Sallie Mae had always been synonomous with a monthly payment and not much else. Sure, borrowers appreciated receiving the funds they needed to pursue their education, but after the initial approval letter, Ms. Mae was just another bill collector. To move on from this perception, the lender launched a personal finance website, complete with tools, content, and resources aimed at helping more kids get into college and pay their tuition. Unfortunately, nobody knew the website had been created, and nobody wanted to take financial advice from one of their bill collectors. How could we generate awareness of Sallie Mae’s new offering, and earn the company enough publicity and goodwill to grow into a trusted resource for students?
We knew that in order to become a trusted resource to future students and potential borrowers, Sallie Mae had to get out into communities across America and establish itself as a partner in a child’s education rather than a money pit. We also knew that in order to generate buzz and interest, we had to have a hook that would bring people out to learn more. With these challenges in mind, we created a 7-week, 25-city national college bus and speaking tour for Sallie Mae, featuring TOP Agency’s founder and CEO Ben Kaplan as the keynote speaker. In addition to helping promote the Sallie Mae brand, Ben was able to serve as a trusted voice for students, having written How to Go to College Almost for Free when he was a student himself.
By getting out into communities and serving as a trusted voice and resource to Sallie Mae’s target audience and demographic, we were able to secure widespread media coverage, generate tremendous social media buzz, and reach millions of eyeballs on TV, online, and in print. The tour was featured on CNN American Morning and Fox & Friends, as well as more than 100 local news broadcasts, ultimately resulting in 350+ media placements, 10,000-plus social media shares, and 370 million total impressions.
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