Short List
Category F04. Social Behaviour & Cultural Insight
Name Company Position
Kat Thomas One Green Bean London Founder & Global Executive Creative Director
Sophie Nicholson One Green Bean London Associate Business Director
Grace Peatey One Green Bean London Account Director
Andy Ruscoe One Green Bean London Senior Account Manager

Why is this work relevant for PR?

This initiative bravely and publicly championed Virgin’s commitment to diversity in a way that was celebratory and entertaining, yet still provocative. Whilst the topic is a serious one, Virgin’s distinct personality and ‘out and proud’ attitude shines through. It took 9 months to make the scheduling of a dedicated flight a reality, but we were convinced that it would not only deliver HUGE media attention and noise in social media, but also a quantifiable commercial return. As the fastest selling flight in UK aviation history it made an epic public statement about Virgin’s values.


Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays have been actively committed to supporting LGBTQ+ travellers for over a decade. Partnerships have included a 10+ year relationship with Attitude Magazine, the UK’s best-selling gay magazine and headline sponsorship of the annual Attitude Awards, in addition to delivering hard hitting news campaigns that have highlighted the uncomfortable disparity between the experiences of straight and LGBTQ+ couples on holiday. As well as raising awareness of the issue, Virgin has rolled out a program to lobby destinations which traditionally aren’t inclusive and ensure there is tolerance and equality in the hotels represented by Virgin Holidays. No airline or tour operator comes close to the work that Virgin has done in this space. We were asked to mark 10 years of LGBTQ+ support by doing something that would make a positive statement about Virgin’s commitment to inclusivity that would be celebratory and distinctly Virgin.

Describe the creative idea (20% of vote)

In 1969 the Stonewall Uprising in New York City was the catalyst for the fight for LGBTQ+ rights. Fifty years later, New York City held World Pride in June 2019, honouring the bravery and achievements of the LGBTQ+ community over five decades. We launched the PRIDE FLIGHT – the world’s FIRST specially chartered flight to celebrate queer culture at 30,000 feet. Staffed entirely LGBTQ+ pilots and crew, with a host of British LGBTQ+ ‘royalty’ onboard, the Pride Flight was the biggest party in the sky the world has ever seen. To launch the campaign, we enlisted the help of a very special ambassador – American Broadway singer and star of the Netflix comedy hit Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt… Tituss Burgess. As our honorary captain of the Pride Flight, Tituss was the perfect front man to star in our promotional campaign film to launch the flight.

Describe the PR strategy (30% of vote)

Virgin has done extensive research over the last decade, bringing to life the stark realities of the situation – a third of LGBTQ+ travellers have experienced discrimination, judgement and ridicule and only 5% say they feel comfortable showing affection to a loved one on holiday. 40% admitted to ‘going back in the closet’ and becoming a different person when travelling. Whilst hoteliers, tour operators and destination tourist boards were aware of Virgin’s inclusivity commitment, the wider public wasn’t. Partly because the British media is reluctant to cover LGBTQ+ issues. We needed an idea the press couldn’t ignore. An idea that would generate mass editorial coverage and momentum in social media. Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays define their audience by a mindset. “Maximisers” share a Virgin attitude – positive, open minded, interested in other cultures who are regular social media users. Beyond the LGBTQ+ community specifically, this was our target audience.

Describe the PR execution (20% of vote)

Using the iconic 2009 Virgin Atlantic brand TVC, Still Red Hot, as creative reference to drive saliency, we shot a humorous Pride Flight teaser film that riffed the original ad. The film featured Tituss in a Virgin Atlantic pilot’s uniform, flanked by a squad of well-known British Drag Queens in Virgin crew uniform, walking with pride through the airport, to the surprise of watching passengers. Tituss closed with a compelling CTA to book the once in a lifetime flight experience. A comprehensive UK focused PR strategy underpinned the announcement, targeting the UK media landscape. The film was also launched on social media via Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays social platforms. Other Virgin businesses around the world shared the content, including Virgin founder Richard Branson. This campaign’s activation was grounded in EARNED and OWNED channels, with zero investment in paid media.

List the results (30% of vote)

This campaign SOLD out an entire plane in just THREE HOURS. An unprecedented first in the British airline industry and a first worldwide. It was the fastest selling flight in Virgin Atlantic’s 35-year history. The channels used were PR and social ONLY, with zero investment in ATL. The lunch of the Pride Flight reached 413.6 million people through earned media. The film achieved over 136 million views in 15+ countries, with 870,000 shares (HUGE!). The campaign also delivered a 22% increase in bookings LDN to NYC for June 19. Plus a further 390,000+ visitors to the website.

Please tell us about the social behaviour and / or cultural insights that inspired your campaign

The UK is a broadly tolerant society, but there is still a lot of work to do to make LGBTQ+ acceptance part of British culture. One of the biggest barriers is the British media, which is dominated by sensationalist tabloids. The most influential news outlets still demonstrate a bias around covering positive LGBTQ stories, with the likes of The Sun and The Daily Mail claiming their readers ‘just aren’t interested’. This had a huge baring on the creative for this campaign – whilst sceptics might call drag queens clichéd, it was critical that we could frame the story in a way that would get traction in British mainstream media. Virgin has a proud record of championing equality. The airline is a huge LGBTQ+ employer and has been active in challenging governments and tourism bodies in locations like the Africa and the Caribbean to review their policies.