Viewers of Sunday night’s Super Bowl heard a surprising voice in a commercial for Carnival Corp. — President John F. Kennedy.

How Kennedy became a pitchman for the world’s largest cruise operator begins with Carnival’s efforts to counteract negative publicity over the past three years that included the fatal wreck of the Costa Concordia off Italy in 2012.

Chief Executive Officer Arnold Donald, who took over in July 2013, commissioned a new ad campaign last year that involved tying together all of the Miami-based company’s nine cruise lines. Carnival hired BBDO Atlanta and asked the ad agency to reach people who’ve never cruised. The idea was to overcome reasons they give for not getting on a ship, such as the fear of seasickness or claustrophobia.

“For a spot to cover all nine brands we looked for a common denominator,” Donald said in a Monday interview with Bloomberg Radio. “The one thing that’s common across all nine brands, when guests are at sea, is that human spirit connection to the sea. The majesty of the sea. The beauty of the sea.”

The ad, the first during a Super Bowl for the 43-year-old company, featured a speech Kennedy gave before the 1962 America’s Cup race in Newport, Rhode Island. The president, a longtime mariner, used the occasion to draw the connection between human beings and the sea. In the ad, Kennedy’s voice is heard over images of happy people on Carnival Cruise Line ships.

“All of us have, in our veins, the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean,” Kennedy is heard saying. “When we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch it, we are going back from whence we came.”

Public Domain

Carnival and its advertising team found the speech online and reached out to John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum in Boston to verify it was in the public domain, according to Ken Jones, vice president of marketing for the cruise line.

The company posted story boards for the Kennedy spot and three other commercials at worldsleadingcruiselines.com, a website it created last year, and asked viewers to pick their favorite. All were directed by Oscar-winning cinematographer Wally Pfister, whose credits include “The Dark Knight.”

Jones declined to say how much Carnival paid to air the one-minute ad. Super Bowl spots cost $4.5 million for 30 seconds this year, according to NBC. Carnival’s marketing budget is $500 million annually, he said.

The company’s Facebook page ranked third in comments, mentions, likes and shares among the 40 Super Bowl advertisers, behind Budweiser and Weight Watchers, according to Engagement Labs, which measures social-media responses.

Social Media

“They’re ranked above Nissan, McDonald’s, some really good brands,” Eli Singer, chief marketing officer of the Toronto based researcher, said in a telephone interview.

Jones said the ad can be seen on Youtube.com, Facebook.com and Twitter.com. He was particularly proud of one Tweet during the game.

“Your uncle had the best commercial in the Super Bowl so far,” actor Rob Lowe, who played the president in a 2013 TV movie, said in a Twitter message to Kennedy’s niece, TV journalist Maria Shriver. She retweeted it.

This article was written by Christopher Palmeri and Carol Massar from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.