State school sporting events have long been the venues of choice for marketers looking to make connections with coveted college student populations local fans and tightly-knit alumni networks. But the Big Ten is hardly the only game in town. This month we take a look at alternative student networks—accredited U.S. colleges often overlooked by marketers but jam-packed with demographically unique target groups. Aspiring fashion designers future top chefs part-time students (and full-time parents) and high-tech millionaires in the making are just a sampling of the student bodies working hard toward their degrees at schools like the Art Institute ITT and Le Cordon Bleu. Here the lowdown on four off-the-beaten-path academic institutions worth considering for your next event program.
The Art Institutes
Programs: Design Culinary Media Arts and Fashion.
Who goes: Aspiring graphic designers interior designers video game designers visual effects gurus fashion designers and chefs. Master’s degrees bachelor’s degrees associate’s degrees and non-degree programs are all available. Students go at their own pace stringing together daytime evening weekend and online courses to fit their schedules.
Reach: 40 locations throughout the U.S. including influencer-heavy hotbeds like Los Angeles and New York City.
Contact: Devra Pransky; 412-995-7685; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why to engage: Part art school and part vocational college the Art Institutes attract a blend of fresh faces right out of high school and seasoned career changers going back to do something they’re more passionate about. Brands seeking meaningful connections with future trendsetters and fashionistas will find them here. Long hours spent in on-site computer labs and design studios lend to a vibrant campus life that hums 24/7.
Programs: Community colleges offer two-year associate’s degrees for roughly a third of the price of a four-year university making it accessible to hardworking consumers in lower income brackets.
Who goes: 11.5 million students nationwide. Sixty percent women. Average age: 29. Many students are four-year college and graduate school bound. Half work full- or part-time jobs.
Reach: 1 195 schools. Some states have as many as 50 colleges. See utexas.edu/world/comcol/state/ for a handy listing by state.
Contact: There are two ways to go: One reach out geographically to the directors of the schools in each of your target cities or states. Or two contact the American Association of Community Colleges; 202-728-0200; aacc.nche.edu.
Why to engage: Because of their relatively low cost and plethora of locations community colleges are places where students with humble beginnings can kick-start their educations. Brands that can help pull these students up with giveaways contests and scholarships can create an emotional connection that lasts well into their lives and careers. Most colleges have student unions or governments busy event calendars and campus centers ready to host tours events and promotions.
ITT Technical Institute
Programs: Information Technology Drafting and Design Criminal Justice Electronics Business and Health Science. Newly added programs at some schools include Construction Management and Visual Communications.
Who goes: 48 000 students seeking associate’s bachelor’s and online degrees. Most students balance classes with part- or full-time jobs.
Reach: 90 schools in 30 states.
Contact: Reach out to the directors of the schools in each of your target cities or states. See itt-tech.edu/campus for a state-by-state contact list.
Why to engage: Making a brand impression on a future Bill Gates is clearly a good idea but take note female-focused brands—ITT is dedicated to its lady students as well. A study at Northwestern University found that ITT Tech is “particularly successful in motivating and encouraging women in their studies.” Students participate in clubs and field trips related to their programs. Underwriting the costs of these events may give brands valuable face-time with students. ITT is also dedicated to an organization called First which promotes early science and math education in American schools. Competitions and scholarships funded by brands and employers committed to the same educational values are welcome. Like the community college network many students are at the beginnings of their careers while others are balancing households and kids with their life’s ambition.
“Typically when they come to us they’re working in a job they feel has limited potential or no potential and they want some upward mobility or to switch to a different career altogether ” says David Landau director of p.r. at ITT. “So they come to us to help them do that.” Become the brand that’s associated with helping them along the way and you may also reap the rewards.
Le Cordon Bleu
Programs: Culinary Patisserie and Baking Hospitality and Restaurant Management
Who goes: 20 000 students internationally. Fifty percent women. Diverse mix of mid-life career changers and high school graduates.
Reach: 14 schools across the U.S. mostly in major metros; 15 international schools
Contact: Mollie Cole; 847-851-7569; email@example.com
Why to engage: There has never been a better time for brands to make connections with the future foodies of the world. Students regularly rise up the ranks to become culinary rock stars—TV hosts cookbook authors celebrities and cultural tastemakers. The school welcomes on-campus education events that enrich the student and faculty experience by introducing relevant brands products and technologies. “This industry is so vast and there is so much available that if a student gets some exposure to a particular brand name that very well could be that brand they’re familiar with when they go out in the industry and it’s time for them to make their first big purchase ” says Kirk Backmann vp-education at Le Cordon Bleu. “So from an academic perspective there’s a wealth of opportunity for partnering.” LCB also invites sponsored competitions that give students a chance to win scholarship money while honing their craft.