Even though the Nova Star ferry will be sailing daily between Portland and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, beginning next month, the ship’s christening will occur in Boston.
Boston wins the honor because its big television market will be the focus of the marketing campaigns of both the ferry operator and the province’s tourism agency.
“Boston is the bull’s-eye, and the circles go out from there,” said Dennis Bailey, spokesman for Nova Star Cruises.
The Nova Scotia Tourism Agency is adopting the same Boston-centric strategy. It plans to run ads in the Boston Herald and Boston Globe, on billboards in Boston and in transit stations.
The tourism agency also has a partnership with the Boston Red Sox, which has designated May 18 as Nova Scotia Day at Fenway Park. The broadcast of the game between the Red Sox and Detroit Tigers that day will include images of scenic views of Nova Scotia.
Speaking to the Nova Scotia media last week during a tour of the Nova Star, Patrick Sullivan, chief executive officer of the Nova Scotia Tourism Agency, said there will also be signs promoting Nova Scotia behind home plate for 10 Red Sox games beginning April 29.
In addition, the World Series trophy will be sent to Nova Scotia on the Nova Star this summer, perhaps accompanied by some retired Red Sox players, he said.
He did not say what plans there are for the trophy once it arrives in the province.
The Red Sox, which is the closest major league club to Nova Scotia, has a following in the province, along with the Toronto Blue Jays. But the Red Sox don’t view the trophy’s upcoming international voyage as a way to extend Red Sox Nation to Canada, said Zineb Curran, director of corporate communications for the Red Sox.
“The partnership is less about expanding the Red Sox fan base to Nova Scotia as it is a vehicle for the Nova Scotia tourism department to reach Boston-area residents and get them interested in visiting Nova Scotia,” Curran said.
The Nova Scotia Tourism Agency will have to spend a lot of money to reach the Red Sox fan base because the club’s reach is so broad, said Terry Lozoff, managing director of GYK Antler, a marketing company with offices in Boston and Manchester, N.H.
“It’s obviously a big dollar audience,” he said. “They are looking to make a huge splash.”
So why is Boston getting all this attention?
The simple answer is that it’s the closest large metropolitan area to the ferry terminal in Portland, Bailey said. The Boston television market, which stretches from southern New Hampshire to Cape Cod to Worcester, Mass., has 2.4 million houses with televisions, according to the most recent Nielsen research.
Moreover, the median household income in Greater Boston in 2012 was $71,738, which means there are plenty of people with enough discretionary money to spend on travel to Nova Scotia, Bailey said. But its more southerly location means the Nova Star can’t make daily round trips between Boston and Yarmouth. The 212 miles between Portland and Yarmouth are covered in a 10-hour voyage, one-way.
Bailey noted that the Nova Star is more like a cruise ship than a ferry. A couple taking a car and renting an ocean-view cabin in the peak summer period would spend about $1,000 for round-trip tickets on the Nova Star.
The Nova Scotia government has committed to spending $21 million in Canadian dollars over seven years to subsidize the ferry service. Some of that money is earmarked for marketing, including $1.5 million for this year.
The Nova Scotia Tourism Agency has its own budget. While there has been some coordination, the ferry operator and the tourism agency are working independently, Bailey said.
He said Nova Star will begin airing television commercials this week, primarily in the Boston market.
Of course, everyone who travels on the Nova Star will have to travel to Portland, and that means more business for restaurants, hotels and retail stores in Greater Portland, Bailey said.
He noted that the Nova Star’s website promotes Maine as a destination and links to the state’s tourism website, www.visitmaine.com.
“We are hoping people come and spend time here,” he said.
The christening will take place in Boston on May 12. The ferry is scheduled to leave Portland on its maiden voyage to Nova Scotia on May 15.
Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at: