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Smart Promo: American Airlines Flies with Disney’s ‘Planes’

In the midst of a merger with US Airways, American finds a clever way to land exclusive inflight entertainment while promoting its new fleet of planes

As Disney readies to release its animated “Cars”-spinoff “Planes” next month, the studio has a high-flying promotional partner in American Airlines.

Disney and the airline are collaborating on a campaign that includes traditional media buys, promotions and inflight entertainment. Deal also gives the airline the exclusive rights to offer “Planes” to its customers in October, one month before other carriers can play the film.

The 3D toon, originally produced as a direct-to-homevideo release, takes off in theaters Aug. 9, and features the voice of Dane Cook as a crop duster with dreams of competing in a world-famous aerial race.

Project was produced by DisneyToon Studios, a division of Walt Disney Animation Studios, that produced the Tinker Bell pics. Studio was built to get their own franchises off the ground, similar to how Pixar’s sister studio in Vancouver had done with the “Cars Toon” series of shorts.

SEE ALSO: Disney’s latest ‘Cars’ franchise takes off

In return for its marketing efforts, American gets a cameo in the film with its new fleet of Boeing 777-300ER jets represented by a character called Tripp.

Tripp features the airline’s new corporate design, including its new red, white and blue paint job. The character can be seen in the film’s trailer and through exclusive teaser, featuring custom animation that was directed by “Planes”-helmer Klay Hall, that American is streaming on its website, Facebook page and on YouTube. The American name appears in that version of the footage, but not the final cut of the film, only the new paint job.

In the spot, developed with advertising agency McCann Worldgroup, characters from the movie, stress  American’s latest efforts to upgrade its fleet of planes, new cabin interiors, updated amenities, more inflight entertainment options and seat comfort in every cabin.

Spot premiered on American’s flight from Los Angeles to Dallas.

The integration in “Planes” comes as American Airlines and US Airways are in the midst of merging, which would create the nation’s largest airline.

American Airlines saw the Disney deal as “a fun opportunity to connect with families who know and love the iconic American Airlines brand,” said Rob Friedman, its VP of marketing. “Through this collaboration, we have a lot of great things planned for this summer, including trip promotions and in-airport activities.” All of its efforts will focus on promoting the overhauled airline.

Timing proved perfect for Disney, which has been eager to broker similar promo deals with other airlines. It pared up with Virgin America over DreamWorks’ “Real Steel,” in the past. But other carriers have proved difficult to land due to the financial issues plaguing many airlines, which has lead to the merger of United and Continental; Delta and Northwest; and Southwest with AirTran. American, itself, has been in bankruptcy since November 2011.

Hall was eager to help American produce its own custom spot for “Planes,” given that the director is “a lifelong aviation fan,” he said. “Planes” has allowed me to explore so many facets of flying. The addition of Tripp to our lineup really adds to the fun.”

Takeaway:

  • American Airlines’ deal to promote “Planes” is a smart one for an airline that’s in the midst of a merger with US Airways to become the nation’s largest and is looking for unique ways to spread the word that it’s attempting to improve the experience of flying on the carrier with new planes and cabin experiences.
  • In addition, American gets access to exclusive content, including first dibs to play “Planes” on its jets.
  • For Disney, it’s figured out a clever way to land a high-profile partner with a captive audience on board its flights — a coup given that most airlines don’t promote films.

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