Behind the Scenes of Carnival's Star Turn in 'ChipWrecked'

CMO Jim Berra Talks to Ad Age about Cruise Line's Branded Deal

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It's not every day that a CMO can tell his company that it will be the star of a blockbuster movie, but that 's precisely what Jim Berra got to do at Carnival. The cruise line is central to the plot of "ChipWrecked" -- the third in a series of movies about those furry, singing creatures America's long known and loved, the Chipmunks.

Jim Berra
Jim Berra

Out in theatres now, the movie follows Alvin, Simon, Theodore and friends as they cause all sorts of mayhem aboard Carnival Cruise Lines' Dream ship before ultimately finding themselves tossed overboard and stranded on a desert island. The film blends animation with live action; the chipmunks' human friend Dave Seville is played by Jason Lee, and the furry creatures are voiced by some well-known Hollywood talent, including Anna Faris, Amy Poehler, Justin Long and Christina Applegate.

Asked how the branded deal came about, Mr. Berra said: "We're opportunistic [about branded entertainment]. We don't begin the year with a set strategy in terms of what we want to accomplish.

"We had some early conversations with Fox on a couple of different properties over the last two years, for movies and other promotions," he said. While other potential partnerships didn't pan out, when the movie presented itself, Mr. Berra said it "was largely a no-brainer from our standpoint," particularly due to "the [Chipmunks] franchise and how well it resonates with families."

From a demographic standpoint, Carnival -- which markets itself as a family-oriented cruise line that is fun-filled and a cost-efficient way to vacation -- appearing in "ChipWrecked" seemed like a good fit. It also presented a chance for Carnival to showcase the latest addition to its fleet, just ahead of the high season for cruising.

"We wanted to use our newest ship at the time, which was Carnival Dream, which is based outside of Orlando in Port Canaveral," said Mr. Berra. "[Fox] They were very open to that , which was great," and "the timing lined up beautifully, because it's right before the holidays which coincides with our wave season." He explained that in the American cruising industry, the largest percentage of bookings come through in the first quarter, between the beginning of the new year and March.

That's part of the reason why Carnival agreed to a cooperative advertising dea -- running its own advertising in addition to Fox's promotion of the film -- and it plans to run another flight of ads to promote the DVD when it comes out around Easter 2012.

Moviegoers may not appreciate the logistics of shooting on a ship, especially one that wasn't empty and docked. On the contrary, when Fox shot the movie earlier this year, the Carnival Dream was loaded with passengers -- between 4,000 and 5,000 people whom the camera crew and actors had to work around. "We didn't take the ship out of service, we were sailing full, during a full-revenue cruise," Mr. Berra said. The biggest concern Carnival had was "disrupting guests and making sure how our crew and services are portrayed in the film" and they were relieved that any disasters were averted.

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