To boost awareness of the launch of Viking Cruises’ second ocean vessel, the 930-passenger Viking Sea through an experience for the brand, the on-board guests and London that would stand the test of time.
Tasked with designing and delivering a compelling experience for a ship that we were unable to see until six weeks before the actual day, the story we told needed to be impactful enough to cut through election day noise (the event was to take place on the same day as the London Mayoral election) and to optimise media reach across both the UK and US.
What we did
While ostensibly Viking wanted a glittering occasion to christen their new ship in London, the key to our creative idea focused on intelligence, rather than opulence – rooted in both the Viking brand’s destination-centered cruising and a celebration of Norwegian cultural heritage.
Such a celebration only runs to plan when the project is run like a tight ship and, with the whole experience created and produced in just over three months, we had only one shot to make it count.
Having only had access on less than a handful of occasions to prepare on board and to get up to speed with the ship’s technological capabilities, Smyle delivered a myriad of production solutions to meet the technical challenges… and transformed a project of huge complexity into one of elegant simplicity, creating an experience for Viking that truly was once-in-a-lifetime.
We designed a combined live and screen-based experience using immersive media which was relayed around the ship (since we couldn’t fit all the VIPs in one space) and broadcast on shore, tying together a theatrical narrative that told tales of both London and Norway.
Having liaised with the Port of London Authority to understand everything there is to know about maritime health and safety, not to mention predicted tide tables on the Thames, we brought helicopters, fire tugs and decorated pontoons together to welcome the Viking Sea past the Thames Barrier and into Greenwich. Upon its arrival, 48 able sea men saluted the 745ft long ship as they stood on the Cutty Sark’s yardarms in a traditional naval welcome.
Taking place within sight of the Royal Observatory and Old Royal Naval College, Viking Sea was christened with a bottle of Gammel Opland aquavit (in homage to the brand’s Norwegian provenance), and a replica of an 11th-century Viking battle axe found buried under the Thames was used to cut the cord.
Finally, guests were treated to music from Norwegian soprano Sissel and The Olav’s Choir and the glittering ceremony climaxed with a glorious fireworks display.
Befitting the largest ever ocean vessel to be christened on the River Thames, the celebrations made huge waves across all major news, TV channels and travel publications in both the US and UK. It should be noted that, thanks to the event’s memorable moments, this significant media coverage was achieved in spite of being held on the same day as the 2016 London Mayoral elections.