Super Bowl

Financial Startup SoFi Banks on Super Bowl Buy to Raise Awareness

Five-Year-Old Marketplace Lender SoFi Will Debut Its First TV Spot in the Big Game

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Not everyone has heard of SoFi, but the five-year-old marketplace lender is hoping to change that by debuting a new campaign on advertising's biggest stage. The San Francisco-based startup will have a 30-second spot (above) in the Feb. 7 Super Bowl game as part of a larger $20 million campaign that will continue through the first half of the year. A spot in the Big Game, is fetching nearly $5 million for 30 seconds of time.

"We felt it was the right time to make the investment to tell who we are and what the brand stands for," said Joanne Bradford, a brand strategy veteran from Pinterest and Microsoft who joined SoFi as chief operating officer in August. "The Super Bowl is the most effective buy that exists out there," she added, noting that there are no digital alternatives.

Founded in late 2011, SoFi is one of the youngest companies in recent years to enter the Super Bowl -- in 2010, vacation rental startup HomeAway, which was five years old at the time, aired a 30-second spot. A decade earlier, several emerging tech companies bought spots during the dot-com boom, but few survived.

SoFi, however, plans to be in the financial services industry for the long haul. Though the company started as Social Finance Inc., a student loan refinancing provider, it has since evolved to offer personal loans and mortgages and eventually expects to introduce a wealth product. The 600-employee company, which has funded $7 billion in loans, offers itself to consumers as an alternative to typical banks, an assertion that will be reflected in the coming campaign.

"If banks were Blockbuster, we're Netflix," explained Ms. Bradford, noting that she'd like to make SoFi a household name. The company is putting some of its 115,000 member customers into the new marketing, including the 30-second Super Bowl spot. That commercial, which plays on a "Great loans for great people" tagline, notes that there's something special about qualifying for a SoFi loan and stars Brandon Williams, who took out a SoFi personal loan to renovate his condo.

In advance of the game, SoFi plans to run some out-of-home ads devoted to the idea of a bank-less world. It will also promote the effort through social media, print media and podcasts. The brand will produce seven spots carrying the "Great people" message and two "Bank-less" world commercials. (Below, one of the "Bank-less" world spots, which has already started airing.)

SoFi worked with San Francisco-based Muhtayzik Hoffer on the campaign. This is the first large-scale marketing effort for the lender, which has received $1.4 billion in funding from investors.

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