In June Red Funnel, the Isle of Wight ferry company owned by JP Morgan, launched its latest high-speed passenger vessel, Red Jet 4.
Built at a cost of £2.7m and accommodating 277 passengers, this 39-metre-long catamaran was introduced to meet the extra capacity needed to ferry commuters, holiday-makers and sailing enthusiasts between Southampton and Cowes on the Isle of Wight.
However, with over 20 new ferries and cruise liners launched this year alone, Red Funnel tasked its retained PR agency, BGB & associates, to make Red Jet 4 stand out from the crowd.
To use the launch as a hook to stimulate interest in Red Funnel's day-trip and short-break bookings service to the Isle of Wight. To position Red Funnel as a leading high-speed ferry service on the Solent.
Strategy and Plan
To attract interest from consumer, local and regional media, BGB focused on Red Funnel's links with the sailing heritage of Cowes.
This included inviting round-the-world yachtswoman Ellen MacArthur - whom the ferry operator sponsors - to name the vessel at a media event held on 18 June. Here journalists had access to MacArthur and Red Funnel MD Alistair White.
This association with MacArthur was extended with a competition in The Sunday Times's children's supplement, the Funday Times, to win a sailing lesson with the yachtswoman at the UK Sailing Academy.
In addition, Red Funnel decided to donate 10p from every crossing booked during the first two weeks of the new vessel's operation to her charity, the Ellen MacArthur Trust.
The PR team held a separate event for the trade media, inviting journalists to take part in safety trials on board the ferry. This briefing also focused on the vessel's builder, Australian company North West Bay Ships.
Launch activities were complemented with stories aimed at the travel and weekend sections of the national newspapers, outlining new attractions on the Isle of Wight, including Red Jet 4.
Measurement and Evaluation
At a local level, coverage was obtained on BBC South, BBC Solent and Isle of Wight Ra dio, the Isle of Wight County Press and Western Daily Press.
National coverage was secured in the Daily Telegraph and the Sunday Express, with trade interest including Lloyd's List, Fast Ferry International and Travel Trade Gazette.
According to Red Funnel, high-speed ferry bookings increased by seven per cent in July and August on the same period last year.
Over £5,000 was raised for MacArthur's charity, and 500 readers entered the Funday Times competition.
Isle of Wight County Press senior reporter Martin Neville, who attended the trade press event, said: 'We had the chance to see the vessel, which allowed for more colourful stories. The PR team set up interviews with the captain, gave me a tour of the vessel and gave knowledgeable answers to my questions.'