Looking to boost awareness and passenger miles at a time that its funding is under attack, Amtrak is launching its most comprehensive co-marketing venture: a $4 million Great Getaway Fares promotion with the popular CD-ROM game featuring the fictional Carmen Sandiego. The effort is backed by spot and cable TV and print ads.
The promotion, via E. James White in Herndon, Va., offers families special fares good for travel from March 1 to May 21 and a mail-in offer for a special edition of the game, Where in America Is Carmen Sandiego? The Great Amtrak Train Adventure, for $9.95. The educational CD-ROM program, a reported $40 value, introduces kids ages 7-12 and their families to the client's rail destinations via five animated Amtrak characters with names like conductor Phil Steemahead.
Challenged to come up with a nontraditional media outlet to attract new Amtrak customers, E. James White "borrowed a page from the McDonald's strategy" of going after kids, who have a major influence in family travel, said agency president Matt White. "This is a plan to attract the next generation of rail riders by marketing to children," he said. E. James White developed the consumer print ads for the promotion.
Marian Azzaro, senior marketing director for Amtrak Intercity, said she expects the concept to boost Amtrak's family business by 10-15 percent. She termed the promo--the first from Amtrak's one-year licensing agreement with Carmen Sandiego's creator, Broderbund--"a natural fit." After the promotion expires, the railroad will distribute the special edition game through third parties such as Visa.
Broderbund senior marketing manager Eric Winkler said that while the Novato, Calif., company has previously teamed with Wendy's, KFC and Kodak, this is the first time it has created a game for a promotional partner.
Backing the co-marketing effort starting next month is an animated TV spot from Ammirati Puris Lintas in New York. The spot breaks Feb. 22 and features Carmen and her friends taking the train in what is dubbed "the steal of the century." Print ads will appear in Florida dailies and national magazines such as Parent and TV Guide.