Japanese carrier, All Nippon Airways (ANA) wanted to announce to the world that it was launching a new international service and fleet of aircraft. So what did it do?

Last week – to coincide with the release of the latest Star Wars trailer – the carrier launched a five year campaign called the ‘Star Wars Project.’ Not only does it feature a new aircraft (Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner) styled like Star Wars character R2-D2 , it also released a suite of digital assets with Star Wars branding. This includes the use of the iconic theme tune.

Already the airline has received global PR reach including the likes of CNN, Huffington Post, BBC, Buzzfeed et al. While we are not privy to the rights ANA paid Disney for this rather exclusive deal, we can safely say that PR exposure – almost entirely featuring the branded plane – doesn’t come along like this too often. Think Apple Watch.

The Japanese carrier has made sure to leverage its association with digital content including a bespoke website that plays the iconic theme song and features videos and photos of the new plane design. The company’s Facebook post announcing the ‘Star Wars Project’ has already ammassed over 20,000 shares and close to 1 million video views. Likewise, the launch tweet has over 1000 retweets.

This is not the first time a brand or organisation has associated with the world famous franchise. Recently England Rugby teamed up with Disney UK for its campaign to promote Marriott London Sevens. The campaign included Star Wars characters facing up to the England team across a variety of media. And in the US there have been previous Star Wars associations with the NFL and NBA.

Star Wars fanatic or not, these associations work because the iconc Star Wars francise actually means something to every generation. In ANA’s case, it also means something to a global audience and is part of a longer term strategy (not just one movie release) that capitalises on this emotive association. Job done.

Whether it is Star Wars, Jordan Spieth, the Olympic Games or a local charity, sponsorship, when managed properly, is the most powerful marketing tool. We look forward to seeing how ANA activates and leverages the association in the months ahead.

Image: ANA YouTube channel
Video 1: ANA YouTube channel
Video 2: England Rugby YouTube channel