Virgin and Entourage – a match made from up above?

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The boys are back–and navigating uncharted territory.

Ok. It comes as no surprise to “Entourage” fans that Medellin gets passed over at Cannes, which sends our hero Vince (Adrien Grenier) into seclusion—in true Hollywood form—on a remote island to repair his fallen ego with booze and babes… but getting to watch it all happen while on a romp from JFK to Las Vegas? How much fun can a girl (or boy) take?

For the launch of its fifth season of Entourage, HBO took to the sky by partnering with Virgin America and creating “Entourage Air.” “During the month of September, first-class guests on Virgin America’s new nonstop JFK-LAS route will fly ‘Entourage Class’ and receive A-list perks like noise-canceling headphones, champagne, Godiva chocolates, Kiehl’s personal products, Altoids and ‘Entourage Air’ blankets and eye masks.”

The stunt is significant also because it marks the “first-ever in-flight premiere of a cable or broadcast program in the domestic skies.” BG suspects it may very well mark the beginning of a new wave in purchasing ad space…

At a time where the airline industry continues to keep biting the hand that feeds them–the traveler, BG applauds the Virgin and Entourage partnership. Why? Because the two sexy brands are demographically suited and they are able to offer a unique, one-of-a-kind experience to hungry air travelers. What will be interesting to watch is how the airline industry pushes this trend further and decides to capitalize on ad placements within the planes themselves. Will they strike the delicate balance between advertising as part of the experience or will they barrage the captive consumer until they scream “Uncle!”? Ads in formerly forbidden places have gained acceptance–folks have adjusted to ads wedged in before movie trailers and then don’t forget the uber-billboarded and wall-papered highways, subways, bus stations, pedicabs and more all around us. So airplanes can’t be far behind… the question is: “Will they do it with a hammer or a feather?” The weary traveler—and even more tired consumer—will only accept so much in the name of generating revenue to, ahem!, offset operational costs.

A unique twist for Mr. Branson and his year-old start-up, Virgin America, is that 100% of the company’s revenue will fund development of clean fuel technology for its planes, a project that Sir Richard estimates could cost upwards of $3 billion. “Entourage” star Adrian Grenier shares Sir Richard’s passion for green, particularly in the eco sense—he’s coproducing a new show for the Discovery Channel called “The Green Life,” which is aimed at helping everyone make their lives more eco-friendly.

In addition to the September “Entourage” experiential bonanza and the panache of youth and celebrity marketing, Virgin’s green mission puts them ahead of the pack, lifting their brand miles higher than other, more pedestrian airlines. And young Mr. Grenier’s brand is getting his own little turbo boost too—BG hadn’t been particularly aware of him as “Mr. Green” before he became “Alter Eco” on Discovery and part of the “Entourage”/Virgin partnership. For some reason, BG’s a bit dubious of what feels like the sudden greening of Mr. Grenier… but overall she’s buying it. Those deep blue eyes would melt a glacier of suspicion…

Filed: boys, branding, entertainment, travel

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