Growth Market Cruises: Where Are the Brand Co-Operations?

The cruise industry is growing constantly, and those taking a cruise are mostly affluent potential buyers of lifestyle products. Why are brands not tapping this booming market for their own growth yet?

Wintertime and ‘the Livin’ Is Easy’

At least from northern latitudes, more and more people book their wintertime vacation to experience a few weeks of summer on the sea. And the global cruise market is growing rapidly, even into colder regions. Over the last 10 years, the number of those going for a cruise has risen from 17 million to around 27 million worldwide, and there is no end on the horizon. Until 2020, every year around a dozen new cruise ships will be built, including ‘flagships’ with a capacity of more than 5.000 passengers, like the Symphony of the Seas pictured above with a capacitiy of 5.518 passengers plus 2.200 crew.

Young at Heart and Wealthy Target Groups are Waiting

Almost half of the cruise passengers come from North America, another 25% from Europe. Granted, to brands positioned for very young target audiences, the consumer groups on a cruise ship may not seem super attractive at first glance. On average, a quarter of the passengers is over 60, another 50% are between 40 and 59 years old. But consider the potential purchasing power of these vintages, which is well above that of younger generations. There is also good indication that older demographics feel (and behave) younger than they used to. It’s also no secret that this younger lifestyle leads them to consume much like those about 10 years their juniors. Many fathers consume the same brands as their children’s generation, sometimes to the point of driving the youngsters to despair.

cruise growth (image source:


Anyway, a market of 27 million reasonably wealthy baby boomers in holiday mood is certainly worth exploring a little more closely. More and more cruise ships are switching their offer to all-inclusive. This frees up travel budgets for purchases other than food and drink on board. It’s also a matter of entertainment on board and during shore excursions; a cooperation between a cruise line and lifestyle or sporting brands can be an attractive option for both passengers and brands.

Brands Can Add Value for Passengers

If more than 5.000 passengers (plus crew) fit on one of the large cruise ships, there is likely to be enough room for, say, a Nike shoebox pop-up with a corresponding brand inspiration program. When one or two otherwise not particularly eventful days at sea are coming up, a pop-up event hosted by a relevant sports or outdoor brand can be an attractive option and add value for passengers.

cruise growth (photo:


Many ships have a designated running track on board. Why not launch a mini-marathon, powered by your brand?
Almost every day, a cruise offers shore excursions in the respective ports. The cooperation options on land are even more limitless: a mountain bike tour could be presented by a popular outdoor label, a food-chain startup could take over the catering halfway, or a new beverage manufacturer might put their energy drink in the (branded) goodie bag.

cruise growth (Photo: AIDA Cruises)

(Photo: AIDA Cruises)

Imagine Levi’s positioning a pop-up shop on the beach promenade of an exotic Caribbean island for the duration of a season. The pop-up shop could offer locally branded Levi’s t-shirts and hoodies (e.g. ‘Levi’s – St. Kitts’) that would practically sell themselves as souvenirs or gifts. If any remain unsold today, the next ship that will kill the stock is just around the corner. Most of the lines cruise the same areas, call at the same ports for months, but come with new passengers every week.

cruise growth (Photo:


As far as on-board offerings are concerned, the ladies would certainly be interested in a Lululemon promotion in the ship’s yoga studio. Meanwhile, the gentlemen might enjoy a Harley Davidson test ride on the upper deck!

Individual Dialogue Between Customers and Brands Create Fans

Mobile data can be a bit of a problem on board a cruise liner, making it more difficult to enjoy the usual smartphone-based distractions. A programme based on brand-cooperations that are exclusive to your cruise ship might just make your day on sea while fostering an individual dialogue between brands and passengers. You’re likely going to talk about those brand experiences after returning home, possibly more so than about all the white beaches and turquoise bays you saw. Your memento is the unique pair of sneakers you brought home, customised for you aboard ship and therefore unique. For hard-core fans of a brand, this alone could make the trip worthwhile.

What brand cooperations would you like to experience while spending time on a cruise ship? Or do you feel that brand-cooperations on cruise ships might be commercial overkill? I believe that consumers who book a cruise with 5,000 co-passengers are an unlikely demographic to particularly mind. So brands: Just do it!

About the author:

Alexander, has yet to experience a cruise for himself. If you have done so, or have opinions regardless, please feel free to share your views on cruise product placement with him personally via LinkedIn.

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