Norwegian Cruise Line invited travel agents to pitch a marketing plan to promote its Premium All Inclusive fare. Winner Kate Holroyd of Strawberry Holidays tells Harry Kemble about her pitch

Kate Holroyd, by her own admission, was very confident walking into the Travel Weekly offices to give her Norwegian Cruise Line marketing pitch.

She’d taken the day off work to travel to London by train from the northwest, where she co-runs Blackburn-based travel agency Strawberry Holidays with her mother-in-law and father-in-law.

Just a few weeks before Holroyd’s big day, NCL had invited agents to develop a two-month sales and marketing plan to promote its Premium All Inclusive fare.

NCL introduced its all-inclusive fare category to British sailings last year. It means passengers who sail with the line now have drinks, bottled water and gratuities included in the cost of their cruise.

The prize for the best pitch was £4,000 in marketing funds, a one-day consultancy from Karen Sequeira, NCL’s marketing director for the UK, Ireland, the Middle East and Africa, and business development director Nicky Foot, plus £1,000 for a night out for the winning agency’s team.

As an NCL fan who’d been on five cruises with the line since 2014, Holroyd felt the task was well within her grasp. She knew the NCL product from stern to bow.

“I was very confident,” says Holroyd, casting her mind back to the day. “I had confidence in my plan and I was not in that room to do any theatrics.

“I loved putting together the plan, but pitching it was fun too.”

In her initial entry for the competition, Holroyd (pictured, left) submitted a short video of herself presenting her marketing plan for NCL.

The day of the pitch was also her daughter’s birthday. As Holroyd had to pick up her daughter from school that afternoon, she could not let her pitch overrun.

The judging panel consisted of Clia UK director Andy Harmer, Travel Weekly editor-in-chief Lucy Huxley and NCL’s marketing executives.

Heavily pregnant with her second child, Holroyd says the fact she is expecting helped give her a steely determination to win.

She adds that being a mum is the “toughest job anyone could have”.

Holroyd pitched a digital campaign using social media platforms Facebook and YouTube that would encourage people to engage with Strawberry Holidays.

The videos shown on Strawberry Holidays’ social media platforms will use NCL content and urge customers to contact the agency to book one of its cruises.

Holroyd’s campaign was boosted by the promise of 45 minutes’ air time for NCL on a BBC Radio Lancashire programme that has 350,000 listeners.

The target audiences were over-40s with teenage children, time-poor business owners with a sense of adventure and 60-plus holidaymakers looking for a multigenerational cruise.

She says: “At Strawberry Holidays, our core customers are empty-nesters. They are cash-rich and time-poor, who fit perfectly with a Premium All Inclusive fare.

“As a family proposition, NCL far outweighs any other cruise line out there.”

Holroyd will spend the marketing budget she won on media promotions to build the Strawberry Holidays brand and to host events with new customers at gastropubs in Lancashire.

Holroyd set up Strawberry Holidays with her in-laws Fiona and Michael Holroyd just over 18 months ago. The team of three are all homeworkers and often hold consultations with clients in their sitting rooms.

“After having a baby, there are some anxieties about taking maternity leave when you have your own business,” she says.

“Winning NCL’s Pitch Your Plan competition has given me an extra level of belief.”

‘Close call between shortlisted agents’

Karen Sequeira marketing director UK, Ireland and MEA, Norwegian Cruise Line

“It was a close call, as all of the entries were of an extremely high level, with impressive presentations on the day. However, one agency stood out. Kate delivered a well‑thought-through plan that demonstrated creativity and practicality in meeting our objectives.

She also went beyond the traditional agency outlook by providing an out-of-hours service with a personal touch. It was a close call between the shortlisted agents, which also included Ann Anglesea of Delmar World in Wrexham, Daniel Reed of Reed Travel in South Yorkshire and Jennifer Lynch of Arrange My Escape in Worcester. It was a tough decision, but Kate’s plan and presentation exceeded our expectations.”

‘Kate is a great advocate for cruising’

Andy Harmer director, Clia UK

“We liked Kate’s passion and that she had gone into business with her mother-in-law. We liked her imagination and creativity. She had a clear vision and was determined to make it work. Kate’s campaign used every social media platform available. She’s a great advocate for cruising.”