Campaign: Eurostar follows The Da Vinci Code trail

In January, Eurostar was made a 'global partner' of Columbia Pictures' blockbuster The Da Vinci Code. Shot in Paris and London, Eurostar believed the film, released on 19 May, would help boost passenger numbers on its cross-Channel service. The company had seen a decline in bookings to London after the 7/7 bombings in 2005.

Client Eurostar
PR team In-house
Timescale January-July 2006
Budget More than £100,000

Objectives
To emphasise Eurostar as the natural link between Paris and London, and increase bookings.

Strategy and Plan
The plan was to generate at least six months of fresh association with Dan Brown's chart-topping book and upcoming film adaptation. On 9 January, Eurostar announced its link with the film to marketing and trade press by sending illustrated collectors' editions of The Da Vinci Code to journalists.

The train operator then used its annual results on 16 January to promote the partnership more widely. Following this, travel writers were urged to write features on holidays based around the story. Eurostar worked with VisitBritain and the French Tourist Board to support press trips for international journalists, who were invited to follow The Da Vinci Code trail.  Eurostar also placed ‘warm-up' stories with broadcasters including the BBC and ITV to promote its link with the film and open a discussion on the expected rise in traveller numbers.

In early spring the in-house press team launched a global online competition - The Eurostar Quest - in which contestants cracked clues for the chance to win €200,000 (£134,775) and free travel and accommodation to Paris and London. The quest was unveiled at a press conference at the Paris Ritz in May, pushing the message that Eurostar was the natural choice for those looking to explore the story's locations.

The centrepiece of the campaign was the unveiling of a Eurostar train in Da Vinci Code livery. It carried the film's cast, crew and 250 print and TV journalists from London to Cannes for the premiere. Director Ron Howard and star Tom Hanks named the train, which was also aiming to break the Guinness World Record for the longest non-stop international rail journey.

Measurement and Evaluation
Since January there has been more than 150 items of coverage across UK print media. When the partnership was announced, The Times ran the headline ‘Da Vinci Code cracks it for Eurostar'. The Waterloo train-naming and Cannes journey spurred coverage in over 70 countries including France, Italy, Germany and Spain.

On the day of the Cannes trip, more than 50 separate items of broadcast coverage appeared in UK media alone. This included The Guardian and the Sunday Express, ITV.com, The Times Online, comingsoon.net, MonstersandCritics.com, net4now.com and railnews.co.uk. All mentioned either the Da Vinci Code association or the record attempt.

Results
Eurostar reported an 11 per cent rise in business-ticket sales and a six per cent growth in total sales in the first half of 2006 - during the period, 3.7 million passengers travelled on its trains.

The press trip even led to coverage on America's The Today Show and Entertainment Tonight - the first time it had ever reached such an audience. The world record for the longest non-stop international rail journey was set with a time of seven hours and 25 minutes, covering a distance of 1,412 miles.

SECOND OPINION, Emma Draude, deputy managing director of Midas Public Relations

Harnessing the international success of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, with its link to the cities of Paris and London, was a natural move by Eurostar. The launch of the movie adaptation was the perfect opportunity to marry the glamour of Hollywood with the intrigue behind the book. 

The campaign kicked off with special editions of the book being sent to trade press: this reinforced the link with the text. Meanwhile, the Eurostar Quest ensured the code-cracking allure of the story was used to good effect.

Liaison between VisitBritain and the French Tourist Board also emphasised The Da Vinci Code Trail as an end-of-journey attraction for Eurostar travellers.

The specially liveried train to carry cast and crew of the movie to Cannes created a news hook and even gave US penetration. The Guinness World Record attempt between London and Cannes could almost have been an afterthought but ensured the journey became more than just a press junket to the premiere.

Short-term, this campaign worked - the global reach was impressive and the increased ticket sales a reflection of success. But what happens now?

The movie hype is over, yet the book continues to sell nearly 30,000 copies a week, with total sales to date of 60 million copies. Is Eurostar capitalising on its original investment by working with publishers to prolong the life of this campaign?

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