What a 175-year-old cruise line and celebrity dogs have in common

Ocean liner Queen Mary 2, with help from MGA Media Group, undertook an international campaign to announce the ship's $132 million redesign to the North American market.

Instagram dogs and Cunard execs at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Instagram dogs and Cunard execs at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Company: Cunard Line
Campaign: Re-launch of the remastered Queen Mary 2
Agency: MGA Media Group (Cunard's PR AOR)
Duration: July 2015 - October 2016
Budget: Roughly $100,000

Ocean liner Queen Mary 2, owned by Cunard Line, underwent an extensive renovation during the spring of 2016.

Cunard, with help from MGA Media Group, undertook an international campaign to announce the ship's $132 million redesign to the North American market.

Cunard Line, a subsidiary of Carnival, is an ocean travel company which celebrated its 175th year of operation last year.

The Queen Mary 2, the world's largest passenger vessel at the time of its 2004 debut, was designed specifically to operate trans-Atlantic crossings. The ship's revamp took place in Hamburg, Germany, and brought changes to many areas of the ship, including the addition of about 50 cabins.

The major goals of the campaign were to generate awareness of Queen Mary 2’s extensive refit by garnering national and local coverage through broadcast, print, social, and online outlets. The campaign team also wanted to raise awareness of Cunard and the company’s financial commitment to maintain Queen Mary 2’s status as a luxury ocean liner by labeling the renovations as a "remastering."

Cunard’s PR AOR MGA Media Group developed a media outreach plan which included gaining coverage in major North American outlets, hosting members of the media on Queen Mary 2, and organizing press events in four key cities: New York, Boston, Quebec, and Halifax -- the birthplace of the company’s founder.

"The major challenge of this campaign was how to draw media attention to a ship renovation, when they are such a common occurrence in the cruise industry," explained Maria Grazia Andriano, president of MGA Media Group. "Although the cruise trades would cover the refit, it was crucial to the success of the campaign to generate coverage in the consumer media."

Queen Mary 2 is the only trans-Atlantic passenger vessel that carries pets, so MGA Media Group decided to leverage the ocean liner's expanded kennels onboard as a unique selling point for travelers and pet travel as a hook for media coverage.

"The agency executed the media plan over the course of the year, including aggressive media outreach and pitching throughout the campaign to garner interest and coverage building up to the renovation, pre- and post-debut," said Andriano.

Cunard organized a press trip to Queen Mary 2 in the Blohm + Voss shipyard in Hamburg for key cruise and trade media to generate immediate coverage and interest in the vessel's renovation. USA Today, Cruise Critic, Seatrade Insider, and other travel outlets attended.

A slew of press releases were distributed to build buzz leading up to the U.S. unveiling of the ship on July 6, 2016.

MGA held events in four cities, each having a unique historical relationship with Cunard. Queen Mary 2 had port calls planned in these cities just after the renovation.

On the day of the unveiling, in New York City, a media event was held on the docked ship, including tours and interviews with Cunard executives. As part of the event, the agency invited New York’s top Instagram dogs -- Chloe the Mini Frenchie (133,000 followers), Wally the Welsh Corgi (92,000 followers), and Ella Bean the Dog (40,000 followers) -- to participate in the official ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new kennels

Execs who also took part in the ceremony included: Christopher Wells, the captain of Queen Mary 2; Richard Meadows, president, Cunard, North America; and Cunard CEO David Noyes.

Media opportunities were arranged in advance with key syndicated and broadcast media outlets.

Similar events for media outlets were orchestrated in Boston, Halifax, and Quebec.

The agency reached out to select media who cover luxury travel, such as Departures and Travel + Leisure, to sail on the inaugural voyage after the refit to experience Queen Mary 2 and produce feature stories.

The "remastering" of Queen Mary 2 generated global news coverage, attracting a TV audience of 19 million, a radio audience of 21 million, a print circulation of 54 million, and an estimated 2.3 billion online media impressions in North America.

Feature print and digital stories ran in Travel + Leisure, Afar, Conde Nast Traveler, USA Today, Departures, CNN, MSN, AOL, Huffington Post, Veranda, Town & Country, Architectural Digest, and more.

Broadcast highlights included a CBNC live remote segment from the ship, a syndicated CBS TV segment, Reuters TV, AP Radio, as well as ABC News coverage.

The campaign team secured the Associated Press travel editor Beth Harpaz to tour the ship, which resulted in two different AP stories: one on the expanded pet kennels and the other on the new ship design.

Major market newspapers ran stories on the renovation, including: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, New York Post, Newsday, Dallas Morning News, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and The Los Angeles Times.

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