The startup that’s making a big, expensive bet on a Super Bowl ad this year

Fin-tech gets in the game.
Fin-tech gets in the game.
Image: SoFi
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Update, Feb. 6: SoFi has been working on the commercial since it was posted to YouTube and has edited out the last line of the voiceover (“You’re probably not.”) A spokesperson tells Quartz the line “ended up not feeling authentic to our brand and we felt it drew away from the fact that we’re including real members in the campaign, so we cut it.” Video of the ad included in this story is no longer available. The latest version of the ad can be seen here.)

Alternative lender Social Finance, also known as SoFi, proudly admits that it’s not for everyone. But it’s still hoping to reach the largest possible audience with its first big TV ad, which will break during Super Bowl 50.

The San Francisco-based alternative lending startup is splashing out 20% of its annual budget on the big game in the hopes of becoming a household name.  The 30-second Super Bowl spot, which cost around $5 million, will air during the second quarter of the game on Feb. 7 on CBS. The spot is the major highlight of a broader $20 million ad campaign introducing SoFi’s brand to the mass market.

SoFi is run by CEO Mike Cagney, a former Wells Fargo executive and specializes in refinancing student loans for qualified millennials as well as personal loans. It also expanded into mortgages last year when it became one of a few startups to raise a billion-dollar financing round, led by Softbank. 

With all this going on, 2016 seemed like the perfect year to introduce SoFi to the masses, the company said. 

“The Super Bowl seemed like the best bang for our buck in terms of really being able to control our messaging while reaching the largest number of people,” Meg Ciarallo, vice president of brand marketing at SoFi, told Quartz.

Last week, SoFi rolled out a commercial on TV and online—its first to ever hit the small screen—encouraging people to question what it depicts as the archaic, faceless banking system. It’s a precursor to the Super Bowl ad which introduces SoFi as a banking alternative where members are put first.

In the ad, SoFi vows to propel its members to “greatness,” but says not everyone fits the bill. “Find out if you’re great at,” the voiceover reads. “You’re probably not.”

The elitist message may seem polarizing to some, but as SoFi boasts, the service really is not for everyone. SoFi targets young, working people who are not at the top of the financial spectrum, the company said. With the wide reach of the Super Bowl a polarizing national ad is one way to generate chatter and new business.

“As a brand, we’re not shy. We know who we are and we’re very proud of it,” Ciarallo said. ”Selectivity allows us to offer better rates because we know the people we’re investing in are going to pay us back… Not everyone is going to qualify.”

With the exception of E-Trade, tax-prep services and a few others, the financial-services industry have mostly shied away from the Super Bowl in recent years. But in this year’s game, finance is becoming a larger part of the conversation with new entrants like SoFi and PayPal, which will present its vision of the future of money during the game. US bank SunTrust, another freshman Super Bowl advertiser, is tackling financial stress in its first national in-game ad.

“[Personal finance] is really becoming a mass-market topic and it just wasn’t before,” advertising-agency veteran Mark DiMassimo of DiMassimo Goldstein told Quartz. “The fin-tech category is really coming into its own this year. It’s reached the scale and velocity of growth that makes its possible for leading fin-tech companies to be very big advertisers.”