LifeSmarts, Visa score with Financial Football partnership – National Consumers League

By Brandi Williams, LifeSmarts Program Manager

I admit it – I don’t know anything about football. When my colleagues talk about “the big game” over the weekend, or “that really awesome play” from last night’s sporting event, I struggle  to remember if the Washington Cardinals are a baseball or basketball team. I just nod, pretend to understand the sports-related conversation, and hope no one realizes it’s  all completely over my head.

So when I learned about Financial Football, Visa Inc.’s financial literacy video game, I was a little apprehensive. Actually, I was a lot apprehensive. I love video games, but I’m more of a “tap all the buttons and hope it turns into a combo” kind of player, so the idea of playing a video game that involved sports was intimidating. But I forged ahead, reminding myself that Financial Football, like NCL’s LifeSmarts program, while designed as a competition, was also meant to be fun.  And it was! After a few minutes, I was well beyond the confusion and, instead, actually enjoying the game.

That was a few years ago. Earlier this year, when Visa Inc. partnered with the National Consumers League to launch a financial literacy campaign in Washington, DC, I was super excited. After all, back in 2008 the DC Council passed legislation to require financial literacy education in DC public high schools, and Financial Football, like NCL’s LifeSmarts program, uses a fun and fast-paced competition set-up to educate teens about financial literacy issues and promote smart money-management skills.

With support from DC’s Executive Office of the Mayor and NFL’s Washington Redskins, NCL and Visa Inc. launched the campaign in DC on October 18 at Wilson High School with a live game of Financial Football. Mayor Vincent Gray and Washington Redskin Brian Orakpo led a team of 20 student athletes against a second team of 20 student athletes led by Gail Hillebrand, Associate Director of Consumer Education and Engagement for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and Josh Wright, Acting Director for the Office of Financial Education and Financial Access in the Department of the Treasury.

The students were wary at first, but Coaches Gray, Orakpo, Hillebrand and Wright were so personable and friendly, and having such a great time themselves, that the students were immediately put at ease, and soon enough the teams were huddling to discuss 529 plans, telemarketers, checking accounts and auto insurance, with high-fives and shouts of “SCORE!” when the correct answer was given. Jason Alderman, Senior Director of Global Financial Education at Visa Inc., served as the dynamic quiz-master/referee and not only did he keep the game moving forward quickly, he kept the kids smiling and laughing, and encouraged them to discuss the questions and ask for guidance from their adult coaches. I knew the importance of financial literacy was getting through to these kids when one young man whispered to Mayor Gray, “Can you explain to me what a whistle-blower is?”

Despite the game’s football theme, it was still a simple format to follow – and if someone completely ignorant of sports (like me) can follow along, then anyone can – making Financial Football the perfect complement to the LifeSmarts program and a great resource for Personal Finance topics. In fact, NCL’s partnership with Visa Inc. is allowing LifeSmarts to expand its free Personal Finance educational materials.

I’d say this is a win-win for everyone. Goal!

Or maybe I meant touchdown?