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From the 8th Annual Shorty Awards

Holy Popemoji!

Finalist in Emojis


The Catholic Church wanted to connect with Millennials, the largest generation alive and those most apt to have abandoned any official church affiliation. Unlike the serious nature of typical Church communications and doctrine, Popemoji were developed to capitalize on its magnetic leader and open people's minds to a new, digitally savvy Church. The fun and relevant digital engagement tool would hopefully appeal to and be shared by a wide ranging public before, during and after Pope Francis' historic trip to the United States. For added relevancy, and sharability, Popemoji designs captured the iconic and cultural references of each city he visited. They also incorporated some of Pope Francis's personal passion for sports and his Vatican directive to use social media to reach a larger population and increase the relevancy of the ancient Church. To make the Popemoji even more shareable, the custom emoji and GIFS, also included the pope waving from his famous Popemobile, standing in front of an animated US flag, and on the wings of Shepard One, his official plane with the message, "On my way".

Capitalizing on the Pope's huge global popularity, they genuinely captured the whimsical nature of the Pope himself and rose above standard interest in religious and political news crossing over to pop culture landscape. The Popemoji left an indelible mark on the American public long after the Pope left U.S. soil.

Strategy and Execution

Strategy:Design and distribute humorous custom emoji of Pope Francis to support his historic US trip, bringing the monumental event to the digital generation in unique ways. The campaign was integrated online and offline,and leveraged legacy media (Daily Show, SNL, Today Show, CBS Evening News, Elite Daily, Mashable)

Implementation:The launch began in Times Square, college campuses and Catholic youth groups 10 days in advance. Thousands of "Pope-on-a-stick", Popemoji t-shirts, and stickers were distributed.

A series of humorous Vines including "Goodbye Felcia to old emoji. Hello Popemoji" 750k +loops; an Influencer campaign promoted the set.

Relationships with Twitter, Vine, Instagram, Facebook & Snapchat were leveraged to amplify further including a Global Our Story.

A Social media command center ensured 24/7 engagement on all channels and a digital street team of 60 Millennials posted onsite and virtually- 4million posts per day.

Key features: minimal religious images insured appeal for non Catholics, and casual fans of the Church and Pope.

54 Popemoji and 14 GIFS captured iconic and cultural references of each city like eating a Philly cheesesteak, ringing the Liberty Bell , and riding a NY taxi.. Pope Francis' passion for sports included the Pontifex heading a soccer ball, throwing an American football and twirling a basketball.

Emphasizing social and digital sharing to elevate wider accessibility and relevancy for the Church, the set also included taking a selfie, tweeting on a smart phone, and surfing a mosh pit.

For increased shareability, the emoji and GIFS, also included waving from the Popemobile, standing in front of an animated US flag, and on the wings of his plane with the message, "On my way".


Since mid September 2015 1.3million Popemoji have been shared on every continent. At the time, downloads of the custom Popemoji keyboard were only outpaced by Disney's Minions emoji set with 64k keyboard downloads the first week. An engagement rate of 9 to 1 remains intact six months later and Popemoji have earned 26.4million impressions.

While they were conceived to capture the imagination of the young, people as old as ninety including staunch Catholics and atheists talked about and shared the unique Popemoji.

With exposure swelling well beyond religious, political, or tech outlets, Popemoji crossed into pop culture on late night and morning shows, in People and Time magazines, Mashable and Millennial outlets like Elite Daily.

One promotional Vine, "The Pope as Rocky" racked up more than 1.3 million views.

By engaging in conversations where people communicate, capturing Pope Francis' personality and openness, the stickiness and viral effect of the campaign was off the charts.

The campaign's sponsor, documented posts like, "I'm not even Catholic and I love this Pope." "I haven't been to church in years but this Pope may just change my mind." By enabling new conversations in a fun and different way, Aleteia intends to keep that community engaged over the long term and around the globe. They've since commissioned additional sets with Christmas, Mexican, Easter and Peace themed emoji and are releasing them in seven languages Spring 2016.


Video for Holy Popemoji!

Entrant Company / Organization Name

Kathleen Hessert, Aleteia USA


Entry Credits