Virgin Galactic names Land Rover as first sponsor

Virgin Galactic has signed Land Rover as its first global partner, kicking off a search for other potential sponsors capable of funding the commercial space service and making it more accessible to consumers.

Virgin Galactic is looking for partners to open up new revenue streams for the fledgling business.

The company revealed the long-term tie-up with the car maker today (14 April) that will see it benefit from the worldwide media attention set to engulf what will be the first commercial flight into space later this year. Land Rover expects the launch to help cement its brand positioning around adventure, innovation and exploration as it looks to build on global sales success in 2013.

The deal spans the run-up to the flight and beyond through a Brooklyn Brothers-created campaign across all its markets. Land Rover will create a raft of co-branded TV, outdoor and digital content and could also appear throughout Virgin Galactic’s “Space Race” reality series, where fans compete to win a free ride on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo.

Neil Ross Russell, head of brand partnerships at Virgin Galactic told Marketing Week the Land Rover deal is the start of its charge to recruit partners capable of fuelling the operation of the business. While there are an unlimited number of sponsorship slots available, the company is on the hunt for clothing, technology, timing and insurance partners.

Russell adds: “Nobody has ever made a commercial space flight service before. It’s not cheap and it’s not easy. There are a lot of elements that we have to tick off when it comes to running a space line and that includes transportation and technology. The partnerships we’re looking to form will help us manage the day-to-day operation of the business.

“We thought about creating pre-packaged options for potential sponsors but quickly realised that this wasn’t for us. While all deals will incorporate traditional sponsorship assets like the space ships, the space ports, the suits and the tickets, we want to make the partnerships more about future generations being able to access space. Each deal is being developed bespoke to ensure we’re able to deliver value to our sponsors.”

The commercial space line is currently in talks with broadcasters in all its key markets to screen the flight. It is using its exclusive deal with American broadcaster NBC as a template, which includes several documentaries.

Promotions for the service have been more PR-focused to date, however, a mix of online and traditional channels will come into play once the inaugural flight takes place. This includes activty being developed in partnership with the organisers of the Zero G Colony – a three-day high tech music festival set to take pace at Spaceport America in New Mexico – next year.

Virgin hopes the pipeline of activity generates long-term interest among less affluent consumers unable to afford the $250,000 (£149,000) cost of the service.

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