Fleet Week. Its where Southern California salutes the sea services. This year – with the high-octane names Jack Ryan and Tom Clancy built into the branding – its also where the port meets pop culture.
The third annual Labor Day celebration kicks off Friday night with a glitzy premiere of the initial episode that launches “Tom Clancys Jack Ryan,” the new Amazon Prime Video series starring John Krasinski as the heroic ex-history teacher/CIA analyst/former Marine, at the Battleship Iowa off the Port of Los Angeles.
Its a show-biz marketing marriage made in, well, San Pedro.
Fans of Fleet Week, you see, are also likely to be fans of espionage-novel juggernaut Clancy and perhaps his most famous creation, a quick-thinking military-steeped fella who saves the world every now and again, portrayed in the past by such A-list actors as Alec Baldwin and Harrison Ford and Chris Pine and, take a breath, Ben Affleck.
“For me, its a perfect unification of brands,” noted Jonathan Williams, CEO and president of the LA Fleet Week Foundation and the Battleship Iowa Museum. The eight-episode Amazon Prime series, which launches globally on the service Aug. 31 as well, is also the presenting sponsor of LA Fleet Week 2018.
“What you generally see with the Tom Clancy novels and our brand are people who support our troops, our military and our veterans,” Williams added. “Thats really where your crossover is.”
Amazon, which has invested big-time in streaming TV in the past few years, has pushed hard on this long-form version of blockbuster-movie-tested Ryan. This time, hes brought to life by Krasinski, the NBC “Office” veteran who seen his career rekindled by the critically lauded summer horror hit “A Quiet Place,” which he also directed. Thats opportune timing for Amazon.
Although Amazon did not respond to requests for comments for this story, its pretty likely theyre expecting something far beyond some new patriotic subscribers from the premiere event and otherwise having their name associated with LA Fleet Week.
“As we are in this new golden era of content – there are more, one-hour scripted dramas being produced than ever before – the competition for eyeballs is so intense that the only way to break through the clutter when youre launching something is to be incredibly smart about how you do it,” observed Steve Kazanjian, president and CEO of PromaxBDA, the L.A.-based, nonprofit member association for entertainment marketing professionals. “Something like what Amazon is doing with Jack Ryan and Fleet Week is an extraordinary marker of where our industry can go and, frankly, ought to go.”
Kazanjian pointed out that in the current entertainment environment – a sometimes overwhelming universe of scores of streaming, cable, network, pay-per-view and other venues all pumping out engaging content – social media-savvy individuals can be the most effective marketers on the block. When they share on Facebook, Instagram or Reddit their attendance at such hotspots as San Diego Comic-Con and the South by Southwest media festivals in Austin, it can be more more effective than the biggest billboard or the cleverest commercial.
The “Ryan” association with the Fleet Week, an event not known for its A-list celebrities or prime-time glitz, has the potential to generate effective waves of social posts because it bears an extra factor – genuine, sincere excitement.
“The Iowa is one of the most storied battleships in our fleet, right?” Kazanjian asked rhetorically about the World War II vintage vessel. “The idea that you can do something there and engage and tie these things together brings it to a whole other level. It creates an experience that I think is so memorable and, the most important word here, authentic, that both Fleet Week and Amazon will benefit from it. Youre not shoehorning two things together that are incongruent.”
The Fleet Week “Ryan” premiere also has a strong personal resonance for Williams, who was friends with the best-selling author of “The Hunt for Red October,” “Patriot Games” and so many other techno-tension thrillers before his death in 2013.
“Ive been working on saving the Battleship Iowa with different groups for 18 years,” Williams explained. “I had an opportunity to get to know Tom Clancy when he was alive through that, and he actually used to wear a USS Iowa hat on the back of many of his books. So, to do something with the Tom Clancy/Jack Ryan brand, especially the premiere which is going to be aboard the Battleship Iowa, is for me, very personally, touching and unique.”
The premiere is only one of LA Fleet Week 2018s links to the entertainment industry.
Its also the 100th anniversary of the Navy Office of Information, West – which aids entertainment productions with accuracy, advice and assets. And to commemorate the centennial Fleet Week, a special challenge coin has been struck bearing images of the Iowa and the Hollywood sign.
And theres more. “What makes Los Angeles unique is that were the backyard of Hollywood,” Williams observed. “We have not only the Jack Ryan connection this year, but the film festival were doing and numerous celebrities coming down over the weekend.”
Glamour and entertainment should not obscure the more serious purposes of Fleet Week, however.
For instance, the event hopes to turn Angelenos on to the many things the military can do to help and interact with first-responders when such disasters as earthquakes or hurricanes strike. Its putting up a Humanitarian Assistance Disaster Relief (HADR) Village in Downtown L.A., next to City Hall, open to the public next Tuesday and Wednesday.
“That is a piece of Fleet Week thats not talked about a lot, but it is a big piece of Fleet Week.,” Williams emphasized. “How do they work together to come to the aid of the population of Los Angeles in a major disaster? Partnership building for disaster response is an important piece of Fleet Week, and while we have a lot of fun down here Friday through Monday and a lot of different things, from The Beach Boys and other concerts to the basketball tournament and robot wars, really at the end of the day what were doing is showing the general public the capabilities of our military from a local perspective.”
Well, sure. But after this years premiere and other high-profile hoopla, will LA Fleet Week dive in for more Hollywood razzle dazzle in the future?
“Every year is about bringing alive new things to connect to new folks,” Williams said. “I am under no belief or assumption that you have to do a Hollywood premiere year after year – or that you have to do The Beach Boys year after year.
“Who knows,” he said, “what next year may deliver?”