Young Americans are facing record levels of student loan and consumer debt, but often lack the financial literacy needed to handle these and other hardships.
To address this issue, H&R Block engaged Spong to expand and elevate its Dollars & Sense program, created in 2009. Through a campaign that empowered teachers across America to help students “road test” real-world money skills — without real-world consequences — H&R Block set nearly 100,000 teens on course for a strong financial future.
The campaign objectives were to:
- Reach 500,000 high school educators across all 50 states
- Provide 2,500 high school educators with free resources
- Incentivize 100,000 high school students to learn real world money management skills
- Raise awareness for the free program by generating 300 million impressions among educators, teenagers and parents
- Leverage the success of the Dollars & Sense program to reinforce the H&R Block brand.
H&R Block decided to implement a learn-by-doing educational approach that would replicate real world personal finance decision-making, enabling teens to make mistakes and face potential pitfalls from the safety of their classroom.
The semester long “H&R Block Budget Challenge” simulation replicated money management by simulating financial life as an adult. By getting a virtual paycheck, paying bills and managing student loans, students were given a personal finance “road test,” without facing real world consequences.
The program was driven by three core strategies: create a comprehensive lesson plan; Incentivize students to take the program seriously by offering $3 million in classroom grants and scholarships; activate PESO channels to drive broad awareness.
A partnership with WeAreTeachers helped reach millions of teachers through e-newsletters, web ads, physical kits, social posts and phone calls. H&R Block successfully petitioned its leadership to triple the program’s funding, and the top-scoring student won a $120,000 scholarship.
The campaign launched on Good Morning America, followed by a desk-side media tour with outlets like USA Weekend and Wall Street Journal Live. Dozens of teacher-blogger posts ran, 24 students were available for interviews, and the launch included a: 30 TV spot, digital ads and social promotions. A second GMA segment aired in December, showing the program in schools. The campaign also included local media events.
Campaign results exceeded expectations. Overall, 93,980 students across every state participated in the Budget Challenge; $2.76 million in scholarships were awarded; and 88 percent of participants reported feeling more confident about managing money. The WeAreTeachers partnership resulted in 6.5 million teacher-targeted impressions, and more than 484 million earned media impressions. And seventy-five percent of consumers surveyed by H&R Block reported the program increased their favorability of H&R Block as a brand.
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