Every university has a different process for approving and scheduling brands’ on-campus events. Some it seems are microfocused on every last detail while others appear to let just about anything go.
But there tend to be a few constants. Aligning with a student group will almost always help earn a thumbs-up but credit card companies and tobacco brands (and basically anything that could be categorized as a vice) might want to look elsewhere for marketing opportunities. EM chatted with the gatekeepers at four of the nation’s best-known colleges about what they look for when event marketers come calling.
The Ohio State University
Name: Matthew Couch
Title: Assistant Director The Ohio Union
Event Marketer: If a brand wants to bring an event program to Ohio State who’s the first point of contact?
Matthew Couch: The process typically starts with the student activities office. Sometimes depending on the opportunity our student programming board might be interested in being the sponsor. Some companies work through our athletic department if that’s relevant. Others look through our online directory of student organizations and make contact themselves.
EM: How do brands work with student organizations?
MC: Some [companies] work out partnerships with student organizations on campus and some pay to reserve space [on campus]. Typically those companies [pay the] campus organization since campus groups are the only ones that can reserve most spaces.
EM: Tell us about a recent event program that stopped on campus.
MC: EA Sports sponsored an NCAA College Football videogame promotion on our campus in the fall. Several hundred students passed through and I think everyone involved was happy with it.
EM: What makes a brand’s event more likely to get approved?
MC: Our main issue is that we can’t invite brands on campus that are competitors for companies with whom we have exclusive agreements. Because of our arrangement with Bank of America there can be no credit card solicitation [by any other company] on campus. Beyond that what makes a brand more likely to be accepted is the nature of the activity they’re offering. Our programming board and other student groups are more attracted to the interactive activities as opposed to information displays or exhibits.
Arizona State University
Name: Jennifer Stults
Title: Assistant Director-Programs and Activities Memorial Union
EM: How do brands bring events to ASU?
Jennifer Stults: Nationwide campus tours work through our programming and activities board. It would be a minimum of $2 500 and they have to have commercial general liability insurance with a minimum of $1 million. They work with the campus tour director to schedule the date find space on campus and get insurance taken care of.
EM: How strictly do you regulate which companies are allowed on campus?
JS: Well I think it’s a matter of whether there is a target population here. Is it something our students are going to enjoy? If [so] we’ll probably let them come onto campus. If it’s something that might become detrimental to our students later on—like a tobacco company or a credit card distributor—we would think twice about that.
EM: What companies and brands have you hosted recently?
JS: This year we’ve had video game companies Wrigley Pepsi and Jeep. Clinique has come on. Video games and anything that has to do with technology are typically a big hit. Anything [with] free food or drink would also be a big hit.
EM: Are you seeing interest from more brands lately?
JS: There’s more of an interest and it’s been a broader interest.
University of Miami
Name: Laura Stott
Title: Director-Student Activities Student Organizations and University Center Programs
EM: Which department is the first point of contact for brands interesting in getting onto campus?
Laura Stott: Usually the first place is our office. We’re a very student-driven office so if there was a concert or some kind of a giveaway we would ask our students if they wanted it. Also it’s a lot easier for companies to come through [an agreement with a] student group or department than if they come [on their own].
EM: What if they don’t come through a student group or department?
LS: We want [brands] to have the opportunity to market on campus so if a student group is not interested we would forward them to the registration office and they’d fill out a form for insurance and pay a fee.
EM: What guidelines dictate whether brands get to come on campus?
LS: We have contracts through the institution that we have to honor. For example we’re a Coke campus so no Pepsi products. And it depends on the event and student interest. If the students aren’t initially interested there is still a way for brands to come on and market on campus as long as they are not in direct competition with a university contract.
EM: What types of brands have contacted you lately?
LS: This spring we’ve gotten a lot of phone calls. It’s everything from mobile phones to banks.
Rutgers The State University of New Jersey
Name: Sandra Lanman
Title: Director-Media Relations
EM: How do you decide what brands get in?
Sandra Lanman: All proposals are reviewed on the basis of their benefit or interest to the student community and if applicable their entertainment value. No alcohol tobacco or credit card promotions are accepted.
EM: Tell us about a few recent event marketing programs at Rutgers.
SL: MTV recently did a spring break promotion here. Aeropostale which is a major sponsor [of the athletics program] at RU did a box sale.
EM: Is the interest from marketers on the upswing?
SL: We have seen a slightly higher number [of brands] contacting us.
EM: What’s the best spot on campus for brands?
SL: Usually organizations set up inside or outside our student centers particularly the Rutgers Student Center on the College Avenue campus where there is a lot of student activity.