Launched in 2011, JetBlue's Soar with Reading (SWR) program is designed to encourage kids' imaginations to take flight through reading. The program's goal is to get books into the hands of kids in need. As an issue that is important to crewmembers, customers and the community, JetBlue's is working to help foster a love of reading from an early age.
JetBlue faced the challenge of differentiating this year's SWR program and gaining recognition for the program. In its first four years, SWR had donated more than $1,250,000 worth of books; however, the effort was still grassroots in its approach and the airline had received little attention for its efforts among traditional media, education influencers or social audiences.
Leveraging the program's fifth anniversary as an opportunity to reinvigorate SWR, JetBlue devised a strategy to:
To better understand how to innovate the SWR program, JetBlue commissioned a study by Dr. Susan Neuman. The study examined three cities (Detroit, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles) and found that all three metropolises had book deserts, or areas where there is a concentration of poverty and limited access to reading resources. D.C. by far had the most staggering statistic, with only one age-appropriate book available for every 830 children.
Children in these areas lack an essential ingredient in learning and thus their educational growth is stunted – especially during the summer months. These findings provide a snapshot of a larger education epidemic in America and is an issue that demands innovative solutions.
Using the study's findings JetBlue devised a strategy to dispense free, age-appropriate books to children via vending machines. JetBlue launched the first-of-its-kind SWR book vending machine pilot program in the area and committed to bringing 100,000 new books to this community. JetBlue revealed the concept at the Social Innovation Summit held in June. The summit attendees immediately supported the program and were interested in developing strategic partnerships for future years - establishing JetBlue as a thought leader in the CSR space.
With this momentum, JetBlue worked with community partners to place book vending machines at high traffic locations (a church, a grocery store and a community center). Families were encouraged to visit the machines as often as possible, which were restocked with new titles every few weeks. To garner attention, JetBlue planned a launch event for media as well as hosted weekly reading hours at the vending machines, featuring local television personalities – leveraging their reach on social to amplify awareness of the program.
To engage the entire JetBlue customer network, JetBlue also launched a public, online voting competition. The online #BookBattle allowed people to select which city would win 100,000 children's books in 2016. Five cities – Detroit, Houston, Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles and New York – competed for customers' votes throughout July and August. Targeted media outreach to these local markets encouraged the public to vote for their own city as well as utilized research findings where applicable. We also planned a series of events in #BookBattle cities around the country to generate awareness and interest in the online voting competition. Through targeted media outreach, we secured interviews with both national and local JetBlue representatives to speak about the program, highlight the research findings and encourage the public to vote online.
We engaged celebrity spokesperson actress Victoria Justice for the New York event and a dedicated media day, allowing Justice to speak about the SWR program, the online #BookBattle and her own love of reading. Additionally, we reached her devoted fans and followers through her social media channels, especially Twitter and Instagram.
To announce Detroit as the winning city, we enlisted Victoria Justice to create a video congratulating Detroiters for rallying and receiving more than 590,000 votes. In addition, we made targeted outreach to local press, securing both broadcast and online coverage in the market.
The Soar with Reading 2015 program was a tremendous success, providing JetBlue with national recognition for this CSR initiative. The campaign garnered more than 564 million traditional earned media impressions and more than 100 million social impressions solely amongst media and education influencers. The program received praise on social media from education experts, nonprofit organizations and members of the media, including former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Paid support for the campaign garnered more than 70,500 impressions and nearly 35,000 engagements across social platforms.
The online book battle received more than 1.2 million votes over the course of two months – generating 12 times more engagement with the Soar with Reading website than in 2014. To announce the winner of the #BookBattle, program spokesperson Victoria Justice released a video on her Instagram channel, generating more than 95,000 likes on that post alone.
As a result of the social media support, the program more than 30,000 books were donated directly from the vending machines and the remaining books are being distributed through key partners in the D.C. area.