Sallie Mae - Youth Marketing Campaign of the Year

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Company: Sallie Mae, Newton, MA
Entry Submitted By: DiMassimo Goldstein
Company Description: Sallie Mae has helped more than 30 million Americans save, plan, and pay for college--thus offering them the key to a better life. In Sallie Mae’s 40 years, they have developed responsible education loans and innovative programs to help families start saving for college. Above all, they are committed to helping turn their customers’ dreams of higher education into a reality.
Nomination Category: Marketing Campaign Categories - Specialty
Nomination Sub Category: Youth Marketing Campaign of the Year

Nomination Title: Bridging the Dream - Kendal's Story

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.

Sallie Mae is a leading provider of student loans. With a growing national conversation around student debt, Sallie Mae faced the challenge of shifting their public perception from a corporate loan provider to a partner and resource for college-bound students and their families. For Sallie Mae, the shift was both external and internal.

The new tagline, “Let’s Make College Happen,” helped refocus the company mission and ground the campaign strategy. Employees had to understand that their jobs have a greater purpose than departmental goals, while customers had to feel seen and heard.

The “Bridging the Dream” scholarship campaign demonstrated Sallie Mae’s dedication to living their new mission. Sallie Mae reached out to guidance counselors across the country to identify four exemplary students whose college dreams were a financial stretch. Sallie Mae set out across the country with a film crew to document these students and the obstacles that they overcame to make their college dreams a reality.

A series of five-minute documentaries featuring these students and their support systems became the centerpiece of the campaign. In the meantime, Sallie Mae employees worked to raise the money for this new scholarship on behalf of the winner-to-be. “Kendal’s Story” is one in a series of four student videos that are featured on Sallie Mae’s YouTube channel.

This campaign was particularly unique in its idea and strategy. Our new tagline helped us focus in on the “we” in making college happen, understanding that it’s not just up to students to get themselves to college.

Sallie Mae had never focused so specifically on the emotional connections they seek to make with their customer base. We developed unique creative strategy that united both employees and real students with a single idea.

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

• Sallie Mae employees raised enough money to award all students a $25,000 scholarship.
• The documentaries and the award ceremony were featured on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and the Sallie Mae website.
• Through the efforts of the integrated campaign, the brand saw an obvious lift in impressions, engagements, and positive consumer perception.
• The digital videos received over 530,000 views, registrations for Sallie Mae’s proprietary Plan for College tools (Scholarship Search and College Planning Calculator) increased by 26.5%, and certain Facebook posts earned a reach of 72,400 (while typical posts reach less than 4,000).
• By the end of July 2016, the campaign made 1.28 billion impressions. And half of Sallie Mae employees “completely agree” they are proud of the brand, a 19-point surge from last year’s employee survey results.
• This experience changed the way that both employees and consumers thought about the brand, and made college happen for four remarkable students.