Virgin seizes on rerelease of Beatles film for a tie-in

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A year after its glitzy tie-in with the movie "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me," Virgin Atlantic Airways plans to link with another film focusing on a British icon: "A Hard Day's Night."

The airline is sponsoring the premiere of Miramax's rerelease of the 1964 movie starring The Beatles. It is also running an online sweepstakes contest for movie posters and a vacation package to London.

Virgin will use the tie-in to plug the relaunch of its Upper Class product, its version of business class. Upper Class offers a seat that reclines fully; a "Freedom" menu that allows passengers to order food on command; relaxation and beauty options such as massage, manicure and aromatherapy; and access to an onboard bar. The airline is installing the new Upper Class gradually and hopes to have it in all 32 planes that cross the Atlantic over the next year.

At the same time, the airline is putting a new livery on its planes, shifting the dominant hue to silver from white. Silver will also make an appearance as part of the new Upper Class color scheme.

The tie in with "A Hard Day's Night" plays off the idea that the new flat seat prevents a hard night's rest. Virgin will sponsor the premieres of the Beatles movie in New York and Los Angeles this week. The movie will be released next month.


Virgin is locked in a battle with rival British Airways as both seek to become identified in the minds of business travelers as the most somnolent ride across the Atlantic. Earlier this year, British Airways launched an ad campaign for its new business class flat sleeper seats. "The biggest demand we have from business class travelers is they need more rest," a Virgin spokeswoman said.

Never one to miss an opportunity to create buzz, Virgin Chairman Richard Branson made statements that the airline hopes to offer a flat double bed onboard that might facilitate membership in the "mile-high club." But the spokeswoman said Virgin "is not pursuing one at this time."

Virgin's link with "A Hard Day's Night" is far less extensive than when it wrapped itself in "Austin Powers" flag in the summer of 1999. The airline launched an ad campaign across its U.S. markets that featured the Powers character along with phrases such as "There's only one virgin on this billboard, baby!"

But the goal is the same: to reinforce the connection between Virgin and its London base. "When you think of the British, you think of the Beatles," the airline's spokeswoman said.

Virgin's latest Hollywood marriage follows British Airways' tie-in with DreamWorks animated movie "Chicken Run." BA ran print, radio and online advertising under the "Fly the coop to London" theme.

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