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Chances are that if you’ve watched PBS’ Masterpiece — namely the famed “Downton Abbey” television show — within the last decade, you’ve also seen a commercial for Viking. Paired with the program’s popularity, the commercials have certainly contributed to brand awareness for Viking and river cruising overall. But it’s not the only instance of media sponsorships or showcases in the travel segment.
According to PBS’ website, Viking has been a sponsor of the Masterpiece collection of shows since 2011 when “Downton Abbey” first premiered. The captivating historical drama about the residents, servants and inner workings of an early-20th century English country house would go on to be sponsored by the line for each of its six seasons. To this day, the company advertises on shows such as “Les Miserables” and “Victoria.”
Scenic Luxury Cruises and Tours has taken a cue from Viking with its promotion of "The Great British Baking Show.” Mary Berry, one of the series’ stars, serves as godmother to Viking Alsvin, and the brand was a celebratory sponsor in 2015. Later on, in 2018, Scenic partnered up with the competitive program for its fifth season.
Also in 2018, American Cruise Lines similarly sponsored PBS’ “Washington Week,” a Peabody Award-winning weekly news analysis series. The company had previously teamed up with the network to sponsor “Antiques Roadshow.”
Even the more youth-oriented U River Cruises saw the benefits of televised content when it was featured on ABC’s “The Bachelor.” Befitting its initial, The B was home to the remaining female contestants in France for an episode of the show’s 22nd season. Back then, it was the first time the program highlighted a cruise, and now the line offers a themed U Get the Rose Romance Package for purchase. While the line does not currently sail French itineraries, the bundle is still listed on its website to include a bottle of wine, a rose-petal turndown service, a breakfast in bed, a romantic film screening, a top-deck tent campout night and more.
Recently, AmaWaterways had selected travel television personality Samantha Brown to be the godmother of its new impressively double-wide AmaMagna. Beyond christening the ship on July 11, 2019, Brown previously took a Rhine River cruise onboard AmaPrima as featured on “Samantha Brown’s Places to Love” — yet another PBS series sponsored by AmaWaterways.
Outside of specific show sponsorships, more lines are launching commercial campaigns following the success of Viking. In an effort to make their brands known as well, AmaWaterways, American Cruise Lines, Avalon Waterways, Crystal River Cruises and Scenic are among those posting video ads. American holds the distinction of promoting river cruises closer to home with domestic options in lieu of foreign ones abroad.
Whether internationally focused or not, these exposure efforts speak to consumers directly but also prompt them to book through travel advisors, making them a potential win-win for the entire industry.