Student ambassadors market popular brands on campus

Companies tap into college consumer base by hiring student promoters

· December 8, 2011, 8:33 pm   ·  Updated December 9, 2011, 1:35 am

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Flattered that a girl asked you to try out a new restaurant? Think again — she may have been paid to do so.

College campuses like Penn, a marketing mecca for brands that target the 18-to 24-year-old population, have become home to ambassadors for top brands, such as Red Bull, Microsoft and Verizon Wireless.

This fall, at least 10,000 college students are working on hundreds of campuses for various brands, according to a September New York Times article.

Campus Entertainment, the exclusive marketing agency for the National Association for Campus Activities, links big brand names with the big men and women on campus for mutual benefits.

Director of Business Development of Campus Activities Mark Giovino explained how to tap into the network of college students.

“As you look across the advertising spectrum as a whole, [college campuses] are a very challenging market,” Giovino explained. To gain access to college students as well as their social networks, Campus Entertainment “looks for students with a finger on the pulse of what’s going on” in hiring student promoters.

Campus Entertainment has facilitated the marketing efforts of mtvU ­— the college-geared branch of MTV Networks — among others on Penn’s campus.

College senior Kelly Newman served as a brand ambassador for Vita Coco Coconut Water last year and said “it was a great marketing and product promotion experience.”

“I decided to be a student ambassador because the position paid well, and I wanted to make some extra spending money,” she explained. Newman made $15 to $17 per hour in her position as branch educator.

College sophomore Lucie Read is a brand ambassador for Salute the Brave, a clothing company that donates hats to soldiers overseas for customer purchases.

Unlike Newman, Read does not receive monetary compensation for her work. She said it is her passion for the brand of Salute the Brave that serves as her motivation.

“I just really like the idea of the company,” she explained. “It was a way for me to show my support and be patriotic myself.”

Read uses word of mouth and Facebook to promote the brand.

Giovino concurred that word of mouth and peer-to-peer conversation are the best strategies for these ambassadors.

Newman was “in charge of coordinating events on campus for the product to sponsor, distributing free samples, promoting the brand and educating people about what it was.”

Yet many students feel bombarded by the advertisements surrounding them on campus.

College junior Talia Goldberg said that she does not appreciate the constant notifications from brand ambassadors at Penn in certain circumstances.

“I am bothered by it when the people soliciting are clearly sending impersonal, generic, mass emails, which definitely happens,” she said.

However, if Goldberg sees the solicitation as relevant to her and could potentially offer her a “cool opportunity,” then she thinks it’s a good idea.

Read said she has not been “extremely aggressive” about promoting sales. “I’ve made it an open option for people to buy or support, but I’m not offended at all if my friends don’t buy it.”

Giovino stressed that marketing approaches needed to be “authentic and real.”

“As we look to recruit the ideal student promoter, that’s the most important part: to know the brand, use the brand and have a passion for the brand, or it fails before it starts,” he added.

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