Southwest's efforts work in concert for 40th anniversary

Southwest reached out to GSD&M and Linhart PR to create a month-long rock 'n' roll celebration for the airline's 40th anniversary.

Company: Southwest Airlines
Campaign: 40th Anniversary Celebration
Agency mix: GSD&M (Southwest AOR), Linhart PR (community and media relations, social media)
In-house team: Vanessa Peace, manager, marketing; Leslie Shults, culture activities team lead

What is historical, yet relevant? Meaningful, yet fun? Whitney Eichinger, senior communications manager at Southwest, sought the answer in pulling together the marketing, PR, and culture activities team in March last year to find a theme for the airline's 40th birthday celebration.

"Southwest has such a rich history," she adds. "It takes both our customers and employees to make this such a wonderful place. We wanted to reflect that."

Southwest reached out to longtime AOR GSD&M and Linhart PR to create a month-long rock 'n' roll celebration spanning San Antonio, Dallas, and Houston. Beginning in San Antonio May 12, Southwest partnered with SeaWorld to launch the event. Three aircrafts were painted in Shamoo livery and SeaWorld animals greeted deplaning passengers. For the next 40 days, prizes included Southwest tickets and free entry to any SeaWorld Park. SeaWorld also hosted an evening event for staff and partners.

In addition, the day signaled the start of the Conservation In Action Tour: 40 Projects for 40 Years, a "green" collaboration between the airline and the Student Observation Association.

In mid-May, employees began daily posts on the company's blog "Nuts About Southwest," starting with a 2011 hire and counting backward to 1971.

Linhart PR coordinated a June 18 celebration at Denver's Southwest Porch at Skyline Park.

"We wanted to bring the Southwest spirit and culture beyond the airport and into the heart of the city," says agency president Sharon Linhart. Southwest also dedicated its June issue of Spirit to the 40th anniversary and included "40 Ways to Celebrate," a section featuring 40 up-and-coming artists.

The road leading into Dallas' Love Field Airport was renamed Herb Kelleher Way in honor of Southwest's founder. The company, with the help of Boeing and GE, also retired its first Boeing 737-300, dedicating it to the Frontiers of Flight museum.

GSD&M arranged a mini- tour with Motopony. The Seattle-based band flew with Southwest through Baltimore, St. Louis, Dallas, and Los Angeles, performing in terminals and on flights.

"People were loving that the band played in-flight," says GSD&M senior media relations manager Melanie Mahaffey. "They had never experienced anything like that before."

Contribution by Bernadette Casey.

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