In October 2016, National Geographic premiered Before the Flood, a feature-length documentary from Academy Award winners Leonardo DiCaprio and Fisher Stevens chronicling climate change and its effects on global ecosystems. The film provided not only a stirring look at the science behind climate change and the obstacles to its solutions but also a powerful opportunity to leverage DiCaprio's star power and bring attention to this most critical of issues.
As a result, National Geographic and parent company 21st Century Fox worked through the end of 2016 to allow as many people as possible to see the movie, as well as provide resources on how audiences can take steps to protect the planet in their own everyday lives.
The project's objectives were as follows:
- Expanding access to the movie by removing barriers to viewership
- Raising awareness of the scientific case for climate change
- Providing information and tools for audiences around the world to take personal action on the environment
- Supporting conservation and sustainability efforts of organizations already working on the ground
21CF and National Geographic believe in the power of storytelling to change the world, and the documentary allows the two organizations to effect meaningful change on one of our society's most pressing issues.
21CF and National Geographic drew on the full breadth of their global media properties to spread the film's message of climate action, and broke new ground in the industry in terms of how films are marketed and released. The companies also made an effort to engage a diverse breadth of audiences, including local residents, activists, businesses, politicians, and world leaders. Each of these efforts to reach new audiences was tied to taking concrete action in communities, schools, workplaces, and governments.
To meet the topline goal of broadcasting important messages of climate change and action, 21CF adopted the following strategy:
- Leverage 21CF and National Geographic's global reach to increase the size of the film's audience
- Make the film available for free across a record-breaking number of digital platforms to underscore its importance and continue to grow the audience
- Launch a #BeforeTheFlood social media campaign to both drive donations to environmental organizations and allow individual viewers to become environmental ambassadors within their own social spheres
- Provide educational resources on National Geographic's websites for teachers to use the film as an instructional scientific tool
- Make personal sustainability tips and information on how to contact political representatives available on National Geographic's websites to empower viewers to take action in their own lives
- Engage world leaders across the globe to take the threat of climate change seriously and work to pass viable environmental legislation.
In October, Before the Flood made its commercial-free broadcast premiere on National Geographic in 171 countries across 45 languages. The company continued to make the film as widely available as possible, streaming it for free on a record number of digital platforms including Hulu, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, iTunes, and more, from October 30 until November 8 to coincide with national discussion leading up to the U.S. 2016 elections.
Concurrently, 21CF and National Geographic launched a social media campaign around the film to drive support for the conservation of endangered wildlife and ecosystems. For every use of the hashtag #BeforeTheFlood across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and of the Before the Flood custom Snapchat filter, from October 24 to November 18, 21CF and National Geographic together gave $1 to Pristine Seas and $1 to the Wildlife Conservation Society, donating a grand total of $100,000.
In addition, National Geographic partnered with Rock the Vote and theSkimm to host free screenings of Before the Flood that doubled as voter registration events at more than 50 college campuses in the weeks leading up to the U.S. 2016 elections. The film screened at the White House as part of the Obama Administration's South by South Lawn event, as well as at the UN Headquarters in New York City and at the UN's COP 22 Climate Change Conference in Marrakech, Morocco.
The film's awareness campaigns and decision to stream it for free across so many digital platforms made Before the Flood the most watched National Geographic film ever, and arguably one of the most watched documentaries in history. It also helped reaffirm and demonstrate National Geographic's commitment to protecting and preserving the planet through storytelling rooted in both scientific research and human connection.
National Geographic estimates that Before the Flood reached over 60 million people worldwide and surpassed one billion minutes viewed across linear, digital, streaming and social platforms. 30 million people watched the documentary during its broadcast on National Geographic Channel in the U.S. and internationally, and another 30 million watched the film on YouTube, iTunes, Facebook, Twitter and more.
The #BeforeTheFlood social media campaign successfully raised $100,000 for Pristine Seas and the Wildlife Conservation Society, directly supporting the restoration and protection of ecosystems damaged by climate change.
The company's partnership with Rock the Vote and theSkimm helped register 50,000 new voters, and an additional 1,500 colleges, religious institutions and community organizations around the world contacted National Geographic to organize private screenings. The company still receives requests from educators to arrange screenings, and National Geographic Society's educational materials about climate change, which tie back to Before the Flood and other climate change programming, continue to educate students of all ages around the world.
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