At the Elton John AIDS Foundation, we set out to raise awareness that the HIV/AIDS crisis is not a thing of the past; three new people are diagnosed with HIV every minute and each year AIDS claims hundreds of lives. The Foundation launched The Rocket Fund and the let your "Inner Elton" out campaign on June 1, 2023, to turbocharge our mission to reach the most vulnerable people who need our support. If everyone can access HIV education, testing and compassionate care, our goal to end AIDS in our lifetime will become a reality.
The Foundation’s goal was to build a dynamic, integrated communications campaign that engaged key stakeholders in the Elton John AIDS Foundation’s mission and generate passion for The Rocket Fund’s goal to raise $125 million to accelerate the end of HIV/AIDS by 2030. The Foundation’s objectives were to:
The team at the Elton John AIDS Foundation set out with the goal of launching a campaign that would disrupt the assumption that HIV/AIDS is no longer an urgent issue, and equip the public with the knowledge that HIV/AIDS is one problem they can directly contribute to solving. With a shoestring budget and many sleepless nights, the team built a dynamic, integrated communications campaign to generate awareness of and passion for The Rocket Fund’s goal to raise $125 million to accelerate an end to HIV and AIDS by 2030.
For phase one, we invested in a research plan to understand our target audience’s perception of the issue area of HIV/AIDS, engagement barriers and opportunities to engage within HIV/AIDS. Research included collecting reactions to early stages of the Inner Elton campaign and our messaging was refined based on those initial results. Launching during a key moment as saturated as Pride Month was a challenge we welcomed and compiled these insights to ensure we would deliver an authentic and diverse campaign.
Despite our non-existent talent budget, we identified a significant number notable people and influencers to include as Rocket Fund co-chairs and ambassadors to kickstart and/or take part in the Inner Elton challenge. Requirements for inclusion were to have a substantial social media following, broad awareness in mainstream media and a connection with the issue or adjacent issue, such as health equity. Once identified we tailored each individual ask per influencer, and had to pivot often due to demanding talent schedules. For talent secured, we hosted four pro-bono photo and film shoots on both coasts to capture Inner Elton content to roll-out throughout the length of the campaign, including unique photos and inclusion in the #InnerElton challenge videos and Tik Tok/IG reel transition videos. This included extensive planning, prep and sourcing of Inner Elton props with a very tight budget.
To drive both awareness and donations for the Foundation’s lifesaving work, on “Rocket Day,” Elton John and the co-chairs of The Rocket Fund David Furnish, Donatella Versace, Tani Austin and David Geffen challenged supporters to let their #InnerElton out throughout Pride Month. Letting your #InnerElton out is about proudly expressing your authentic self, showing love for others and taking compassionate action. Supporters were encouraged to join the movement by posting photos of themselves on social media wearing their own take on Elton's signature looks – or whatever makes them feel their true self – with the hashtag #InnerElton. By demonstrating support to vulnerable communities we can drive awareness and raise funds for the ongoing fight to overcome stigma and discrimination to end AIDS for good. Notable people of the Foundation who have joined to let their #InnerElton out across social media include Dolly Parton, Hilary Duff, Neil Patrick Harris, Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, JoJo Siwa, Heidi Klum, Smokey Robinson, Nathan Chen and more.
From a media perspective, the team coordinated two global press releases announcing the Fund and secured a live interview with Elton John on Good Morning America to announce The Rocket Fund and let your Inner Elton out campaign. As part of the segment, Elton challenged JoJo Siwa, Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, and Neil Patrick Harris to join the movement on social media. We worked with Rocket Fund Co-Chair Donatella Versace and Ambassadors including JoJo and Michaela Jaé to provide interviews with top-tier publications such as People, Huffington Post, Vanity Fair, WWD and more. We will continue to pursue media opportunities throughout the year by tying campaign storytelling to seasonal, current events and pop culture moments.
To summarize our biggest challenge - we had an extremely limited budget based on the scale of our launch goals. Furthermore, we had no past insights to pull from as this was the Foundation’s first major public awareness campaign. Our small but mighty team had lofty goals and after many sleepless nights and requested support from our pro-bono partners, we’re confident we exceeded our launch goals.
To date, the campaign has garnered over 6.8 billion media impressions, a press release reach of over 505 million and 1,590 total articles. The campaign has been featured in notable outlets such as Good Morning America, Sky News, Vanity Fair, People, Bloomberg, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, The Advocate, and Hello! Magazine to name a few (linked below).
The campaign has also driven significant growth across social media with over 58K social engagements, 2.1M influencer collab-post impressions and over 253M paid and in-kind advertising reach. Notable celebrity allies who have joined us on social media in letting their Inner Elton out include Hilary Duff (26.1 million followers), Dolly Parton (6 million followers), Charlotte Tilbury (5.7 million followers) and Tan France (4 million followers). This level of engagement not only signifies the resonance of our message but also the growing community of individuals who are committed to creating positive change.
While we are not slowing down any time soon, our initial results are viewed as a success. Through media and social awareness, we have raised $90.4M of the campaign’s $125M total fundraising goal (as of June 2023). Thanks to the generosity of The Rocket Fund Co-Chair Donatella Versace, all donations during June’s Pride Month were matched up to $300,000.
Additional results include: