AARP Responds to Viral Posts With Benefits Contest

The association’s “Benefits Badass” contest follows a phenomenon of TikToks by members outside its core audience touting its discounts.

An association has seized on a TikTok trend discussing its benefits and built a public-facing contest around it.

On April 19, AARP announced the launch of a national search for an “AARP Benefits Badass,” the member who has found the most clever ways to use or promote the benefits offered by the association for Americans aged 50 and older. According to a press release, AARP will select 25 finalists from submissions, which will then be voted on by the general public; the winner will receive $50,000.

TikToks featuring the phrase “aarp benefits worth it” have received nearly 30 million views.

According to the AARP release, the idea was sparked by a trend of 20-somethings learning that not only are they eligible for benefits from the association but also making robust use of them. A July 2021 TikTok post by Zachary Burr Abel on the topic went viral, garnering 3.2 million likes and nearly 350,000 shares. In his post, Abel noted that AARP has no minimum age to join and mentioned discounts on plane tickets, restaurants, car rentals, and hotels. 

“What’s something really important that you should’ve been taught in school but you weren’t?” Abel said in the post. “I wish they’d taught me that you don’t have to be over 50 to join AARP.”

Abel’s post became a phenomenon, prompting outreach from AARP leadership and a contract with the association to promote its benefits on social media. A 2022 Wall Street Journal story also looked at how 20-somethings have been embracing AARP membership in response to inflation. One interviewee in the story, Morissa Schwartz, said she joined after seeing a TikTok about AARP and surprised a friend by using her discount at a restaurant. “I can guarantee you she googled whether young people could join AARP after leaving the table,” Schwartz told the Journal.

AARP told the Journal that it has seen an increase in membership among younger members. 

The trend is still growing strong: TikToks featuring the phrase “aarp benefits worth it” have received nearly 30 million views. (Naturally, Abel is one of the users promoting the contest.)

“Zach showed the country that AARP benefits are badass, and we know there are thousands more just like him who personify the AARP social mission by stretching their dollars, living healthy, and staying connected to friends and family,” said Barbara Shipley, AARP senior vice president of brand integration, in the press release.

According to the release, participants have until May 29 to apply for the contest and submit a short video. Public voting will run from June 27 through July 24, and a winner will be announced in mid-August. The release notes that “the winner may have have the chance to appear on AARP digital channels, at selected AARP events, and post content about their experience with AARP benefits.”

(Kristina Ratobilska/iStock)

Mark Athitakis

By Mark Athitakis

Mark Athitakis, a contributing editor for Associations Now, has written on nonprofits, the arts, and leadership for a variety of publications. He is a coauthor of The Dumbest Moments in Business History and hopes you never qualify for the sequel. MORE

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