As the first pitches are thrown in the new MLB season, baseball sponsors across the US are launching their first activations for the new 2012 season.
In our opinion, one of the ‘home run’ campaigns came from San Francisco Giants sponsor Virgin America. The airline, in what we think is a genuine ‘first’, painted a beard on one of its aircraft to promote its role as the team’s official airline.
The beard is a head nod to franchise star and popular pitcher Brian Wilson. The hirsute Wilson, something of a maverick character, is known for a “Fear the beard” mantra.
In tribute to Wilson, a Virgin America Airbus A320 (which first took off 2 April and now runs on the airline’s regularly scheduled flights), has been painted not only with the Giants logo on its fuselage, but also with a black beard and moustache painted under the craft’s nose.
The plane, which has been nicknamed “Fly Bye Baby” by the San Francisco-based airline, has been gaining impressive media coverage and has attracted a great deal of positive support from Giants fans.
As one hardcore Giants supporter wrote on the club’s Facebook page: “Absolutely ridiculous. I fully support it.”
“It was actually something that came up very early on in our partnership, at first as a joke, but then everybody loved the idea,” said Abby Lunardini of Virgin America’s media relations team
The campaign spreads beyond the tarmac too. Part of Virgin America’s in-stadium activation this season includes related airline-inspired escalator covers at the Giants’ AT&T Park and messaging in the new special club level at AT&T Park.
The bearded plane is also supported via social media with a Twitter campaign (#flythebeard) for people to post photos of the plane to earn a shot at winning airline tickets.
The competition kick off tweet from the airline said: “Spot our bearded San Francisco Giants plane + tweet a pic to @VirginAmerica with the #FlyTheBeard hashtag for a chance to win a free flight.”
As part of this year’s partnership, Virgin has also introduced other Giants fan perks, including 20% flight discounts for season ticket holders, games ticket competitions and behind-the-scenes fan footage on in-flight TVs.
Brian Wilson and his ‘Fear The Beard’ personal tagline has inspired several initiatives in the last couple of years, including a clothing line, a SportsCentre TV commercial and even a Taco Bell ad campaign.
Even his haircut is popular with the committed fan.
And now, there’s a plane.
Virgin has been the official airline of the team since 2008 and bases its activation strategy around building deeper connections with the local San Francisco community as the city is the airline’s base hub.
“As the only airline headquartered in San Francisco, we’re thrilled to renew and expand our partnership with our hometown team,” said Virgin America President and CEO David Cush. “Our success as an airline is a credit to the outpouring of support we have received from the Bay Area community.”