The new academic year heralds the annual wooing season for banks
keen to attract student with freebies and interest-free overdrafts.
This year, the Dearing Report and the introduction of pounds 1,000
tuition fees added an extra dimension to the issue of student
Earlier this summer NatWest rose above bad news about its investment
banking arm NatWest Markets to launch a ’New Deal for Students.’
To differentiate NatWest from its competitors. To counteract negative
coverage of the NatWest Markets loss and merger speculation.
NatWest’s campaign moved away from persuading students to open accounts
towards a strategy for tackling student budgeting skills. A key aim was
to introduce the issue of student money management into the wider debate
on higher education funding.
NatWest developed a two stage campaign timed to coincide with the
publication of the Dearing Report and with A level results. Two weeks
ahead of Dearing, NatWest announced its ’New deal for students’. The
timing of the announcement enabled the bank to position itself as a
commentator on student finance issues - within hours of Dearing’s
proposals becoming public, NatWest issued a statement on the impact of
debt on students.
Stage two focused on Student Matters 97, a survey commissioned by
NatWest into the attitudes of 1,200 sixth formers towards debt.
Specialist broadcast consultancy Bulletin International liaised with
target broadcast media to interest them in the story and scheduled 37 TV
and radio interviews.
Two days before A level results the survey findings were released under
the headline ’Students sleepwalking into debt’. This was followed by
further research aimed at education reporters and a release giving
NatWest’s key money tips for students.
This month the campaign will be extended regionally using a series of
on-campus events to promote money management.
Stage one of the campaign generated over 50 news stories in the national
press and in national and regional broadcast media. To date, stage two
of the campaign has achieved coverage in over 120 different media,
including the Times Education Supplement, the Guardian, BBC Six O’Clock
News, European Business News, Sky News and Radio 4’s Today
NatWest reports that student recruitment figures are currently up by
15-20 per cent, compared to this time last year.
In NatWest’s view the campaign was particularly successful in
overshadowing its competitors, notably Barclays which, according to
external affairs manager Guy Bellamy, was ’kicked out of the ring’.
Journalists commenting on the campaign agree that the timing was ’well
judged’, although they point out that NatWest is still offering
incentives to attract new students.
Perhaps the campaign’s most successful aspect was the determination of
the in-house team to re-assert NatWest’s media profile and to set the
news agenda from within, at a point when coverage of the bank reached an
PR Team: In-house/Bulletin International
Campaign: New deal for students
Timescale: June - September 1997
Budget: Under pounds 10,000