The firm’s target audience is young people–who more often than not are not thinking about retirement. “It’s an incredibly difficult topic to talk about with a younger audience,” said Jason Komulainen, senior VP and group creative director at The Martin Agency, which created the campaign. “It’s a bit like mortality–not on your mind at all.”
Given its small budget, the campaign uses social media as its main platform and includes partnerships with nine college and pro basketball players and coaches (nine as a reference to Title IX), including Angel Reese of the Maryland Terrapins and Sedona Prince of the Oregon Ducks. Prince was one of the athletes who brought inequity to light during the NCAA women’s basketball tournament last year, posting a TikTok that showed notable disparities ranging from changing rooms to unbranded swag received by the women. TIAA is able to use active college players because of last year's relaxation of so-called NIL rules, which prohibited brands from partnering with college athletes.
According to Stephen Tisdalle, TIAA's chief brand and demand generation officer, when the brand first approached influencers for the campaign, many said that retirement was the last thing on their minds. This raised the question of "how do we really talk about this?" said Tisdalle, who joined TIAA late last year.
The campaign also relies on swag to spread its message. The influencers and other athletes were sent merch that includes a pin in the shape of a combined 9 and equal sign, which was “created as an icon of participation, not unlike the ‘I Voted’ sticker,” said Komulainen. They are aiming to create “a movement,” said Komulainen.
The campaign is being rolled out at the "cultural trifecta" that includes March Madness, International Women's Day (March 8) and the 50th anniversary of Title IX, said Liz Toms, senior VP and group account director with The Martin Agency. Title IX is landmark gender equity legislation. Passed in 1972, the law is intended to protect people against discrimination based on sex in schools or other educational facilities that receive federal funding. A loophole has been identified regarding the NCAA; a 1999 Supreme Court ruling declared that the NCAA does not have to comply by Title IX, according to Forbes.
The NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship for years was not allowed to use the “March Madness” trademark that the men's event long used until the NCAA reversed that practice last year in a decision that takes effect this year.
The campaign’s practical steps include public policy moves in the future to advocate for legislation, as well as hiring a money manager to provide educational content to be disseminated on college campuses. Financial information will also be shared on the website retireinequality.com. The company is also contributing one and a half million dollars towards the Women's Sports Foundation's Equity Project.
Although International Women’s Day only acknowledges inequities between traditional binary of women and men, when asked about people who identify as other genders and the inequality that exists in those gaps, Komulainen said that the Retire Inequality platform “has the ability and probably the responsibility” to address these other inequalities in the future.