The new promotion, "Your Summer Getaway," aims to boost interest in AOL AAdvantage Rewards -- a quasi-frequent flier program the two developed following an alliance last year -- by promoting it heavily across the AOL service and its affiliated Web properties.
Participants in the program earn "miles" for purchasing American Airlines flights, for making e-commerce transactions, and for filling out surveys. Users can redeem those miles in America Online's e-commerce areas in addition to receiving discounts on American Airlines.
To get the word out to users about the program, the online service is debuting a site positioned as a "one-stop resource" dedicated to summer vacations, said AOL chief operating officer Jay Rappaport. The content area will feature travel deals, vacation-planning ideas and other trip-related content.
However, the centerpiece of the deal is a contest that Dulles, Va.-based AOL will be promoting to its subscribers and members of AOL-owned Netscape.com and Compuserve.com. Every week, the company will offer users entries into a contest in which they can win a million AOL AAdvantage miles.
The catch is that to be eligible for the contest, an AOL user also must be a member of the incentive program. Consequently, every Thursday in June, the company will run time-limited sign-up areas for the "Summer Getaway" contest, in which users can register for AOL AAdvantage and the sweepstakes simultaneously. Several million-mile packages will be awarded weekly throughout the month, AOL said.
In addition to the sweepstakes, the program will also provide additional ways for users to earn bonus miles, though the companies did not elaborate on the plans.
"The sweepstakes and bonus offers also are a great way to encourage people to explore all the benefits that AOL AAdvantage offers," said Henry Joyner, senior vice president of American Airlines.
Incentive programs have long been a major promotional tool for commercial air carriers, but recent weeks have seen increased attention paid to Web-based programs. In addition to the new promotional push behind AOL-American Airlines' joint program (which is administered by Netcentives), United Airlines earlier this week announced its intention to buy MyPoints.com in an effort to beef up its own programs.
The reason? While incentive programs like frequent fliers clubs are commonplace in the offline world, the relatively low cost of online promotion -- versus direct mail and other traditional methods -- makes online variants even more appealing to bottom-line-conscious marketers.
But marketers are quick to point out that running an incentive program via the Web also benefits consumers.
"More and more people are going online to make their travel arrangements, and this promotion is a great example of how we continue to program great events for our members that improve the online experience, provide value, and make life easier," Rappaport said.