Turning an “Ordinary” Event into Front Page News for MSC Cruises

As Miami is the home base for so many cruise ships sailing to the Caribbean and Mexico, the sight of big white cruise ships sailing into PortMiami barely prompts a yawn from the city’s residents.  Even the debut of new cruise ships are a dime a dozen in that port, which presents a challenge when attracting the desensitized media:  there’s not much they haven’t seen when it comes to cruise ship launches.  So when MSC Cruises decided to reposition its ship MSC Divina to be based in Miami year-round, the prospects for securing show-stopping local coverage were slim.  Not only was Divina NOT a new ship, but the European-based brand itself had limited awareness in the city, which has long been dominated by North American cruise companies.  To cut through this clutter and score high-profile media coverage, our news hook had to be quirky and set itself apart from the traditional cruise ship launch model of celebrities, red carpet events, and announcements of the newest onboard “toys.”

Leveraging MSC’s existing partnership with the chic Italian carmaker FIAT®, we collaborated with MSC, FIAT, and PortMiami to eschew the traditional tugboat-and-fireboat escort of a ship into its home port for the first time.  Instead, a fleet of instantly-recognizable FIAT 500’s would “drive” out onto the water as the official escorts for Divina, creating an arresting visual that would turn the heads of even the most desensitized residents of Miami, as well as a must-have media photo opportunity.  OK, so maybe they were actually personal watercraft overlaid with a FIAT 500 car body, but still…they did the trick.  And we had all the right photographers in place to capture the hero shots.

Among the hundreds of print, broadcast, and online stories that resulted from this dramatic arrival, a few stand out as ones our parents would display on the refrigerator:  The Miami Herald ran a photo/caption that spanned nearly the entire above-the-fold front page; MSN.com made it their “Photo of the Week;” The Wall Street Journal featured a quarter-page photo/caption; the Associated Press syndicated photo was picked up everywhere, and WTVJ-MIA (NBC Miami) covered the arrival extensively.  Putting it in perspective…this was a simple ship repositioning, transformed into a national news story.  The only downside for us was that we didn’t get to drive those cool FIATs (sad face).