Cruise Lines Step Up Their Entertainment Offerings: Passengers Mingle With Vulcans And Barenaked Ladies

Publication: Entertainment Marketing Letter

A smorgasbord of live entertainment options is just as common on cruise ship as an overloaded food buffet.

But in recent years, booking agents, charter companies and the cruise lines themselves have been actively stepping up their entertainment efforts as a way to attract niche audiences and special interest groups that might not otherwise climb aboard.

The trend also ties in with the increasing emphasis on creating unique customer experiences and fostering a sense of community that cuts across all marketing disciplines.

Several cruise websites have also set up social networking capabilities, and entertainment tie-ins add another layer to the sense of passenger community.

“These cruises are filled with a group of like-minded people,” says Sara Riney of Sixthman which is one of the charter companies responsible for booking Carnival Cruise Line’s music cruises. “It’s really like a summer camp for adults.”

While music is the most obvious growth area, an increasing number of cruises are also themed to television properties, from “Star Trek” to “Buffy The Vampire Slayer.”

Meanwhile, the music offerings are stepping up from cover bands and lounge acts to chart-toppers such as Barenaked Ladies and Dave Matthews Band.

Most themed cruises are arranged through third-party booking agents and charter companies, rather than directly with the cruise lines. These marketers are eager to find sponsors and promotional partners for their events.

Targeted Audiences

“Niche cruises have a tremendous amount of appeal and allow you to target a very specific demographic,” says Jim Erlick of the Erlick Group, which acts as a sponsorship broker for Jazz Cruises, a charter company that specializes in jazz music trips. “These kinds of cruises offer a smorgasbord of content opportunities, and a 24/7 programming calendar to a targeted audience.”

Since passengers remain on the boat for a majority of their vacation, cruises can offer marketers a captive audience for immersive advertising and integrated campaigns. “Brand ambassadors can be aboard the ship, allowing consumers a firsthand experience with the brand itself.”

Gifts, and on-bed samples can also be distributed.

“Cruises provide intimate venues, and immersive communities [particularly] for music fans,” adds Sara Riney of Sixthman.

The charter company has already doubled its music offerings for 2008, with 30 artists scheduled to perform next year on its Rock Boat VIII.

With top artists coming aboard, performers now oftentimes draw as much, if not more, attention from potential passengers than the destinations themselves.

The Barenaked Ladies, Ben Folds, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Sister Hazel and Lyle Lovett are among those who have had their own themed cruises chartered by Sixthman.

On the Barenaked Ladies’ latest tour this past January, entitled “Ships & Dips,” 4,000 guests joined the band on a cruise to Jamaica.

The band performed two nights – with half the ship’s passengers in attendance at each show – and mingled with passengers for the entire cruise. Lead singer Ed Robertson even participated in a “Guitar Hero” competition against five finalists, who got to play the videogame against him onstage.

“We’re looking for artists that have build strong fan communities,” says Riney.

Sixthman works with artist managers and music labels to find acts, and remains open to all genres of music.

“The level of involvement is up to the artist,” says Riney. Some are more open to mingling with fans throughout the cruise, while others tend to keep to themselves. Marketers need to be aware of an artist’s willingness to participate in public appearances and tailor their promotion plans accordingly.

Each themed cruise attracts a different demographic. For example, the audience for Barenaked Ladies skews young adult and primarily White. Jazz Cruises, a company that charters on Holland America, finds its genre-specific offerings draw older passengers and have particular resonance with African-Americans, who make up nearly half of the passengers on an average cruise.

Even event producer Live Nation is embracing cruise tie-ins. Country singer Tim McGraw received top line billing in the Live Nation-produced “Tim McGraw Country Cruise Getaway,” on the Carnival Cruise Line. While he didn’t perform on the ship, McGraw was the main draw when the cruise cocked at its destination in Nassau, The Bahamas.

Alternative Lifestyles

Lesbian travel company Olivia featured a live performance by Melissa Etheridge this past March on its Caribbean Escape cruise to 1,800 passengers. Other on-board entertainers to appear on Olivia cruises include such as Lily Tomlin, Whoopi Goldberg, k.d.lang, and the cast of Showtime’s “The L Word.”

Rosie O’Donnell’s vacation company, R Family Vacations, which provides alternative lifestyle family cruises and vacations, was the subject of an HBO documentary in 2004. Since then, the cruise line has expanded its entertainment offerings from Broadway stars to musical guests such as Cyndi Lauper, Gloria Estefan and Etheridge.

Since cruises are year-round, they offer live exposure for an artist outside of the summer concert season. Yet they require a long lead-time for marketing and promotions, since passengers commonly book trips six months or a year or more in advance.

Live performances aren’t the only opportunity for music marketers. For example, Raven Moon Entertainment has a deal with Royal Caribbean to play Christian recording artist Gina D’s new album, “Oh Happy Day,” aboard its 21 cruise ships around the clock to promote her album release.

Television: Cults Work Best

When it comes to TV tie-ins, properties with a cult-like following work best, and tend to resonate with younger demographics.

A cruise based on the “Star Trek” series is entitled Sea Trek, while the Slayer Cruise, which sets sail at the end of this June, is based on “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” and “Angel.”

While these specialized cruises are both chartered on Royal Caribbean, they tend to draw smaller numbers of participants and don’t generally commandeer the entire ship, as some of the music-themed cruises do.

They do offer exclusive activities and promotional items, as well as themed staterooms.

Entertainment Marketing Letter: Opportunities Alert

Broadway Production Offers Product Placement. A Broadway production of the 1992 MGM film The Mambo Kings is looking for promotional and sponsorship partners interested in appropriate on-stage product placement and in-theater promotions. The Mambo Kings is being produced by Daryl Roth (Proof, Wit) and Jordan Roth (Rocky Horror Picture Show) and directed by Arnie Glimcher, who directed the original film.
The show debuts in San Francisco in May or June 2005 before heading to New York City for previews in July and a planned August 8 opening. The production will be marketed to the traditional Broadway theater-goer, as well as the largely untapped Hispanic market, via Serrino Coyne and its sister company, Dieste Harmel & Partners.

The cast is still being lined up, but is expected to include major stars representing different cultural groups within the Latino community. Partnerships may include themed advertorials featuring cast members, customized CDs or gift-with-purchase offers, and trade and consumer ticket offers. Jim Erlick of The Erlick Group handles sponsorships.

The Erlick Group,
Jim Erlick,
1 Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, 34th Fl.,
New York, NY 10017;
phone: 212-418-7372;

Entertainment Marketing Letter: Opportunities Alert

Publication: Entertainment Marketing Letter

To have your project or property featured in Opportunities Alert, e-mail Susan Nunziata at or call 212-941-1633, x26. Submissions are edited for space and darity and must include an entertainment component.

Big Apple Fest Expands Sponsorship Options. Big Apple Fest – a fundraising effort that places artist – designed apple sculptures at prominent New York City locations – is expanding in ’05, with plans for a concert series, a family fun fest, and a film series.

The event, which will run from Labor Day through October 31, 2005, is a fundraiser for City Harvest and the Police Athletic League. After the event, the apples are auctioned off, with a portion of proceeds donated to the charities.

Organizer Big Apple Events – a non-profit corporation – and sponsorship sales partner The Erlick Group, seek sponsors, media, and marketing partners for the eight-week festival. Ideal partners include banks, fashion and cosmetics companies, and entertainment marketers.

Licensing partners are also sought to create a line of souvenirs and collectibles based on the apple designs.

The concert series will be comprised of four shows at B.B.King’s Blues Club, while the film festival is planned at a major New York City-based movie theater chain. A family fun fest event is on tap for Central Park.

Last year’s Big Apple Fest, produced in cooperation with NYC & Company, the city’s official tourism and marketing organization, had 80 companies sponsoring 190 Big Apples designed by 150 artists. Media partners in 2004 included City Guide magazine and AC radio station Mix 102.7FM. Both media partners are signed on in ’05, and additional radio, television and print partners are sought.

Big Apple Events,
Bill Carroll, Managing Director,
708 Third Ave.,
New York, NY 10017;
phone: 212-599-1552;

The Erlick Group,
Jim Erlick,
1 Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, 34th Fl.,
New York, NY 10017;
phone: 212-418-7372;

Visa Moves Out On Broadway Ad Agency Creates Live Theater Marketing Arm

A new division of Broadway ad agency Serino Coyne is applying integrated marketing tactics familiar to the movie and music industries to reach the 30 million consumers who attend Broadway shows each year.

The division’s first project, in partnership with The Erlick Group, is Visa’s sponsorship of the Twyla Tharp musical Movin’ Out, based on the music of Billy Joel.

A six-week advance ticket program, part of a larger campaign, has netted some $2.5 million in ticket sales for the show, which opens in New York City Sept. 30, according to Susan Lee, who heads the new division, Serino Coyne Connect.
The four-month-old division is focusing on four areas: branding/strategic planning, sponsorship development/sales, new media promotion and travel/tourism.

On the sponsorship side, the company has entered into a joint venture with The Erlick Group to develop opportunities for New York City and national theatrical roadshows. Lee is evaluating partners for branding, new media and travel initiatives.

“Most consumer products companies don’t think of sponsoring a Broadway show,” says The Erlick Group’s Jim Erlick. Adds Lee, “It’s a very uncluttered market.”

The Movin’ Out promotion was tested with previews in Chicago, where a direct-mail piece gave Visa cardholders a two-week advance window to purchase tickets. (Of course, American Express has been offering advance tickets for Broadway and other events to its customers for many years.)

In New York, the Movin’ Out sponsorship has been extended in several ways. In addition to the six-week advance window, a Playbill-style promotional piece is included with ticket purchases. The promotional piece offers discounts on parking, dining, hotels, and show merchandise when a Visa card is used.

In addition, it invites consumers to sign up online for e-mail updates on the show, ticket information and exclusive offers.

The campaign also includes an e-mail blast to Billy Joel fans with a link to the Movin’ Out website, where fans can stream songs from the show. Erlick notes that of the 75 million CDs Joel has sold during his career, some 25 million were sold in the greater New York area. Local radio station WPLJ-FM, Ticketmaster, Sony Music and Columbia Records all contributed addresses to the E-mail list.

Visa’s objectives: to establish a clear and proprietary relationship with the show; to extend its existing Broadway platform; and to deliver a value-added message that would drive usage among its existing customers.

Serino Coyne represents a number of Broadway shows, including The Phantom Of The Opera, Urinetown and Thoroughly Modern Millie.

Themed marketing opportunities will be developed around shows that are oriented toward family, gay, and Hispanic audiences in order to create evergreen tie-in opportunities so that even if the shows change, the concept still works as a marketing tool, notes Lee.

Another program in development is a standardized “student rush” promotion offering on-campus and in-theater lectures plus show discounts for students at some of the New York Metropolitan area’s 120-odd colleges, as well as on-campus lectures. An initial college outreach program created several years ago for The Iceman Cometh by a company Lee founded, Camp Broadway, netted some 10,000 college students.

Also in the works is a fall satellite media tour that will provide feeds every Friday morning from 8 a.m.-10 a.m. featuring Broadway stars available for TV morning show interviews in 10-20 markets.

Internally, Serino Coyne is building a national database of Broadway roadshows. “No one has created a central clearinghouse so that people can also plan local promotions as well as national promotions around Broadway shows,” says Lee.

Source: Entertainment Marketing Letter.
Copyright 2002 EPM Communications, Inc. 212-941-0099.

Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

Sponsorship Briefs

Publication: Entertainment Marketing Letter

ABBA, ITALIAN STYLE. Olive Garden’s campaign for the road tour of the Broadway show Mamma Mia! includes a sweepstakes, special Abba menu items and in-restaurant play of the “Abba Gold” CD . Grey Alliance and The Erlick Group co-brokered the marketing alliance and developed the campaign with the Darden Restaurant Group chain and the local market promotion agency The Marketing Group. Promotion for the 18-month-long, 40-city roadshow, which began in May ’02, includes a mail-in contest entry form given to diners with each meal bill. The contest offers show tickets, an “Abba Gold” CD, and other merchandise. In-theatre signage, coupons and ads in Playbill, and TV, radio and newspaper ads also promote. An employee-incentive program offers backstage passes. Olive Garden seeks to create excitement for its restaurants and build a strong connection with customers.