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Give a Day, Get a Disney Day was a promotion created by The Walt Disney Company to increase attendance at its theme parks and promote volunteerism across North America. The company partnered with American charitable and non-profit organizations to provide volunteer opportunities; individuals who volunteered with associated charities and non-profits received a voucher good for one free admission to a Walt Disney World Resort or Disneyland Resort theme park. The promotion had been scheduled to run from January 1, 2010, through December 15, 2010, but ended very early, as the full allotment of one million free days were committed by early March.
Announced on September 29, 2009 by chairman of Disney Parks & Resorts Thomas Staggs, with some help from The Muppets, the Give a Day, Get a Disney Day promotion was an initiative in affiliation with the Hands-On volunteer network that worked to inspire over one million people to volunteer in 2010. Immediately following the What Will You Celebrate? campaign from earlier that year, Give a day, Get a Disney Day aimed to celebrate those who make a difference in their communities by rewarding them with free entrance to either the Walt Disney World or Disneyland resort. This promotion was open to those living in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico with an age requirement of 18 for initial sign up. Unlike the What Will You Celebrate? campaign, which awarded free admission to someone on their birthday, this promotion allowed a family – up to 8 members – to get into the park together; as long as they had all completed the needed volunteer service day after January 1, 2010. 
The process to participate in this promotion was fairly simple. Those interested were advised to log onto the appropriate Disney Parks website from which they would click a sign up link that would redirect them to the Hands-On network campaign page. From there the participant could search for volunteer opportunities near them that worked in conjunction with the campaign; ranging from helping at a food bank to setting up charity events. After signing up their entire party, the participant simply waited until their scheduled volunteer date, completed the day of service, and waited for the service day to be verified by the Hands-on Network system. Once verified, the participant could then return to the Disney parks website, on which they would apply for the free admission voucher, provide a date on which they expected to use the voucher along with the resort they would attend – participants were not held to this specific date as the tickets were valid until December 15, 2010 but this step was done more so as a way for Disney’s own record – finally, sending the request off with a two-week maximum waiting period to hear back from Disney. After the request was filtered through Disney’s system, and verified, the participant would receive an email from Disney containing their printable admission vouchers.
If the participant already had an annual pass, was an active cast member, or for whatever reason couldn’t use a free admission ticket, they were then given the choice of a secondary reward: usually either a fast pass card that work on certain attractions, an Ear-hat figurine with exclusive trading pins, or the opportunity to donate their ticket to a non-profit of their choice. The ticket could not be transferred into someone else’s name but could be applied to the cost of an annual pass or multi-day ticket – going into effect on the day the ticket was purchased.
Alongside the official campaign announcement in September 2009, Disney’s own organization of volunteer cast members, known as VoluntEARS, joined over 1,000 local community efforts in cities around North America to raise awareness for the announcement. This effort was also supported by thousands of volunteers from Southwest Airlines, who in turn provided transportation for a 20-city tour of the message. During this tour, Disney in collaboration with Pro Motion! experiential marketing Organized guerrilla events all over North America through local events, concerts, and Disney’s JAMMitors pop-up performances in front of iconic landmarks across the continent in an attempt to raise campaign awareness.
Even though this campaign was able to successfully tie together Public Relations, Digital Media, as well as, traditional radio and TV promotion, its most successful tactic was the use of synergy between Disney’s many different outlets. The stars of this promotion were The Muppets themselves as they not only helped introduce the campaign alongside Thomas Staggs and completed a series of talk-show interviews as part of an intensive media week, but also, were the main faces for much of the campaigns other promotional material. Premiering in September 2009, a series of TV and radio commercial spots starring The Muppets began airing. These commercials usually featured The Muppets working on some volunteer project and often featured cameos from popular ABC and Disney Channel actors in order to pique the interest of fans both young and old. The campaigns stars’ even made appearances on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, among other Disney network shows, where they would help on a project while also plugging the overall campaign.
Aside from their TV and radio spots, The Muppets were also heavily featured in print and digital advertisement. Multiple magazine spreads depicted The Muppets volunteering, usually building a house, as a turn of the page revealed the whole gang enjoying a day at the parks. Alongside all this more traditional advertisement, The Muppets were also heavily featured in digital campaigns spanning across all Disney parks websites and Facebook. Interested participants visiting the Disney parks website would’ve been greeted by The Muppets themselves and given the option to customize the homepage, where the Muppets would greet the user by name and provide them with different scenarios in which they would seemingly destroy the site; only to have the user make a couple clicks to repair the site. Then providing information in how they could help in their community, just as they had on the homepage, to receive a free Disney park ticket. This, of course, was accompanied by exclusive online video skits which showed The Muppets volunteering as well as an interactive campaign tour tracker which interested users could use to see where the JAMMitors or other campaign supported events would be nearest them. This digital campaign also carried over into the newly popularized Facebook, on which those who had participated in the campaign or even those who simply supported its efforts could display special badges on their profile featuring a specific Muppet character and a slogan that harked back to the campaign message.
The campaign and its stars were also heavily featured in all of the North American Disney parks. Park guests had the opportunity to purchase specialty campaign pins, buttons, and clothing that sported images of the Muppets themselves in construction clothing featuring campaign slogans. Both resorts also presented a daily “Honorary VoluntEARS Cavalcade” which featured Miss Piggy, Kermit the frog, and Sweetums upon an “under-construction” parade float as they waved to guests, surrounded by any campaign participants that were present in the park that day, as they hinted toward their own volunteer efforts and urged guests to do the same.
On March 9, 2010 the Give a Day, Get a Disney Day campaign was official ended with a press release from Disney just 67 days after it had initially begun. Disney’s goal to inspire one million people to volunteer had been met much quicker than they had anticipated, thus, causing the early shutdown of the campaign; which had been scheduled to span most of the year. Although the promotion ended a mere two months after its initiation, the tickets given out to participants were valid until December 15, 2010, aside from specific blackout dates scattered throughout the year. The campaign itself was even so successful that it won the 2010 Pro Motion! award for the best campaign as it blended many different unique aspects of advertising – PR, digital advertising, radio/TV, etc. – so seamlessly. While this campaign was similar to its predecessor What Will You Celebrate? in that it offered complimentary admission to participants, the ability of volunteers to get tickets for up to 8 people was a catalyst to make a vacation out of the free day; especially to those who visited Walt Disney World in Orlando as many of its visitors tend to come out of state. Creating traffic and revenue for both resorts. No matter the reason for the campaign, Disney was still able to inspire a volunteer spirit in millions of families around North America.
Even though it’s been 9 years since its original debut, on February 5, 2019 Hong Kong Disneyland announced a revival of the campaign. Offering the same exchange of free admission for volunteerism within the surrounding community, except, this updated version requires a minimum of 10 separate hours of community service to receive the complimentary ticket. As far as other Disney parks and resorts are concerned, no public plans have been made to bring this campaign back. However, with the 2019 North American Disney campaign utilizing the hashtag “#NowMoreThanEver”, as well as the campaign popping up in other Disney Parks worldwide, we could see a resurgence of increased support for volunteerism by the Disney company that will most likely mimic many aspects of the original campaign due to its massive success.
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