Delta this fall has entered into multi-year agreements with nine colleges that embed the brand into campus experiences that go well beyond traditional stadium signage and will serve as a model for partnerships it has in place with six other universities. On-campus college student ambassadors, one from each of the nine colleges, help integrate the brand more organically into campus activities such as freshman move-in day, midnight madness events and tailgating, all in an effort on behalf of the airline to form a deeper connection and build its loyalty program with these savvy future fliers.
“In the past, our college partnerships have focused on the athletic portion, and while that is important, whether it is basketball or football, we thought it was important to embed Delta more holistically across the campuses,” says Annika Schmitz, director of sponsorships and brand activation at Delta Air Lines. “While we still have that signage and visibility, for us it was about getting deeper into campus.”
Delta over the winter recruited students from the nine colleges: Duke, the University of Florida, Indiana University, the University of Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State and the University of Wisconsin. The selected students attended an eight-week summer internship at the airline’s Atlanta headquarters that included a week in New York City for a deep dive into the airline’s brand marketing. “Delta has always had internship programs, but this seemed like the perfect opportunity to leverage these partnerships,” Schmitz says. “The interns added a layer of insight of what it is like on campus and what we should be doing there in terms of messaging. Now they are acting as our eyes and ears on campus and helping us with plans.”
So far, Delta’s campus activations have included hands-on help for 10,000 freshmen during move-in day at Michigan State. Delta employees offered luggage carts, refreshments, restaurant gift cards for families to take their students out to dinner before heading back home and the amenity kits with eye masks and ear buds that it distributes on flights. Plans are in the works for midnight madness events and tailgating parties featuring the Delta Celebration Grill, which was built by the Delta Technical Operations team to resemble an aircraft and crank out 500 burgers in an hour.
At each event, students will be able to sign up for Delta SkyMiles, the brand’s loyalty program. “The minute they do, that enables Delta to continue to talk to them and follow them in their lifecycle out of college into the professional world,” Schmitz says. “For us, it is about having that access and contact and how we use that database. We will continue to learn and do new things.” Agency: Octagon, Norwalk, CT.
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