When I think of a bank’s social media presence, I typically think of annoying, uninspired tweets that clutter my feed on a daily basis and that serve to add no real value to my everyday life. But one social media campaign that stands out among the rest is TDAmeritrade’s “It Adds Up” campaign, which was built around the 2014 Sochi Olympics in Russia.

Essentially, the ad campaign strove to explain how, by constantly making small contributions, one can eventually retire with a rather sizeable investment. They did this by comparing it to how a professional athlete’s career is built from an accumulation of thousands of smaller and relatively minor events. As part of the campaign, TDAmeritrade sponsored a mentor group of seven U.S. Olympic/Paralympic athletes for the 2014 Olympics and a mentee group of seven 2018 Olympics/Paralympic hopefuls. They juxtaposed pictures of the athletes competing in their respective sports as children to photos of them competing in the present day.

The bank then focused on engaging audiences in two stages.


Figure 1.1 – Example Advertisement

Stage One

Leading up to the 2014 Olympics, TDAmeritrade promoted the campaign by guaranteeing that each mention of their slogan “#itaddsup” would contribute a mile toward sending the mentee members to Sochi to follow their mentors. The goal was to generate the 37,017 miles’ worth of mentions necessary to reach their destination.

TDAmeritrade allowed customers to track the progress of this mileage campaign online through their website, which displayed athlete biographies and offered real-time updates on how many mentions the campaign had generated and how many were still needed.

Stage Two

Once the Olympics were underway, TDAmeritrade opened a brokerage account for each of the 2018 mentee group athletes. They told audiences that successive mentions of “#itaddsup” would add a dollar to each of these accounts (up to $25,000 each). The money would help pay for training expenditures and other associated expenses, which were to be representative of the hard-dollar cost for athletes to follow their dreams and reach the Olympics.

Mission Accomplished!

TDAmeritrade’s campaign began prior to the start of the Olympics (February 22) and ran until the end of the Paralympics (March 16).

By that time, TDAmeritrade had generated over 78,000 uses of their hashtag “#itaddsup,” and increased their overall social media following by around 12%. If our math is correct here, after deducting for the mileage requisites, that’s over $5,800 added into each of the mentees’ brokerage accounts. Not a bad chunk of change!

Though the statistics on what exactly an extra follower on social media is worth vary widely from company to company, we do know that companies spend a large amount of resources cultivating their social media brands. So, a 12% increase in TDAmeritrade’s audience certainly sounds like a home-run for a month’s worth of promotion.

According to a study conducted by Bain & Company in 2014, a mere 5% in customer retention can translate to upwards of 95% in additional profits (see Figure 1.2). This isn’t simply due to keeping any particular customer, but due to the additional business that the satisfied customer can potentially rein in via word-of-mouth referrals (or stellar Yelp reviews). Further supporting the emphasis of customer retention is a 2014 study conducted by American Express, which concluded that 86% of surveyed customers claimed that they would be willing to pay more for superior customer service.

Figure 1.2

Figure 1.2


Figure 1.3

In Closing

The campaign was particularly effective because:

  1. It resonated with audiences on a personal level. At one point or another, most people are familiar with the idea of grinding away slowly at something to achieve a certain goal or milestone. Much like how an athlete’s success is linked to the work ethic behind their training, similar parallels can be drawn to the discipline of investing. Save a little more and spend a little less today so that you can attain a certain level of comfort at a later point in life. A professional athlete isn’t created overnight, and neither is a sufficient retirement account.
  2. TDAmeritrade engaged consumers in a way in which they felt they were actively contributing to the success or development of these athletes. They paired that with adding levels of depth to the athletes to make their audience feel even more invested in the lives of these people. Seeing is believing, and introducing real-time updates and graphics to track the progress of the campaign was certainly beneficial for the campaign.
  3. TDAmeritrade engaged consumers on a platform on which they were most likely already on. Current statistics show that there are approximately 1.86 billion monthly active users (MAU) on Facebook, 600 million MAU on Instagram, and 320 million MAU on Twitter. Despite discounting these figures back to 2014 values, by targeting these three platforms, chances are that audiences didn’t have to go too far out of their way to participate. The age of social media is here and it is well established. By now, it is clearly too late for companies to try and shape these existing consumer attitudes; it is their challenge instead to adapt to them. Therefore, by directly engaging customers at their comfort levels instead of trying to force them to come to you, greater user penetration can usually be achieved.