NEW YORK: Here’s the concept: Bonnie Tyler singing her 1983 hit "Total Eclipse of the Heart" during an actual eclipse. Some brand was bound to jump on this idea.
That’s why, after Weber Shandwick proposed the concept to Royal Caribbean a year ago, both parties knew they had to act quickly before another brand snatched up the singer for the first total solar eclipse in 99 years.
"We knew if we didn’t get her locked in, somebody else would," said Tracy Quan, associate VP of global PR for Royal Caribbean.
While planning 2017 campaigns, Weber’s culture tap team noticed the August 21 eclipse would move over the Atlantic Ocean, meaning the cruise line could position itself at the center of the story. Royal Caribbean was immediately for the idea, but several logistical issues had to be ironed out, not the least of which was whether the artist would be able to make it.
"We thought idea was hilarious at the beginning," said Quan. "We know that nostalgic acts like this resonate with consumers and media, and thought it made total sense to pair the song and eclipse together and give our guests a special cruise experience."
Fellow Interpublic Group firm Frukt, Royal Caribbean’s entertainment AOR, quickly began negotiations with Tyler, who was fortunately available. Because the song is a duet, rock-dance group DNCE was also booked to give a "modern, contemporary slant to compliment the nostalgia of [Tyler’s] performance," Quan explained.
With Tyler booked, Weber had to convince Royal Caribbean to "take a leap of faith" and change the route of the Oasis of the Seas cruise ship to the best viewing spot, explained Alice Diaz, EVP, travel practice lead at Weber.
Once that was lined up, the next challenge was keeping everything hush-hush, which was a challenge because Tyler was already receiving inquiries about her whereabouts on the day of the eclipse.
Royal Caribbean took a multi-phase approach to unveiling the news. In June it said it would have an eclipse-themed cruise. A month later, it teased more details about the onboarding experiences and DNCE’s performance to build momentum. The company also previewed eclipse-themed activities including interactive science programs, themed parties, trivia sessions, and eclipse lectures provided by scientist Kevin Lieber, presenter and producer of popular YouTube science channel VSauce2.
The seven-day cruise will start on Sunday, with eclipse-themed events kicking off that day and running through Tuesday.
"We knew a lot of reservations were already being made for eclipse viewing parties," said Quan, about why announcements started two months before the eclipse.
Royal Caribbean decided to keep the news about Tyler a secret until this week, because the comms team knew coverage of the eclipse itself would dominate in August before the event.
The brand finally selected Time to break the news on Wednesday.
"We picked Time to break news because it is a global publication with a big reach and we thought it would be a good way to get it out there, knowing they have such a far-reaching publication," said Quan.
In terms of media relations, the brand tends to focus on new-to-cruise publications and audiences due to its strategy of attracting "adventurous" families and millennials who may not have considered taking a cruise.
Since the Time story, morning shows such as Good Morning America and Today have picked up the story, as have The New Yorker, Esquire, BuzzFeed, Refinery29, Reuters, CNN, ABC, BBC, and Inside Edition, and others. The news also trended on Twitter Moments.
High-profile individuals even posted about the campaign on social media, such as T-Mobile U.S.A. CEO John Legere, and former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.
"It was a shocker seeing [Spicer] using this opportunity to come back into the realm of the social media world," noted Diaz.
Another surprise: the amount of attention the story is getting. The account team at Weber is getting slammed with media requests to get on the ship.
"We had to create a war room and put on additional staff to handle incoming calls," Diaz said.
In the first 48 hours after the Tyler announcement, thousands mentioned the news on social media, with people "expressing excitement about a fun distraction in an otherwise trying news cycle," according to sentiment data compiled by Weber.
Earned coverage from the first two days was shared more than 430,000 times on social media.
Media outlets that will be broadcasting from the ship include The Weather Channel, CNN, GMA, NBC, and various cruise trades.
Royal Caribbean will post Instagram Live stories of the concert and a Facebook Live feed of the actual eclipse. DNCE will do a Snapchat takeover of Royal Caribbean’s brand channel and push out content on its own channels throughout their time on board.
Additionally, family, travel, and culinary influencers will develop content for their own channels as well as takeovers of the cruise company’s brand channels. Consumers can follow the conversation on social media at #EclipseonRoyal.
This story was updated on August 21 to better describe the path of the total eclipse.