The Making of a Successful Partnership


After 21+ years, I retired from Southwest Airlines to take on a new adventure of creating dynamic partnerships between artist and brands. Building programs that set the Southwest brand apart to create an authentic connection with customers was a passion during my tenure and reigns true now more than ever. There were many partnerships I learned from, but one that truly exemplifies connecting a brand with a band and their fans was the 2015 partnership with Southwest and Imagine Dragons. “Destination Dragonswas a celebration of Imagine Dragons’ new album release, Smoke + Mirrors. Our custom program took the band from coast to coast, performing exclusive concert for fans in four cities that still hold a special place in the band’s history.  

Destination Dragons was a program that came together organically. It was a natural fit for the Southwest brand and the band, harmoniously connecting passionate fans from around the country. This is our story.

The Brand

Southwest Airlines is in the business of connecting People. It’s not just about getting customers from point A to point B, but connecting them to what’s important in their lives. The music of Imagine Dragons, coupled with their album release, were the perfect instrument to fuel the passion of music with Southwest’s customer base. Destination Dragons provided Southwest a great story to tell about the brand’s connection to music, aligning beautifully with a major passion point for its customers.

With the Imagine Dragons album release, Southwest reaped the benefits of being a part of their media tour by garnering exposure on Ellen, two appearances on Good Morning America, billboard exposure in Times Square, Rolling Stone, Billboard magazine and New York Times to name a few. The media tour earned Southwest an astounding $5.2M in media value.  

During the activation, Imagine Dragons became true brand ambassadors of Southwest Airlines by engaging with fans and followers on their band AND personal social media accounts. Paired with the Southwest social machine, we generated 103M social media impressions and a 7,627% increase in views on the already popular Southwest Airlines Facebook page.

The emotional connection, media value, social media impressions and a partnership with this great group of guys proved to be a huge win for Southwest.

The Band

Imagine Dragons wanted a creative way to announce their new Album Release. They saw an opportunity to make the experience better for their fans by building a strategic partnership with Southwest, who was able to provide them exposure in a unique way with a “Live at 35” performance at 35,000 ft. The Live at 35 video generated over 1.7 M views and 11k likes on Southwest’s Facebook page alone.

The travel and music partnership allowed the band to be able to pay homage to all their Super Fans by performing intimate concerts in Los Angeles, Provo, Las Vegas and Atlanta. It was an opportunity for the band to thank their loyal fans for supporting them and their extraordinary success.

The Live at 35 story and unique experiential activation with intimate concerts, combined with the exposure provided by Southwest’s social channels, profoundly aided in Smoke + Mirrors debuting at number one on the Billboard 200 in the United States.

The Fans

Sure, Imagine Dragons saw a unique opportunity to launch their sophomore album, but even more importantly they wanted to appreciate their loyal fans and include them in their journey.

A National Radio promotion launched in 20 markets to send a group of super fans along for the entire Destination Dragons Tour, with Southwest providing transportation from city to city. In addition, Southwest launched a nationwide sweepstakes that gave one winner and three friends a four-day, three-night Imagine Dragons experience, including:

  • Travel to Las Vegas to attend the Imagine Dragons concert

  • Prime seating on Southwest’s Ultimate Destination Dragons Flight from Las Vegas to Atlanta, providing an up-close and personal Live at 35 experience

  • VIP seating at the Atlanta Imagine Dragons concert

  • Band meet-and-greet

This powerful brand + band partnership didn’t stop there…Ellen DeGeneres invited one lucky guest from her television audience to join the Destination Dragons Tour, providing additional exposure to millions of loyal Ellen Show fans.  

Destination Dragons was a phenomenal way for Southwest customers and Imagine Dragons fans to feel as though they were a part of something important and developed a sense of community.

The End Result

The Destination Dragons partnership set a new benchmark for success in how brands utilize music to fuel the inner passion of their most loyal customers. In fact, Southwest took home some hardware with this partnership, winning “Concert Marketing & Promotion Award” at Billboard’s Touring Conference & Awards and “PRO Awards Silver: Best Buzz and Best Contest or Promotion in Social Media Shorty Award”. While these awards were extremely gratifying, all in all – the band’s fans and Southwest customers saw the greatest benefit with this unforgettable experience.