Virgin Atlantic – Still red hot, even in a downturn

Principal Author: Richard Cordiner – RKCR/Y&R

Contributing Authors: Joanna Bamford and Tom Barnes – RKCR/Y&R; Zehra Chatoo – Manning Gottlieb OMD; Tosin Osho and Paul Sturgeon – BrandScience


For learnings around advertising in a recession, in a value driven market and with a tough competitive set, look no further than Virgin Atlantic. In the summer of 2008, the airline industry saw passenger numbers falling and oil prices soaring. Virgin Atlantic's response was to increase its marketing spend and concentrate on brand-building communications to rekindle its spirit and tackle competitor failings head on, but in a typically Virgin style. In January 2009 Virgin Atlantic celebrated its 25th birthday by launching ‘Still red hot', leveraging impactful TV and high profile outdoor presence to bring us the Virgin cabin crew dressed in iconic red, striding through Gatwick to a soundtrack from Frankie Goes to Hollywood. ‘Still red hot’ is estimated to have driven 20% of overall revenue during the campaign timeline, equating to a payback of £10.58 for every £1 invested. The brand TV alone delivered a payback of £14.64.