Why Delta is investing in SkyMiles loyalty marketing for the first time

Delta Air Lines has operated its own loyalty program for decades, yet it wasn’t until today that the airline began putting significant marketing behind it. The Atlanta-based airline is debuting “Grow Your World,” the first paid media campaign highlighting SkyMiles, which was rebranded in 1995 after launching as a frequent fliers program 14 years earlier.

“This is a reflection of the increased investment that we put in the program itself,” said Shannon Womack, director of lifecycle marketing at Delta, noting additions like free WiFi and a recent partnership with Starbucks. “We just want to tell the story and highlight the fact that with this partnership, our growing ecosystem, you can see everyday purchases take you a long way.”

The campaign, which Womack noted is on par in terms of financial investment with Delta’s brand-building work, includes one 30-second anthem spot that will air on streaming services and digital media. Delta also created shorter 15-second spots devoted to brand partners Starbucks and AmEx and clips of six seconds that will air on social media and digital channels. As part of the campaign, Delta is also sponsoring a concert series this spring.

In the primary spot, a couple is shown meeting for the first time. As their relationship develops, so do their SkyMiles points until eventually they accrue enough to take a trip together.

“Because when your miles grow, so does your world,” says longtime partner Viola Davis in a voiceover.

Delta worked with its agency-of-record Wieden+Kennedy on the campaign. PHD handled media duties.

Womack noted that the Starbucks partnership—in which Delta miles are earned through Starbucks purchases—has vastly surpassed expectations since it debuted this past October. The airline exceeded its monthly goal of 200,000 linked accounts in under two days, and the annual goal of 1 million linked accounts within 16 days.

Loyalty programs have been a growth area for marketers in recent years as brands look to cement deeper connections that go beyond price and carry lasting appeal. A 2022 Consumer Experience Sentiment Report from Merkle found that 25% of surveyed consumers under 45 said “loyalty program benefits” should be a top priority for retailers.

Indeed, despite current economic conditions and bargain-hungry consumers, the new campaign is not purposely tapping into value, Womack said.

“The big focus is going beyond transactional and leaning into the emotional,” she said. “SkyMiles feels aspirational and feels culturally relevant and those are the things that stick and endure with time.”