Soul Surfer was one of the biggest Christian movies that released in 2011. The film shared the story of 13-year-old professing Christian and surfing champ Bethany Hamilton who lost her arm in a shark attack. Starring AnnaSophia Robb, Helen Hunt, Dennis Quaid and Carrie Underwood, the film showed the Hamilton family living out their faith in the midst of a dark and trying tragedy. As the motion picture depicts, Hamilton learned to surf again with only one arm and went on to become one of the world’s most revered professional surfers. Outreach Films was at the helm of faith-based advertising for the film, which carried an overtly Christian message. Outreach then turned to their friends at FrontGate Media to reach a broad group of Christian entertainment consumers.
Why Outreach Films Used FrontGate Media
“FrontGate Media made an incredible contribution to our overall campaign for Soul Surfer. The audiences they recommended were on target for what we needed to achieve, and their out-of-the-box ideas exceeded my expectations. Their media channels and their targeted proposal helped us achieve outstanding results: opening as the #4 film for the weekend and the #1 per screen average for new releases. Working with them was smooth and enjoyable; they were more like an internal part of our team and less like an outside agency.”
— Krista Veteto, Marketing Manager & Media Buyer, Outreach Films
The plot of the movie definitely appealed to teens, especially young girls who could easily put themselves in Bethany’s shoes. The Christian message of Soul Surfer and the fact that a daughter was the central character, immediately tugged at the heart-strings of parents, especially moms. Christian moviegoers and Christian entertainment consumers were also targeted, making FrontGate Media a natural partner as its roster of media outlets represent a vast array of Christian entertainment fans, in fact the largest source of entertainment fans in the faith-based market–spanning from movies to music to books.
The challenge in reaching this audience is showcasing the Christian elements of this movie as well as the quality of the film’s production. Christians are often inundated with promotions about movies that promote Christian values on direct-to-DVD releases, but it’s rare that a movie of this magnitude offered Christians a chance to show up at the box office. Timing was also crucial. Like most Christian films fortunate enough to make it to theatrical release, in order for the film to remain in theaters, opening weekend numbers had to be especially strong. This meant that the FrontGate Media campaign needed to intentionally build up to the premiere and fuel the momentum once Soul Surfer released.
FrontGate Media worked with Outreach Films to create a comprehensive campaign that began a month prior to Soul Surfer‘s April 8 release. The campaign consisted of a careful mix of emails, display ads, and newsletters, with a heavy emphasis on dedicated emails sent at strategic times. In order to capture a broad base of Christian consumers interested in faith-based entertainment, FrontGate Media used the full-breadth of their roster to create a campaign that tapped into the strengths of HearItFirst.com, NewReleaseTuesday.com, iTickets.com, HollywoodJesus.com, the Christian Entertainment Database, Youth Specialties, Spirit West Coast and the several key Christian festivals. By combining entertainment fans, Christian concert-goers along with core moviegoers, FrontGate Media was able to serve up a smorgasbord of well-respected outlets who catered to the core target audience for Soul Surfer.
The results of this campaign were phenomenal, garnering incredibly high open rates for dedicated emails and even better click-thru rates. Some of the highlights included an impressive 38% open rate for a NewReleaseTuesday.com direct email the day of Soul Surfer‘s release. A week later, the email was repeated and generated an impressive 28% open rate for the second send.
FrontGate Media outlet iTickets.com also saw some of the most effective traction. Dedicated emails were sent out to targeted groups of youth pastors, worship pastors and pastors in general prior to the movie’s release, receiving open rates well above average. Interestingly enough, the email that targeted general pastors generated the highest open rate at 33.8%. Targeting influential church leaders who could then go and share the movie with their congregation or youth group became a crucial key to the success of Soul Surfer. Together, with the help of FrontGate Media and other advertising partners, both secular and Christian, Soul Surfer grossed over $10.6 million its opening weekend, ranking fourth at the box office.