We’re not tethered to one space. We’re everywhere this year,” Shapiro says. “Everything is mobile. Karaoke, trivia trolleys, cosplay repair carts, 17 buses, all with a consistent look and feel. It’s the combination of everything, making sure we reach everyone multiple times throughout their day, making them feel as if we’ve added value. It’s a dawn-to-dusk strategy. That’s how we’ll break through the clutter and leave our mark.”
The network is also looking to make a lasting impression on nerd couples’ lives by holding real weddings in the Geek Chapel, ordained by Orlando Jones. (THR was on the scene for the first ceremony.)
“For years, people have been getting engaged here and remember this weekend for life,” says Shapiro. “But now for the first time, we’re giving them the opportunity to actually make it official and get married here.”
The main goal going into the weekend for Syfy was to make their new rebranding accessible and understandable to all the fans gathered in San Diego. The cable network is celebrating its 25th anniversary, and the big undertaking was designed to tell the fanboy crowd gathered at Comic-Con that Syfy is doubling down on genre fare.
“Comic-Con came at a really strategic time for us this year, coming right out of our rebrand debut in June,” Shapiro says. “Our strategy was to come with our brand being the lead force. This is like our coming out party to the fans, and what that means is the new voice, the new personality that is fan-first, and our shift to being a brand that celebrates the genre at large and really puts the fan at the center of everything we do. Having that very clear brand filter is what informed everything we’re doing. Everything we’re doing is serving a utility for fans and providing them access in a way that they might not otherwise. And at its core, we’re giving the fans joy.”
That couldn’t be more true. Before the drumline began, I hopped on a trivia trolley to test my nerd knowledge and Harry Potter helped my team win $20 each. Now that’s an economic way to kill some time before your next Comic-Con event.
The Syfy sci-fi drumline will be roaming Thursday-Saturday from 1 p.m.-6 p.m. around San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter.
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