Southwest Connects with Millennials Via Startup Competition

Southwest Sponsors a Startup Pitch Competition

How Southwest is Connecting with Business-Minded Millennials

Southwest Airlines at Music + Ideas Festival 2016

Southwest Airlines in April helped student entrepreneurs take their business concepts “from the dorm room to the boardroom” with its title sponsorship of the Music + Ideas Festival 2016 spring tour. Aligning itself with festival creator RECESS, which launched the event in 2013, the brand aimed to showcase its own innovation while promoting future business professionals.

From April 5-18, student entrepreneurs at 18 colleges and universities were given the opportunity to pitch their startup ideas to the biggest venture capitalists and investors in the country through a bracket-style startup pitch competition. To close out each regional leg of the tour, artists including Lil Dicky, GoldLink and Tory Lanez performed at After Party concerts following each semifinal round.

As title sponsor of the event, Southwest not only surprised and delighted festival attendees with round-trip ticket giveaways, but also enlisted some of its executives to serve as judges in the competition. The brand also provided round-trip tickets to a travel-related startup to meet with Southwest leaders at the brand’s Dallas headquarters. The goal of it all? To make connections with today’s most targeted demographic: millennials. Here, three lessons from Southwest on how to reach this coveted segment.

1.  Spotlight Your Innovative Spirit.

Millennials are inherently more attracted to innovation than past generations, so don’t be afraid to showcase your brand’s entrepreneurial side.

“We want to create loyalty among millennials knowing that they are the most brand-loyal generation out there,” says Kimberly Greiner, manager-community engagement at Southwest Airlines. “And it helps to have them see us as an innovative company, because we are. I think that we’ve done a really good job of telling our story from a culture aspect but I don’t know that we always share how innovative we’ve been [until now]—and that’s attractive. A lot of the millennials now are much more entrepreneurial in spirit, so we want to appeal to that.”

2. Show Your Support.

Being a 20-something student with big ideas and little real-world experience can be daunting. A little encouragement can go a long way.

“As an innovative company, over the years we’ve done things a little differently and we’ve always been mavericks in this space,” says Greiner. “We want to help promote future entrepreneurs and let them know that we are here to support what they’re trying to do and empower young minds with the idea of taking their own ideas from the proverbial cocktail napkin to becoming, potentially, a world-class company.”

3. Hook ‘Em in Early.

Today’s college students are tomorrow’s business leaders. By making connections now, your brand is more likely to be top of mind in the future.

“By connecting with these young professionals, in a way, it’s building our future—getting in front of them and having those face-to-face conversations, and having them think of Southwest Airlines now,” says Greiner. “If we can support those up and coming entrepreneurs with their journey today, they might think of us as they’re building upon their career and we can be that airline that gets them to where they want to be.” Agency: In-house.

 

See also:

Nine Ways Brands are Leveraging Music to Strike a Chord with Millennials

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