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Virtual Graduations And Proms Make A Splash With Support From Celebrities And Brands

May 19, 2020 Sarah Cavill

Virtual graduations, commencements and proms, hosted by everyone from world leaders to beer brands, have stepped in to replace the real celebrations, canceled because of social distancing requirements. Many high school and university students around the world are missing out on rites of passage and the chance to celebrate with friends and family after years of hard work. Celebrities, brands and businesses are hoping to lessen the disappointment of graduates with fun virtual festivities. For brands, these virtual events represent opportunities to get in front of captive audiences and create memorable, interactive experiences that encourage engagement now and in the future. 

Live Graduation Event Hosted By YouTube Includes Lady Gaga And The Obamas

YouTube originals class of 2020 virtual graduation

YouTube announced that it will be hosting a virtual commencement, Dear Class of 2020, on June 6 that will include speeches and performances from A-listers and other dignitaries. The event includes a commencement address by PresideLadynt and Michelle Obama (President Obama’s second commencement address this year he gave another virtual commencement address to the graduates of HBCUs), with other speakers including boy band BTS, Lady Gaga, Secretary Robert M. Gates, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Secretary Condoleezza Rice and Malala Yousafzai. Alicia Keys, girl duo Chole x Halle, singer Kelly Rowland, and comedy group Dude Perfect, and actresses Kerry Washington and Zendaya are also dropping by. 

Which of the celebrities, VIPs and world-changers will be performing or just offering their encouraging presence is TBD at this point. According to AdAge, “The event can be seen on YouTube Originals channel and YouTube’s Learn@Home site, where graduates can also sign up for shoutouts during the event.” Students interested in attending can check out the live stream at 3pm EST on the big day. 

Instagram Helps Graduates Share Their Joy With Customized Stories

On May 15, Instagram and Facebook hosted a virtual commencement ceremony with Oprah as the keynote speaker. Throughout the graduation season, both social media platforms have offered graduation features and activations to support students who can’t have the real thing. Instagram hosted a day where users could celebrate the usual senior year things and “interact with ‘most likely’ votes, portrait showcases and senior skip day.” The popular social platform also created a graduation package for customizing Instagram stories, including countdown widgets, stickers, AR effects and a #graduation2020 page. Facebook deployed fun filters and family celebrations via Messenger.

Quick Service Restaurant Jack In The Box ‘Uncancels’ Prom

A repeating theme for brands during coronavirus is adaptable, agile marketing strategies that reach consumers in helpful, authentic ways to encourage engagement. Jack In the Box embraced this proactive attitude when the fast food chain decided to host prom for two California high schools on May 9. “We uncanceled prom and became the first quick-service restaurant to make prom a virtual experience,” said Adrienne Ingoldt, SVP and Chief Brand and Experience Officer for Jack in the Box. “When we first started planning, we wanted to partner directly with schools in order to create a very custom experience for them since we knew how important this night was.”

Jack in the Box hosted private Zooms for the two schools and integrated sponsorships into the special events, including Uber Eats for food delivery, 1-800-Flowers for corsages, and Lulus and Black Tux for formalwear. The #PromInTheBox DJ sets were open to everyone through the Jack in the Box Instagram Live account and on Twitch.  By creating a collaborative cross-platform event, the “#PromInTheBox hashtag drew 30 million impressions on social, and six custom Giphy stickers generated more than 12,300 views,” according to Jack in the Box. 

The future is uncertain, especially when it comes to events that include lots of people and big crowds. Brands that are able to effectively integrate partnerships, deploy social media campaigns and increase engagement through opportunities similar to #PromInTheBox and Dear Class of 2020, may be able to reach younger consumers and encourage brand loyalty that lasts beyond virtual parties and milestones celebrated on Zoom.

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About the Author

Sarah Cavill

With more than 20 years of writing, editing and reporting experience, Sarah Cavill brings to Digital Media Solutions (DMS) a fine-tuned and diverse set of skills. Her work has been featured in notable publications including The Daily Muse, CBS Local, Techlicious and Glamour magazine. Sarah has a passion for current events and the deep-dive research that goes into the content development and brand identity of DMS Insights. In her role as Senior Marketing Communications Writer, Sarah contributes to the pitching, researching and writing of multiple stories published each week surrounding digital and performance marketing innovations in pop culture, news, social media, branding and advertising.

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