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Paid Media Consultants for Virgin Voyages + PortMiami

How Media Buying Consultants Unlocked the Value of Visibility as a Growth-Driver [Case Study]

Media Buying Consultants: Context

Our first introduction to the team at Bain Capital and Virgin was a result of client experience working as travel ad agency for hotels and airlines. It’s pretty simple: typically paid media consultants step in to mitigate overspending on customer acquisition. As a qualified function of procurement. But as our relationship grew, the tasks expanded from tactical planning, to more strategic support in orchestrating the first major cruise launch of the past decade.

This travel marketing case study shows how our work delivered outsized value for a the Virgin Voyages brand launch, with bonus value to stakeholders at PortMiami in a true public-private partnership.

Ultimately travel marketing has many stakeholders: cities, taxpayers, public-private partnerships, business improvement boards, media owners, destination marketing organizations, airlines, cruise lines, transport, cargo companies and property owners and more…

Criterion Global unlocks the value of visibility, and provides neutral, empirical input with value-maximizing outcomes. Our paid media consulting practice was born to deliver on scenarios beyond the traditional campaign work most common in paid media buying.

The Travel Market + Cruise Consolidation

As a niche within travel marketing, the cruise landscape is strange. ~75% of the cruise market is controlled by global behemoth “holding companies.” [1,2] Given the cost of capital required, new brand launches are exceedingly rare.

Globally, 90% of all traded goods are transported via ocean shipping. PortMiami is the #1 cruise passenger port in the world, delivering $43B USD in global economic value [3]. It sits on property controlled by the county of Miami-Dade, at the centre of Biscayne Bay, visible to all downtown Miami and Bayside Marketplace, which receives over 25MM visitors yearly.

What’s more: PortMiami runs parallel to the MacArthur Causeway, a dazzling half mile-long bridge carrying 30 million cars a year [4]. The whole scene feels like the 90’s video game Cruis’n USA or the opening credits of Miami Vice (at :52 secs!).

As a niche brand vying for marketshare in a consolidated market – a David among Goliaths – you didn’t need to be a media buying consultant to size up the task: Virgin Voyages needed to make a splash.

Maximizing Visibility for a Challenger Brand

For Virgin Voyages, and any cruiseline, each ship is a huge operational asset. Its ships planned to hold ~3,000 passengers, stretching 900′ (277 meters) on each side.

Our Budget Blueprint SM and media consulting practice seek arbitrage opportunities to maximize media value for brands. And it was clear: Virgin Voyages’ ships were, in themselves, a massive media opportunity. Yet at PortMiami, smaller cruiselines (like Virgin Voyages) tended to be assigned berthing space in the less-visible back (south) side of the port.

As Criterion Global noted: Some of Miami’s most valuable OOH inventory is nearby PortMiami and the Causeway. Virgin Voyages’ operational assets (its ships, terminal space, signage) could deliver quantifiable media value.

As a leading port in the Americas, PortMiami – which manages 2,489 vessel arrivals and 7.42MM tons of cargo, with its own economic development marketing plan – didn’t generally monetize cruise berthing space on the basis of its media value. Criterion Global sought strategies to maximize ship visibility. And public-private partnership and leasing negotiations for Virgin Voyage’s terminal space with PortMiami were in their early phases.

So Criterion Global armed Virgin Voyages with data to assess: What, exactly, is the billboard value of a cruise ship in terminal?

Our lips are sealed on much of the confidential details of our paid media consulting work. However we can share what has since become public information. And best of all, much of the value of our work for this historic deal can be seen in plain sight:

Insights, now in plain sight

Armed with data from its paid media consultants, Virgin Voyages negotiated a $150M USD deal to construct the 132,000 “Terminal V” at the western tip PortMiami. Terminal V positions Virgin at the #1 cruise terminal in the world, in plain view of Miami’s sights and skyline.

And, like any prime OOH media placement, Terminal V will use uplighting to “light up the company logo at night” for 24/7 visibility to the 30M cars crossing Miami’s MacArthur Causeway and 25M+ tourists visiting downtown Miami each year [5]. The deal creates (almost) priceless media value for a disruptor brand that would otherwise be relegated to less visible areas of PortMiami.

Terminal V at PortMiami: Paid Media Consultants Case Study (Criterion Global)

Paid Media Consultants, or Ship Designers?

Not bad for an insurgent, upstart cruiseline making an entrance in a heavily consolidated industry. Our media buying consultants even influenced ship design. The stern (back) of Virgin Voyage ships are…an actual billboard visible up to 2 nautical miles away.

Paid Media Consultants + Media Buying Consultants for Virgin Voyages + Bain Capital

Further Reading

Explore our work in economic development, as well as a wide array of work specific to travel brands.

As an advertising and media advisory focused on global trade, we work to find equilibrium between investment and value for organizations of all stripes.

Other Travel Clientele

For a more tactical marketing case study, learn more how we orchestrated the global expansion for Belmond, a London-based luxury portfolio of 45+ luxury hotels and train experiences, prior to its acquisition by LVMH.