U.S. Airways to Market to Gay Audience Online

Air carrier U.S. Airways is aiming to boost its online marketing efforts to gay and lesbian consumers, through a new advertising deal with Web content firm PlanetOut Partners.

The marketing agreement, which a spokesman said is valued in the “high six figures,” will see PlanetOut’s sites — PlanetOut.com and Gay.com — featuring U.S. Airways as the built-in booking engine for air, hotel and car reservations.

The partnership, and U.S. Airways’ booking engine, will be promoted throughout Gay.com and PlanetOut.com.

Additionally, PlanetOut will feature U.S. Airways at more than a dozen gay and lesbian pride events at which it will have a presence this year. At the events, which take place in the U.S. and Canada, the air carrier would receive prime signage and word-of-mouth promotion.

Furthermore, the two companies said they also plan to develop additional services, including co-branded vacation packages.

The agreement is the latest in a string of advertising deals for PlanetOut with well-known traditional advertisers. To date, the firm has signed similar marketing programs with companies including IBM and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.

As with earlier deals, U.S. Airways’ agreement with PlanetOut aims to take advantage of the buying power of the gay and lesbian community, which San Francisco-based PlanetOut says spends about $450 billion annually. (@Plan ranks PlanetOut’s sites among the best in the U.S. for reaching affluent, single men.)

Furthermore, gay and lesbian consumers are “seven times more likely to take six or more flights in one year” than the domestic average, said PlanetOut spokesman Bryce Eberhart.

Like many Web media companies, PlanetOut said that it’s finding deals combining online and offline marketing to be sought after by advertisers — especially by traditional marketers eager to reach gay audiences.

“That’s our ability, to give companies great exposure to the gay community, through the Web and through mass exposure at events,” Eberhart said. “It’s something they value.”

Eberhart attributes big marketers’ recent increase in gay-oriented online advertising to the Web’s capacity to aggregate niche audiences, who are typically more responsive to ads and offers targeted to their interests.

“It’s the first time [gay and lesbian communities are] able to be reached en masse. If you look at the highest circulation magazine, you’re only going to get circulation of 100,000 or less,” Eberhart said. “Online, you’re taking millions. And that makes it worthwhile to start tapping this market, which has a lot of disposable income.”

Meanwhile, U.S. Airways describes the marketing push as in keeping with its philosophy of serving the gay and lesbian community. (The airline is one of the few to have personnel dedicated to wooing gay and lesbian travelers.)

“We are excited to establish this new business relationship with both PlanetOut.com and Gay.com,” said Steven Tracas, the carrier’s vice president of sales. “This new agreement further demonstrates U.S. Airways’ commitment to providing quality travel service to the gay and lesbian community.”

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