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Sallie Mae Bank - Marketing Campaign of the Year

Gold Stevie Award Winner 2016, Click to Enter The 2017 Stevie Awards for Sales and Customer service

Company: Sallie Mae Bank, Newton, MA
Entry Submitted By: Sallie Mae
Company Description: Sallie Mae is the nation’s saving, planning, and paying for college company. We offer products and services that promote responsible personal finance, including private education loans, college financial planning tools, and online retail banking. Commonly known as Sallie Mae, SLM Corporation and its subsidiaries are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.
Nomination Category: Marketing Campaign Categories - Industry
Nomination Sub Category: Marketing Campaign of the Year - Financial Products & Services

Nomination Title: Sallie Mae/Dee-1 Influencer Campaign: Knowledge for College Tour and Pays to Repay Contest

Tell the story of this nominated marketing campaign for the judges (up to 650 words). Describe the genesis, planning, execution, and results to date of your campaign. If applicable, remember to describe what's unique or innovative about your campaign:


A partnership between a hip-hop artist and a bank specializing in student lending? This unlikely pairing was the centerpiece of our largest integrated influencer campaign in 2016. With Sallie Mae’s recent restructuring and rebranding, we wanted to create a positive view of the company, especially among two key audiences: high school students and customers.

Enter hip-hop artist Dee-1, whose hit song and video, “Sallie Mae Back,” celebrated paying back student loans. The song came to the attention of our social media director, who saw the potential of a partnership. Skeptical executives were convinced of the value of alliance, we launched our Dee-1 campaign, which had two main components, Knowledge for College Tour and It Pays to Repay Contest.

Dee-1’s Knowledge for College Tour (#Dee1Knowledge)


“Anything you do that is as big of a time commitment and a financial commitment as going to college is, you should always have a plan.” – Dee-1. What better way to help high school students have a plan, than for them to hear it directly from Dee-1, someone they can relate to? So, we took him on a tour of 18 high schools across five states.


We shot a video of Dee-1 announcing the partnership, talking about the importance of college, and having a plan to pay for it. Dee-1 announced the tour to his social fans and we shared the video across our channels.

To get students psyched, the schools put up promo posters. At the events, when Dee-1 walked on stage, the students experienced a get-up-on-your-feet performance and rallied to “make college a part of your mission.” He issued a personal challenge to the kids to use college as a gateway for a better life, sharing his own story, along with his “knowledge for college” tips. Then Dee-1 gave away $5,000 for college to a randomly selected student. All along the way, Dee-1 live-tweeted, giving all his fans the opportunity to hear and see him in action.


- Earned social media: 7.7M reach; 1.4K earned mentions, 100% pos/neutral sentiment
- Social media posts: 220K reach; 108 owned messages, 4% engagement rate
- Paid social media: $7,000 spend resulted in 878K impressions, 435K social media reach, 37K video views, and 6,000 clicks
- Traditional media: 288M impressions, including the Boston Globe, USA Today, Delaware Online, ESPN2, and Philadelphia and New Orleans TV
- Website visits: 30,000 visitors and 37,000 video views

Dee-1’s Pays to Repay Contest (#pays2repay)


We wanted to counteract social media conversations about student loan debt with positive loan repayment stories. Dee-1 said it best: “When I got with the people from Sallie Mae, the first thing I told them was we need to help some other people be able to pay off their student loans.” And Dee-1’s Pays to Repay Contest was born. The prize? Up to $10K to each of five customers to help them pay off their loans. To enter, we asked customers to answer the question, “How did college have a positive effect on your future?”


Dee-1 posted, “I want my audience to feel that joy that comes along with paying off your student loans. He launched the contest on his own social media channels with a video. Together with our social media, customers were directed to a landing page on, with videos and content from Dee-1’s.

Almost 10,000 customers shared their stories—10x last year’s total—spurred by Dee-1’s passion and commitment. Entries were judged on concept, style, originality, and creativity. We celebrated with a live presentation in New Orleans, and a luncheon hosted by Dee-1 himself.


- Social media: Earned—1.1M reach, 406 mentions, 3M social media impressions, and 7% engagement rate. Paid—$3,000 spend for 525K impressions, 72K reach, and 3.2K site visits
- Traditional media: 290M impressions, including a satellite media tour
- Website banner: Over 500K impressions, almost 17K clicks, and a 3.4% CTR
- Website: 30,000 visitors

In bullet-list form, briefly summarize up to ten (10) of the chief features and results of the nominated campaign (up to 150 words).

- The Sallie Mae/Dee-1 campaign was an unlikely partnership of a bank and a hip-hop artist who paid off his student loans, combining for a successful tour and online contest.
- Dee-1’s Knowledge for College Tour reached over 3,000 high school students; a total of $95,000 for college was awarded to students.
- The promotion earned over 220K reach in social media and over 288M traditional media impressions.
- The tour’s campaign resulted in 30,000 visitors and 37,000 video views. Paid social media turned a $7,000 spend into 878K impressions, 435K reach, 37K video views, and 6,000 clicks.
- Dee-1’s Pays to Repay Contest combined the company’s and artist’s social media, videos, online customer ads, and a satellite media tour.
- The contest had almost 10,000 customer entries (10X increase over last year) with over 1.1M in earned social media reach.
- Contest entries resulted in a library of user-generated content.