Photo Sails outfits three Hunters Yachts with sails emblazoned with the Malibu Rum logo.
Beach-goers would seem a captive audience for an advertising pitch, languishing in the sun and surf for hours at a stretch. The trouble for marketers, though, is that few seaside resorts allow billboards, or any form of advertising, past the boardwalk.
Enter Photo Sails and the vision of Aaron Kiss. For more than a decade, he’s been a pioneering advocate for transforming ships into floating billboards, cruising the coasts, their sails emblazoned with a sponsor’s message.
“Owning the only advertising on the visible horizon at any beach on a popular shoreline is the ultimate goals of many Fortune 500 companies,” he says. And, he has the clients to prove it: Coca Cola, Anheuser-Busch, Crocs, even the 2008 election campaign for President Obama, to name just a few, have all used Photo Sails to reach shore lovers where other media fail.
One of the latest customers to get the Photo Sails treatment: Malibu Rum, a brand of Pernod Ricard. This summer, a three-month campaign couldn’t be missed along the New Jersey Shore, New York’s Long Island, and beaches in the greater Los Angeles area. At each, a Hunters Yacht outfitted with 1000 square feet of sails emblazoned with the Malibu Rum logo and giant bottle, was the only ad in view as those on shore looked seaward.
Such ads have occasionally been seen in decades past, but options were limited. As Kiss explains, in the old days, “graphics on sailboat sails were limited to hand-applied dyes, which limited or denied photorealistic representations of products and corporate logos.” Affixing ads as stickers to sails were tried as well, but these ultimately failed under the wind, wet, and weather, says Kiss.
His work with a confidential printer partner involves proprietary processes utilizing grand-format digital printers in conjunction with special ink formulations to print double-sided images on a range of sailcloth. Depending on the sailcloth material, the process may involve various inkjet technologies including dye sublimation and UV printing.
“Creating double-sided Photo Sails larger than the limits of five-meter printers, while aligning reinforcement fibers in load-path orientation, has been a decade-long learning curve we’ve mastered,” Kiss says.
And output on fabric is only one step in a multi-phase process. Once the message is matched to the sails, Kiss must address design considerations required for sailing: the load that the sail will experience, where to seam and reinforce the fabric, and placement of all grommets, batten receptacles, and adjustment mechanisms, etc.
For the Malibu Rum campaign, which ran June through August, one set of sails was created, then shipped from port to port in successive phases of the summer campaign. Through a special arrangement with Hunter Yachts, that same set was installed on an identical yacht for cruising the coast in each market area. And as a side benefit for clients: For the duration of these campaigns, Photo Sails customers also have the option of using the ship for hosted promotional cruises for their own clients or consumers.
Having a “promotional vehicle that supports public-relations programs such as VIP entertainment, employee-rewards programs, even publics sweepstakes programs is a nice perk, too,” Kiss adds.
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