Pope Francis has been putting controversial issues in the spotlight during his trip to the U.S., but the intense media coverage of the pontiff has also left two corporations basking in the limelight.
American Airlines and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles are reaping an enormous amount of free publicity by providing the pope’s transportation — via a Fiat hatchback 500L, his Jeep “Popemobile” and a plane American Airlines has dubbed “Shepherd One.”
Their company logos have gotten serious exposure from TV crews and news outlets that are following the pope’s visit to Washington, D.C., New York and later Philadelphia.
“If you’re going to buy the equivalent ad space, you’re talking about millions of dollars,” said Tim Maleeny, Havas Worldwide’s chief strategist.
Someone with the mass appeal of Pope Francis is exactly who companies want to be seen using their products. “It’s the kind of thing brands dream of,” Maleeny said.
Fiat wryly acknowledged the publicity bonanza early in the pope’s trip when it retweeted a photo of the pontiff leaving the airport in one of its cars and remarked, “Blessed.” The company later took down the tweet.
Using the companies’ products signifies that the pope chose those brands, which is more meaningful than an endorsement deal.
It may prove especially important for Fiat, which doesn’t have a strong customer base in the U.S. Neither company responded to requests for comment.