Did Olympic Exposure Boost Interest in Cruise Travel?

The Ultimate Abyss is one of the thrilling onboard activities shown in Royal Caribbean International's recent TV advertising spots during the 2016 Olympic Summer Games. // Photo by Emily Goldsfarb

As the Rio 2016 Olympic Games drew to a close last night in Rio De Janeiro, did the cruise industry -- and specfically travel agents -- benefit in any way?

Exposure was provided primarily by three lines. Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Getaway and the Silversea Cruises Silver Cloud were chartered for Olympic housing. 

Silversea Cruises' Silver Cloud housed USA Basketball during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. // Photo by Silversea Cruises

ThNorwegian Getaway housed Olympic organizers, delegation representatives and VIPS, while the Silver Cloud was the home-away-from home for the USA’s men’s and women’s basketball teams. 

The ships were visible in the background during several running events around the port -- including yesterday's men's marathon race.

There was also publicity for the charters in advance by the chartering groups like Landry & Kling, which handled the Norwegian Getaway charter.

EPSN, NPR and the New York Times wrote stories about the pampering digs that the basketball players experienced while staying on Silver Cloud. 

Separately, prolific TV ads sponsored by Royal Caribbean International during the competitive sports action showcased “wow” elements like Harmony of the Seas' "Ultimate Abyss" and other active adventures ashore for cruisers. The ads urged consumers to "Come Seek the Royal Caribbean." 

Feedback From the Front Line

Are cruise agents seeing an immediate impact? Fifteen front-line cruise selling agents and agency owners provided feedback about their first-hand experiences. 

While it's early and the survey is still active, thus far 13 of the responding retailers -- nearly 87 percent -- said, "No, my clients have not talked with me about the ships and the Olympics and have not booked any future cruises because of that."

That said, Mathy Wasserman, franchise co-owner, Cruise Planners, Los Angeles, CA, said she did have clients who have talked with her about the Olympic exposure, although she hasn't yet closed any bookings from that specifically.

Norwegian Getaway // Photo by Susan J. Young

In contrast, Rodney George, franchise owner, Cruise Planners, Naples, FL, said that his clients have both talked to him about the ships and the Olympics and booked because of it.

The Cumulative Factor

Should agents write off the Olympics as a luckwarm booking generator? Not necessarily, say marketing and sales experts.

First, in any future conversations with clients, the use of the Olympics -- a prestigious event -- may play well as agents try to interest their clients in one of the ships that was chartered for the games, or even a cruise itinerary to that region. 

Certainly, mentioning that two of the vessels housed Olympic officials and USA basketball pro players may create a credible hook.

Second, the television advertising, while not having an immediate effect, may have cumulative benefit for the long-term. As more and more exposure is added, clients become more interested in booking. So the spots may have helped in that regard.

We asked Royal Caribbean International for any "reach" and the dollar spend for its Olympics TV spots but had not yet heard back at press time. As for the lines, Silversea said it was unable to comment at all per its charter contract. 

That said, Norwegian Cruise Line spokeswoman Vanessa Picariello couldn't talk about booking impact but was happy to confirm that "the Norwegian Getaway charter was very successful and generated positive awareness."

In today's digital world, one social media tweet by a high-powered athlete or VIP can make a difference. Picariello cited a tweet by boxing legend Floyd Mayweather (@FloydMayweather) who came to Rio to support the U.S. team and to potentially sign one of the young boxers to his sports promotion company. 

So moving forward this week, let the selling games begin.