Old Brands, New Tricks (How the world’s oldest cruise line put on world’s most modern naming ceremony)

Posted by Chris Frame On December 22, 2015

P&O is one of the oldest names in shipping, and certainly the oldest cruise line in Australia. The company, founded in the 1830s, ‘invented’ cruising in Australia when it sent its large ocean liners into the tropics during the 1930s.

The brand is steeped in history, heritage and tradition, and operates two distinct cruise lines; a global world cruising brand based in the UK as well as a locally based leisure brand.

On November 25 P&O’s Australian brand added a new distinction to their already full history books by staging the world’s first ‘naming ceremony by twitter’ in Sydney Harbour.

Part of a gala five-ship event – which saw all five of the P&O Australia ships arriving into the harbour city at once – the new Pacific Eden and Pacific Aria were named in Sydney Harbour by Kate Richie and Jessica Mauboy respectively.

Aria from Eden at naming

Ship naming ceremonies are usually a rather traditional affair. Typically, they are done while the ship is alongside, or in days gone by, before the vessel was launched. The name is read out, a bottle of champagne breaks on the bow and the crowd cheers; but the experience of the event is limited to those physically attending the launch.

P&O wanted to do something different – to engage a wider audience across the country and the world, while still respecting the traditions of days gone by. The line was keen to extend the experience to thousands of their past passengers and enthusiasts via digital media; in essence allowing them to experience the naming ceremony regardless of where they were.

The answer came in the way of an experiential / digital integrated event. With Pacific Eden and Pacific Aria anchored off Fort Dennison, their names were read out by their celebrity ‘godmothers’ who, simultaneously tweeted the names to their followers. (You can check it out at Jessica Mauboy’s twitter here).

With their twitter accounts linked to their respective Facebook accounts, the names of the ships made their way across the digital landscape quickly; with hundreds of likes and retweets achieved within minutes of the live event.

This was backed up by near-live video uploads of the event on P&O’s social media network, and a live broadcast on Channel 9’s Today Show which in turn came with an array of Today Show sponsored social media activity.

The outcome of using digital in such a savvy way was dramatic. It extended an experiential ‘live event’ across social media networks, allowing it to reach a wide audience at virtually no extra cost to P&O; as it used established and easy to access social media networks.

It exposed the P&O brand to many potential travellers who followed both Jessica Mauboy and Kate Richie; allowing people who may not be aware of the P&O brand to learn about the offering and the two new ships.

Furthermore, it aligned the brand with the values of both ‘godmothers’ in a strategic move orchestrated by the line as part of its ongoing transformation into a 21st century Australian travel experience.

In the worlds of P&O Cruises boss Ann Sherry; “Both Jess and Kate are well known and well-loved around the country. They epitomise modern Australia and really embody the new look and feel of P&O Cruises so we are delighted they will be naming these very special ships – and in such a modern way… It will be a history-making day – we will have five ships on Sydney Harbour, a dual christening and we’ll be officially naming the ships via Twitter, which we believe is a world first.”

Chris Frame