Are Celebrities Effective As A Branding Method For Airlines?

Etihad Airways First Apartment Branding featuring Nicole Kidman


Emirates signed Jennifer Aniston (best known for the tv sitcom Friends) to a branding contract valued at US$5 million.

“We can confirm that we are working with Ms. Jennifer Aniston on a global digital and television campaign,” Boutros Boutros, Emirates’ divisional SVP for corporate communications, marketing and brand, says in a statement to The National of Dubai. “We do not wish to discuss contract details, and more information about the campaign will be unveiled in due course.”

We will explore how airlines are increasingly using celebrities (entertainment and sports) as branding ambassadors and whether they are effective. Did you know that brand ambassadors can enhance your PR campaign, even more so if a celebrity is associated with it? This could be a good method to try if your business is struggling with its branding. Read on to find out more.


Airlines have been using celebrities to promote their products since the jet age started in the 1950s. Early on, print ads featuring singers like Frank Sinatra were used. By the 1980s, tv ads were more common (for example, in 1985, Gene Kelly / Fred Astaire partnered to promote Western Airlines). Some airlines find that creating printed marketing material using printing services similar to Printivity could be a good way of showing off their celebrities while advertising airlines and services.

Today, with more media outlets available, airlines are reaching out to other types of celebrities to as part of its branding efforts. They typically falls under categories like entertainment, sports and real life.


Airlines like use celebrities to promote the luxury side of flying.

For example, British Airways (BA) celebrated the launch of its London Heathrow Airport (LHR) to Singapore Changi Airport (SIN) flight on the Airbus A380 with a promotional picture of Gwyneth Paltrow lounging in its latest generation Club World seat back in October.

British Airways Introduces The Airbus A380 to Singapore
Image is taken from British Airways’ Google+ site on October 29, 2014 and featured Gwyneth Paltrow with the Airbus in a business class seat (All Rights Reserved(
Gwyneth Paltrow and British Airways London Singapore
Gwyneth Paltrow and British Airways celebrate the launch of the Airbus A380 service from London to Singapore. Information taken from airline’s website on October 29, 2014 (All Rights Reserved)

To celebrate its own launch of the Airbus A380 on the London (LHR) to Abu Dhabi (AUH), Etihad Airways (EY) asked Nicole Kidman to star in a new tv commercial that focuses on re-imaging travel based closer to a hotel experience. Visit our video page for the behind the scenes look for this commercial.

Beyond real life celebrities, airlines like to feature movie or animated characters to build awareness. All Nippon Airways (NH) is partnering with Lucas Arts to cross promote starting in September 2015 with a Boeing aircraft painted with a dedicated Star Wars livery (refer to our coverage here).

ANA Star Wars Jet 2
ANA is working with Star Wars(R) – Image taken from airline’s website on April 16 2015 (All Rights Reserved)

Tintin is going on new adventures on board Brussel Airlines (SN) specially painted aircrafts (refer to our coverage here).

Tintin and Brussels Airlines
Tintin and Brussels Airlines – Image taken from the Daily Mail on March 18, 2015 (All Rights Reserved)

EVA Airways (BR) made waves as the Hello Kitty airline.


Turkish Airlines (TK) likes to use sport celebrities for its branding efforts. Here is an example featuring Kobe Bryant and Lionel Messi. With the ad, the airline hopes to build awareness around the world based on fun and cool factors associated with the football stars.

Aeroflot Russian Airlines (SU) partnered with popular football club Manchester United in promoting itself to the mainstream audience.

Real Life

Other airlines like to take the more organic approach by featuring people and nature like the following two from Singapore Airlines (SQ) and Wideroe Airline (WF) to entice interests.

Are these ads effective in managing flyers’ expectations and excitements for flying?


The different types of branding is designed to cater to different audiences:

  • Celebrity driven ones are used to entice potential higher yield passengers by showing how good it is to fly an airline’s premium class products or how cool it is to fly the airline in general
  • People and nature ones are successful in creating excitement to travel.

Both can create a want to fly the airline. However, for the branding to be effective, the airline may be required to supplement it with additional communication for different classes like:


  • More for less is one of the key points airline may want to communicate for the economy class service

Premium Economy

  • Business class amenities for the price of economy is the key to upsell economy passengers who cannot afford to fly business class.


  • Many airlines introduced first class amenities to sell business class as a hyrid for first class at lower price points.


  • You will feel right at home in first class. Ultra comfort, luxury and best in class service in key to get passengers to pay higher prices.

Without more information to supplement the celebrity, the audience would not be able to associate how the branding justifies the need to fly the airline. Celebrity alone would not drive sales.

In addition, if the celebrity do not have high global recognition or falling out of popularity, the branding effectiveness may diminish significantly.

Final Call

More airlines are using different celebrities as branding ambassadors. Do you think they are effective in creating a desire to fly them?

Are celebrities ads more effective in enticing flyers?

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