United honors Olympians and its employee “Superheros”

“We are all normal people dong extraordinary things.” As I chatted with people at the launch of United Airlines‘ new “Superheroes” ad campaign for the US Olympic team earlier this week that comment struck a chord. I’m not sure it is 100% true across the board, but the sentiment is one I truly appreciate. With that as the driving force behind the new marketing push tied to the 2018 Winter Olympics next month it was amazing to see the energy in the room and play with some of the new superhero toys on offer.

“The tie between superheroes and Team USA athletes is clear – they are regular people who use their exceptional talents to accomplish the incredible,” said Mark Krolick, vice president, marketing at United Airlines. “For close to four decades, our employees have called upon their unique skills – transporting hundreds of thousands of customers every day, while working in rapidly changing weather conditions and providing exceptional service – to give the ‘power of flight’ to Team USA athletes, getting them to competitions around the globe.”

The new campaign features six athletes from the US Olympic team and six employees from across the airline. Promoting an athlete to such status is fairly common, of course, but doing it with airline crew is every bit the stretch of imagination you might think. Still, the way United and the ad agencies pulled this together is impressive.

Craig Cosentino, aka "Agent Cargo" posing at the event in NYC
Craig Cosentino, aka “Agent Cargo” posing at the event in NYC

The group picked a handful of common roles within the company – baggage handler, flight attendant, wing walker, and more – and promoted those to superhero status as well. Is Michael in ops team in Chicago really “capable of parting even the most menacing clouds to grant safe passage for all on board?” Of course not. But really only the controlling the weather part; the planning and coordination to ensure safe passage is incredible and the new campaign recognizes that.

Read More: United safety video re-ups with US Olympians

And when you’re a superhero you get a collectible action figure made. In this case the company commissioned a series of 12 figures – 6 athletes and 6 employees – as part of the campaign. Luger Erin “The Rocket” Hamlin’s toy comes with a sleek bodysuit for aerodynamics and detachable helmet. Craig “Agent Cargo” Cosentino’s high vis vest may have super powers as well, it would seem, as do the ear protectors included in the package. It is silly in so many ways, but also amazing.

The employees were at the event as well and it would be hard to describe their attitude as anything other than elated. Snapping a selfie with your very own action figure? Yeah, there was plenty of that.

"Winged Wonder" flight attendant Karla Gonzales De La Torre and her superhero model
“Winged Wonder” flight attendant Karla Gonzales De La Torre snapping a selfie with her superhero action figure

Also, the behind the scenes video from the making of the commercials is pretty nifty, though I’m generally a sucker for “behind the scenes” so no real surprise there.

Yes, it is a whole lot of PR action, but United pays handsomely for the sponsorship rights to be associated with Team USA. There was a similar effort with the 2016 Summer Games and the safety video. This is another fun way to show that off, especially including the crew in the effort.

Never miss another post: Sign up for email alerts and get only the content you want direct to your inbox.

Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

One Comment

Comments are closed.