The association is not what you first think of; this news is much more banal. Bombardier in September announced John Travolta was to be its “brand ambassador” for the company’s business jets. This week Embraer announced they were going to use Jackie Chan as their “brand ambassador” for their business jets.
How is it going to play out? Are business jet buyers going to be influenced by movie stars? Besides, what can movie stars bring to this highly competitive business?
Bombardier’s selection seems the way smarter of the two. Travolta is an avgeek of the highest order – take a look at his home in Florida. Mr Travolta is a well-known aviation buff and has been a Qantas “brand ambassador” for a long time, owning an orginal Qantas 707 to boot. (But take closer peek at this image of his home – is that a Gulfstream business jet? Ahem, a Gulfstream and he is the Bombardier pitchman?) He owns a classic Learjet 24 and recently got his 11th pilot license, which was for the Challenger. He also owns a Challenger 601, which is his 11th airplane. Bombardier could not have found a more credible person to be their brand ambassador. With his aviation credentials, Mr Travolta knows of what he speaks and might actually be influential in the market. He certainly will attract trade press and other media attention, providing brand support.
What we know is that Mr Chan will be taking delivery of a Legacy 650 later this year – the first in China. And it may be China that Embraer is looking at rather than an influential avgeek angle. There is another item on Embraer‘s agenda – they are negotiating with AVIC about establishing a Legacy 600/650 production line in China, using the infrastructure, financial resources and workforce from their joint venture company Harbin Embraer Aircraft Industry. The Harbin venture has been the site where Embraer was building its regional jets for China. But China is a place where other aviation firms have tripped – like McDonnell Douglas. To date Airbus has had more success. Given China’s domestic aerospace ambitions, who knows for how long Airbus’ success will continue?
So while the Bombardier pitchman has a straightforward branding support task, the Embraer selection seems more nuanced. Embraer has a bigger picture it may be working on. Mr Chan’s sales support appears to be a be about a lot more than selling business jets.