Sail, Eagles, Sail: Philadelphia Fans Take to the Seas With Themed Cruise

    • More than 4,000 Eagles fans will set sail with 20 current and former players in March 2021 as the team looks to capitalize on the league’s number one traveling fanbase.
    • The team views the cruise as a marketing opportunity in lieu of revenue generator.

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Next April, Philadelphia Eagles fans could be playing football on a beach in the Bahamas with their favorite players. 

The Eagles contingent will set sail on March 21, 2021, for a seven-day cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas in an effort to bring fans closer to the team in the offseason.

“We’re always observing and a large trend for the Eagles fans is they travel,” Catherine Carlson, Eagles senior vice president of revenue and strategy, said. “This whole concept came about as a new and unique way to touch the brand in the offseason and once-in-a-lifetime event for Eagles fans.”

It’s not like Eagles fans need too much amping – a poll from Emory University ranked the Eagles No. 1 in road equity, or the measure of how well teams draw to road games.

The Eagles contracted through a third-party, First Class Cruises, to manage the bookings. Carlson declined to comment on the costs from the team side, but did say it’s more a marketing expense than a revenue opportunity. Carlson said the cruise is widely advertised through billboards and media across Philadelphia.

Tickets for the cruise start at $1,700 and Carlson is anticipating a sellout. 

Cruise lines and travel companies are always looking for new ways to bring on customers and a themed cruise is an interesting way to go about it, Daniel Rabinovich, Virgin Voyages retail and media marketing manager, said. The team side benefits are certainly compelling, Rabinovich said.

“It’s really looking at it as to how can a sports team help captivate more fan loyalty and create more memorable experiences,” Rabinovich said. “They can do that in a lot of ways in the city, but this goes about taking vacation time to meet their heroes and amp up the fans.” 

On the cruise, the Eagles will bring at least 10 alumni as well as 10 current players. Among them will be Hall of Fame safety Brian Dawkins, who will host a live Q&A.

“As we sail away, fans will have an opportunity to mingle with the talent,” Carlson said. “But we’re still working through additional things, like beach parties at CocoCay, the island owned by Royal Caribbean. Imagine playing flag football on the beach with alumni coaches.”

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The general idea of a theme cruise isn’t novel, and there are dozens of cruises, especially in the music industry and ranging from DJs to country to reggae. Wrestling and bikers also are notable examples.

The Miami Dolphins have also hosted fan cruises, including one this year with partner MSC Cruises. The Houston Texans and New Orleans Saints also have partnerships with Carnival Cruise Lines.

Should the Eagles cruise be successful, Carlson said it’s likely there will be more in the future. She also said there could be incremental opportunities for travel packages within the season. 

Allegiant is looking to offer packages around Las Vegas Raiders games — already offering up a sweepstakes for the 2020 NFL Draft this spring. 

Teams aren’t the only party to benefit from the cruises and travel-related partnerships, Rabinovich said. 

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“It gives a showcase to the fanbase to any given cruise line,” he said. “Now that fanbase will associate with that specific cruise line. As cruise lines, we’re always happy to cater to all sorts of guests, happy to bring on any audience.

“It helps the sports teams with more fan loyalty and engagement and the cruise lines get to align with the teams and fans. It’s a grassroots way to approach sports sponsorships — which are expensive and can get complicated,” he said.