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Carnival's high-profile new spokesman should earn the brand some fresh interest, but will it be enough to bring new cruisers on board?

Carnival Cruise Line just named a new CFO, but not the kind you’d expect.

The Miami-based cruise line announced Thursday night in a video that retired NBA player and actor Shaquille O’Neal was taking on the title, without specifying what the letters stood for. (Footage of O’Neal playing duck, duck, goose and tag in the office might have offered a hint.)

As the operator was scheduled to reveal this morning, O’Neal will be the “Chief Fun Officer” as part of a new brand campaign that drills down on the word fun. The campaign comes during the key cruise booking time of year known as “wave season.”

“He is full of ideas about how he can represent and be Carnival’s chief fun officer,” said Christine Duffy, the cruise line’s president. “He is all in more than any other celebrity that I’ve come in contact with. He is just one idea after the next and genuinely enthusiastic and excited about the brand and the role that he’s playing.”

The teaser video ran during TNT’s Inside the NBA show, on which O’Neal, a former member of Carnival Corp. chairman Micky Arison’s Miami Heat, is an analyst. A 30-second ad showing him giving a ship tour will air online.

Duffy said the “Fun Ship” brand has more in store for the Shaq partnership.

“I don’t want to reveal everything, but I just think he is so aligned with our brand that we will be using him in different ways, not just traditional this is wave and this is our campaign and our commercial this year, and next year we’ll move onto something else,” she said. “This has legs.”

Duffy said she believes O’Neal’s profile will help the line break through to non-cruisers — which are also a big target of the entire campaign.

Not Your Average Cruise Passenger

The characters in Carnival’s new series of ads don’t seem like typical cruise passengers.

There are the kids who admit to their father that they didn’t want to go on a cruise, the introvert who tagged along for a friend’s birthday, and the husband who avoids posting pictures on social media.

All, of course, end up having an unexpectedly good time during their first cruise — which is the point of the “Choose Fun” campaign.

“I think the new campaign really gives us a call to action, something that our repeat cruisers and loyal Carnival fans can really get behind and see as a mantra,” Duffy said. “But I think it also is an appeal and opportunity for people who have never really considered cruising or who don’t think of themselves as a cruiser to really appreciate and begin to understand the opportunity to choose fun really lives on a Carnival cruise ship.”

In addition to the longer testimonial ads, Carnival is running shorter clips that feature activities available on a cruise. Ads will appear on social media; online platforms including Amazon Video, Hulu, and Roku; and on TV in regional markets including Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, and Los Angeles.

Duffy said that unlike other campaigns, “Choose Fun” is trying to show activities that travelers might already enjoy and show that they can be done on a cruise.

“Many of these things that you love to do or that you want to do on your vacation are all contained in one spot,” she said.


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Tags: carnival, cruising

Photo credit: Shaquille O'Neal is shown in a pool on a Carnival cruise ship as part of his new role as the cruise line's "Chief Fun Officer." Carnival's new brand campaign tells customers to "Choose Fun." Carnival Cruise Line

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