Seeker, the #1 digital science brand in the U.S. [Nielsen Digital Content Ratings], partnered with Discovery and Nomadica Films on “The Swim” -- an expedition that featured long-distance swimmer Ben Lecomte as he embarked on a historic 5,000-mile long swim across the Pacific Ocean to raise awareness for ocean health.
Seeker launched “The Swim” in the summer of 2018 with the goal of documenting Lecomte’s six month Trans-Pacific journey from Japan to San Francisco. Viewers across multiple platforms enjoyed live video from the boat, a mid-form video series on Seeker’s mobile-first channels and Discovery GO, short-form social videos, weekly Instagram Stories, and weekly interstitial updates of “The Swim” on Discovery Channel. The project culminates in a feature-length documentary premiering later this year. The strategy was targeted to galvanise our cross-platform fanbase to get behind Lecomte and his mission to drive awareness of oceanic health and plastic pollution.
As a secondary goal, aligning with Seeker’s mission to empower the curious to understand the science shaping our world, it was critical to spotlight the science surrounding these issues and Ben’s journey. More than a physical challenge, “The Swim” was to be the first citizen science expedition of its kind. In partnership with 27 scientific institutions, including NASA and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, “The Swim” enabled Ben and his team to be the first living ocean laboratory, allowing scientists the opportunity to analyse a first-of-its-kind data set of the Pacific that will continue to provide clues towards the state of our planet.
Audiences play a key role in influencing our programming. In the case of “The Swim,” 25% of Seeker’s videos are tied to conservation, climate change and ocean-related stories. Seeker’s audience is 4X more likely than the average person to have an affinity for conservation-based topics (environmentalism, water conservation, oceanography, conservation biology, etc.). Given these insights and the important mission behind the endeavor, it was easy for Seeker to put a stake in the ground and commit to telling the story of “The Swim.”
The Swim: Flipping Documentary Storytelling on its head
At first glance, “The Swim” reads like a full-length documentary -- and it will be later this year. However, to tackle some of the issues we had from the onset: efficiency of content and access to stories that no one else was telling, we reverse-engineered the typical approach to documentary storytelling. Instead of sending a crew to film, capture and compose a story, then distribute out a complete feature piece, we told the story as it unfolded, programming across all of Seeker’s social platforms in order to build a following for “The Swim.”
In total Seeker produced 150 pieces of content across multiple platforms:
12 mid-form episodes (YouTube, Discovery GO)
75 Facebook in-feed episodes and timely Instagram Stories
20 weekly linear TV interstitial updates (Discovery Channel)
Live stream from the middle of the Pacific Ocean
Each of these formats was catered to a specific audience. The mid-form series focused on the science behind “The Swim” to capture the attention of Seeker’s 4M YouTube subscribers who live for the latest and greatest scientific breakthroughs and discoveries. Social videos on Facebook and Instagram Stories drove engagement for the project. These episodes were crafted for quick in-feed consumption to inspire awe and action. This content was focused on day-to-day updates from the boat, as well as companion content that highlighted ocean health and plastic pollution more broadly.
For Discovery GO (OTT app), the content spoke to the character and intrigue of Ben and his mission, while the linear interstitial updates on Discovery Channel honed in on the drama and sensationalism of “The Swim” to maximise on the expedition’s entertainment value. Finally, live streams drove tension, excitement and engagement as the drama from the boat unfolded in real time. The latter was a key component to ensuring that “The Swim” was consistently in the public consciousness, driving press coverage around Lecomte’s progress and tribulations at sea.
In total, “The Swim” garnered over 500 media hits and 1 BILLION+ press impressions including coverage from ABC’s “Good Morning America,” The New York Times, The BBC, NBC, NPR, Forbes, GQ and The Washington Post among many more.
From the 150 pieces of video content, “The Swim” amassed more than 64M+ video views and over 183,000 hours of content watched. In addition, the hashtag #jointheswim generated more than 70,000 likes and 750,000 views.
A year and a half ago when Seeker started talking about “The Swim,” single-use plastics and ocean health weren’t yet part of the zeitgeist. Since then, Nat Geo, Starbucks, McDonalds and others have taken a stand against single-use plastics. Seeker was committed to the issue before it was a real movement, producing 150 pieces of original digital content and delivering over 1B press impressions to underscore the mission’s importance within the public's consciousness. The next step is to release the story as a feature length documentary later this year to share with broader audiences, all in an effort to understand the science behind human impact on deteriorating oceans.