A Triple Threat: Ambassadors, PR Toolkits & a Loveable Tiger
In 2019, American student loan debt reached $1.5 trillion. More than 44 million Americans have this debt that eats away at paychecks, limits opportunities, and leads to putting off buying homes and having children. While much of the national conversation over the last five years has focused on loan forgiveness or free college, less attention has been paid to the tool that is available today to prevent the next generation from experiencing this kind of crippling student debt tomorrow: 529 college savings plans.
Only one-third of Americans knew what a 529 college savings plan was, and even fewer could connect a 529 to education. The College Savings Plans Network (CSPN) had tried numerous marketing tactics throughout the years – none of which performed as well as they’d hoped. That’s why they brought in Bozell to run their first-ever awareness campaign in order to make “529” as familiar a term as “401(k),” convince Americans it is the best tool to save for college, and ultimately minimize student debt for the next generation.
The campaign centered on an omni-channel approach involving a paid media buy with Fred Rogers Productions and Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, as well as a robust public relations strategy. Knowing how politics dominates our modern 24-hour news cycle, we used angles involving the student debt crisis and solutions proposed by elected officials to breakthrough. Being a campaign with leaders on both sides of the aisle, we made sure to always strike a non-partisan, professional tone. This approach earned us press in national publications.
With 29 states and 19 financial partners involved in the campaign, we took the opportunity to involve as many spokespeople as possible in our PR efforts. This was the impetus behind our 529 ambassador program. Led by campaign chairman and former Alabama State Treasurer Young Boozer III, we developed a team of ambassadors from our contributing partner states and organizations and armed them with media training, talking points, press releases, infographics and pitch strategies.
This top-to-bottom approach helped us achieve our communication objectives with our ambassadors and further our message from the national level and down to local levels across the nation, positioning CSPN partners as thought leaders who could help educate and prevent the student debt crisis for the next generation.
Over the duration of the national campaign, Bozell:
- Grew national awareness of 529 plans from 32% to 45%.
- Earned 280+ pickups with an estimated ad value of $210,000+.
- Secured national pickups in high-profile publications, such as The New York Times, Forbes, CNBC, WSJ and Morningstar.