Tips from a Partnership Marketing Guru—Carnival’s VP Partnerships

Posted on by Patty Odell

When you’ve spent your career reinventing the partnership game, you know a thing or two about how to do it right.

Carnival Cruise Line VP Partnerships Scott Becher prefers to engage with partners that would like to reach his guests as much as he’d like to reach theirs—in other words, no dollars are exchanged.

partnership marketing
Carnival Cruise Line VP Partnerships Scott Becher

Over the years he has inked numerous deals and tracks ROI through two key metrics—brand sentiment, and the more challenging impact on sales and bookings. Still, he overcomes that challenge by using sweepstakes and other promotions to encourage consumers to join the brand’s loyalty program. From there, he can track cruise bookings and other data tied directly to sales.

“It’s important to figure out how to connect the dollars,” he says. “We have the ability to do that and that’s powerful.”

Becher shared four keys to successful partnership marketing last week at the ANA Brand Activation Conference.

1. Discipline
Carnival developed a custom partnership evaluation tool that looks at criteria important to the brand—awareness, impression, favorable impact, regionality, database reach and social reach. That data is then crunched and scored to come up with an objective filter to determine whether a partnership opportunity is a good fit.

“Come up with your own criteria. Have a sense of real discipline and you’ll find it a far more efficient process,” says Becher, who is two years on the job at Carnival.

2. Alternate Channels
To stay top of mind given the challenges of the typical two-year gap between cruises, Carnival uses partnerships to create exposure in distribution channels where it doesn’t typically reside. For example, one of its most recent partnerships is with Michaels arts and crafts stores.

The partnership allows Carnival to be visible in Michael’s hundreds of stores around the country. At certain times of the year it “powers” classrooms where parents and kids play together. On Wednesdays, during the recent Spring Break, kids were making Carnival cruise ships.

“What a great way for us to stay top of mind with a like-minded brand,” Becher says. “This is about helping Michaels reach our guests in an authentic way and us helping to drive traffic to their stores with a great offer that we give our guests after they’ve finished cruising. We, on the other hand, get to introduce ourselves to their customers.

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3. Consistency
Carnival has a number of long-term partnerships that provide consistency for the brand. It has partnered with Guy Fieri and Hasbro for eight years each and Dr Seuss for six years.

Kathy Lee Gifford has been affiliated with Carnival for 35 years. She was their very first brand spokesperson and has maintained a relationship with Carnival over the years. During her last broadcast on the Today Show last month, Carnival ran a promotion that randomly selected one audience member to win a cruise. But to really turn up the heat, it added an “Oprah moment” by giving a cruise to every person in the audience.

4. Frequency
Carnival is a sponsor of the New Orleans Saints and that deal helped Carnival get in front of, and stay in front of, football fans.

“Cruising and football may not the most natural of connection points, but we needed to find away to be a part of the fan experience,” Becher says.

A simple sweepstakes promotion launched last year with the chance to win a free cruise. The catch was that for every game that the Saints passed for 300 yards or more one winner was selected to win a cruise.

“That brings cruising to the game experience and makes us relevant all season long,” he says.

To add an even more engaging layer, quarterback Drew Brees delivered the promotion via selifies on his Facebook wall and personally announced every winner.

“We didn’t have a big budget,” he says. “It wasn’t a typical brand for him, but we made the phone call and he loved the idea of working with us. We’ve been with him for two years. That accomplishes something that is really important. It’s an issue many brands face, and that is that a lot of folks don’t really believe that somebody wins these promotions. That’s something that was accomplished by Drew. It’s simple, but the engagement is just fantastic.”

5. Pop Culture
The ultimate in marketing can be to tap into a cultural moment in real time. Carnival did that through its partnership with the Saints.

Last year, Brees became the NFL all-time passing leader, breaking Peyton Manning’s record.

“I thought for sure he was going to blow us off that weekend, for good reason,” Becher says. “But sure enough the day after the game there’s his post. It’s simple, but unbelievably effective. It’s just another example that if you can tie in to pop culture, wow, that’s where some magic can happen.”


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