United Airlines is moving from flying the friendly skies to traversing some very popular spaceways.
The world’s third-largest airline will be one of the marketing partners for the latest iteration of Walt Disney’s Star Wars franchise, “The Rise of Skywalker.” United hopes to tap into the cross-generational appeal of the movie series, says Mark Krolick, the company’s vice president of marketing, and promote its services to a broad audience.
“I grew up in the generation that saw the first set of movies, You had the late 90s with the next set, and the past few years, my kids are now loving the ‘Star Wars’ movies because of the recent content they have been producing,” says Krolick. “It’s a partnership that allows us to reach a wide and diverse variety of customers.”
United is one of a broader group of marketing partners for the movie, which debuts in theaters in late December. Porsche, Samsung Mobile, Dannon, Bose, General Electric, McDonald’s, and General Mills have also struck deals with Disney that involve promoting their products and services as well as the film. TV ads from Samsung are already in rotation.
United will this week launch a new TV commercial from Dentsu’s McGarryBowen that plays up its “Star Wars” alliance, but the airline is doing much more to tie itself to an experience around the film. United has festooned one of its Boeing 737-800s with a “Skywalker” paint theme and interior that can be followed via an icon on FlightAware, an online flight tracker. “It’s a fair amount of work,” says Krolick, noting that the task requires a week for the paint job, and must still leave room for FAA-mandated markings.
United has also crafted a safety video featuring appearances by C-3PO, R2-D2, Stormtroopers, and others that is designed to get travelers to pay new attention.
And the “Star Wars” tie-in has other purposes. The airline hopes its own employees will catch the spiri of the films. Channon Dade, a United ramp employee, stars in the TV spot, doing her real job of guiding airlines on the runway, but slipping into a dream sequence where she trades her light batons for “Star Wars” lightsabers. The ad is directed by Victoria Mahoney, who worked as second unit director on “The Rise of Skywalker.”
United has in the recent past not been a big spender on TV, but it has struck up a nascent association with other Hollywood fare. Krolick says the airline also had an affiliation with this year’s “Spider-Man: Far From Home.”
“We are looking for really innovative communications channels and new ways to tell our story that are a little bit non-traditional, a little bit more innovative and a little more creative,” he says,
“Star Wars” takes work. United and Disney first began talking about a pact a year ago, the executive says, “and planned out a whole series of events that are now coming to fruition.”