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Major Play in College Sports: Marketing Name, Image, & Likeness (NIL)


This summer marks the beginning of a new era for marketing as college athletes venture into the world of endorsements and sponsorships.  How will this play out on the local level?  How can brands and students connect so that everyone wins?  We’ll shed some light on these new changes and what they can mean for you, whether you are a student or representing a brand.


No Longer Earning Nil for NIL

On July 1, 2021, the NCAA Board of Directors voted to approve the NIL Bill.  This bill allows student-athletes to profit from the use of their Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL), as professional athletes commonly do.  This can range from showing up for an autograph signing, to appearing in a commercial spot, to accepting endorsements for their social media accounts.  Until this landmark decision, the NCAA had full control over the NIL rights of every student-athlete and prohibited them from earning personal profits.  This policy became increasingly controversial as the universities themselves collected billions of dollars in revenue each year using players’ NIL.  


This summer, students can finally reach out for a slice of the pie.  And reach out they have!  July was the start of a frenzy of students considering sponsorships in anticipation of the fall semester.  Now is prime time for brands of all sizes to partner with the most recognizable faces on campus. 


Students Are Hitting It Out of the Park

Some students have really hit the ground running, picking up some great sponsorship deals.  Fresno State twins Haley and Hanna Cavinder have taken advantage of their 3.4M TikTok fanbase to land a partnership with Boost Mobile — a nice off-court side hustle for the star guards.  Alabama quarterback Bryce Young has made headlines for his impressive line of lucrative deals, including signing on with CashApp, even though he has yet to compile many meaningful stats on the field.  For star players on high-profile teams, The sky’s the limit on what these endorsements can lead to.


What we love most about the adjusted regulations is how they will impact the lives of working student-athletes.  Some of these kids are first-generation college students, whose families have sacrificed tremendously for their opportunity to earn a degree.  The new bill allows these students to generate an income without heavily impacting their school-sports schedule.  


One case in point is the partnership made between the Miami Hurricanes and American Top Team, a nationally-esteemed mixed martial arts gym.  Every single member of the football team has been offered a $6,000/year share of the endorsement deal to become a social media influencer.  Seeing years of training, focus, and hard work pay off financially for these students just feels right. 


Businesses Score Big

Student-athletes are not the only ones excited about the new regulations.  Local and national brands alike are eager to partner up with the collegiate all-stars.  In Baton Rouge, Walk-On’s Sports Bistreaux — a local chain of 5 restaurants — partnered with LSU cornerback (and NFL hopeful) Derek Stingley, Jr.  


In Fayetteville, Wright’s BBQ — a stand-alone location — signed a deal with 14 of the Razorback offensive linemen, dubbing them “Official Protectors of the Pit,” and “Defenders of Smoke.”  


When it comes to partnering with influential student-athletes, there is endless room for creativity.  But how do you choose exactly who will best represent your brand? What is the best strategy to do so? That is where we come in.


We Connect Brands to Students

The Campus Agency is here to help you navigate this new era of marketing.  Our long-standing connections give us unparalleled experience in the industry.  We are a trusted name with thousands of campuses across the country and we have a passion for marketing to college students.  Because we live and breathe Gen Z, we have become proficient in negotiating social media pricing and projections.  


Seriously, we’ve been waiting our whole lives for this.


Athletes: The Campus Agency can open exciting opportunities and match you with brands you would be proud to represent — brands that resonate with your peers.  Get in touch with us before the new semester starts. You can spend less time researching how to pitch and negotiate endorsements, and more time doing what you’ve always dreamed of.


Brands: We are as enthusiastic as you are about the new possibilities for marketing with college athletes.  Our creative juices have been flowing since the news hit.  Let us share our ideas with you and shed some light on how deals can be structured for long-term success.  This season’s students will eventually graduate, but The Campus Agency can pair you with great students who are driven for excellence year after year.


Don’t go it alone — even the best players need a good coach.  Whether your brand wants to get in touch with some of the brightest up-and-coming influencers, or you are an athlete wondering how to bring your A-game off-field, The Campus Agency is on your team.





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Looking Forward to Back-to-School College Marketing

Who can predict the future? We may not know exactly, but we can look at the evidence, consult an expert, and make a plan. Many brands are starting to think about back-to-school college campus marketing now. What is really going to be happening on campus?

Let’s take a look at how the pandemic changed Gen Z brand marketing this past year, and then, based on the evidence, predict what exciting opportunities will be available for brands who want to market at college campuses this fall.

College Marketing Plans in Spring 2020

At the beginning of last year, our team was running several large brand ambassador campaigns at multiple college campuses that featured event and brand ambassador marketing. One of the biggest campaigns was for First Aid Beauty. Their promotion was called FAB AID: a multi-faceted campaign that included paying off $1 million in student loan debt. Brand ambassadors were trained; a Good Morning America segment was planned, national events were booked in Sephora stores.

Then the pandemic hit. All events were cancelled. College campuses across the country began to close. Student brand ambassadors were unsure what to do. For a moment, we were all stunned.

Finding Success Amid Pandemic Panic

Even though the brands we worked with were very concerned about the health of their customers and brand ambassadors, they were understandably panicked.

The good news? They were working with Campus: an intrepid team that loves to solve challenges. And that is just what we did.

First, we took time to address our clients’ concerns. We made adjustments, encouraging our brands to go from marketing with the intent to sell to marketing with the intent to show support. Their new goal was to stay present and stay supportive. In short order, our team saw opportunities.

We saw solutions.

We saw a way forward.

This pivot was the beginning of our nano influencer strategy. Though we’ve always had brand ambassadors posting on social media, we quickly found a winning formula that worked beautifully during the pandemic.

Making Nano Influencer Campaigns Work

Brand ambassadors are skilled content creators for their own personal channels. They have a huge network of untapped resources: students that were waiting for good opportunities to work with brands online.

As an agency, we monitored the organic content that the brand ambassadors produced, and boosted the best-performing organic posts to the entire Campus community. This meant that the ads were coming from the students themselves, not the brands’ channels.

This shift had a notable impact. Because Gen Z students do not typically like to be ‘marketed to’, the peer-to-peer messaging was highly effective. The peer-generated posts had very good engagement and positive sentiment from consumers when compared with ads that came directly from a brand.

“We saw very positive upticks in social media engagement when our student influencer’s content was boosted to their campus community coming from their own account compared to our own channels” , said Caesarine Novello, Brand Marketing and Communications Manager at Vince Camuto, a Campus Agency client.

Could Experiential Marketing Be History?

With regard to impressions, a nano influencer campaign vastly outperforms face-to-face event marketing. If a brand wants to focus on brand awareness, a nano influencer campaign is highly effective.

Still, creating events and experiences at campuses is the gold standard. “Experiential marketing is always going to be king, because nothing beats being able to touch something, feel something, have a live conversation with someone in a really cool, unique way. When that opportunity comes back, nothing can replace that type of marketing. But in social media marketing, the use of nano influencer campaigns will continue to grow.”

In short, there is a place for all facets of youth marketing: nano influencer campaigns, brand ambassador campaigns, and experiential marketing.

Many brands are now grappling with how to go forward. Since Campus Agency has extensive experience and open communication with college campuses, what will the future look like this fall?

Back-to-school Marketing to Gen Z

We project that there will be some level of peer-to-peer marketing happening on campuses this fall. As the rate of vaccinated students continues to increase, the anticipation for person-to-person interaction to begin anew has never been higher. This will create opportunities for highly successful small-to-medium-sized brand ambassador campaigns, where students will interact with their peers and coordinate ambassador-led small events on campuses.

To that end, we encourage forward-thinking brands to get started on combining the effective elements of nano-influencer campaigns on social media with in-person interactions of brand ambassador campaigns.

Thinking Ahead and Thinking Bigger

Even still, we’re very excited about the return of experiential marketing. After more than a year of social distancing and isolation, students are craving social interaction and new experiences. With unprecedented enthusiasm, they will be ready to absorb new influences and try new things. Will your brand be ready to give those experiences to them?

Thinking of the overwhelming enthusiasm that students will have when experiential marketing events begin anew, Chris Nyland, COO, states, “There is a huge opportunity for brands to capitalize on the excitement in a responsible way. Students are going to be more receptive to marketing messaging now than they’ve ever been.”

Even with restrictions, we’re confident that events can still be planned – with safety protocols in place. (Restaurant takeovers and food truck events are good examples.) As a brand, you may be concerned about the uncertainties that come with planning an event during the end of a pandemic. That’s why working with a college marketing agency like Campus is a win-win. In every season, we’re problem solvers. In college marketing, there is continual red tape and we have a tradition of making what seems impossible happen.

The sudden changes brought on by the pandemic were just a new set of challenges. At Campus Agency, we’re always down for the challenge.

Are you ready to work with a team that’s battle tested for the unexpected? Reach out to us to talk about how to successfully plan your post-covid college marketing campaign.

Contact us.

Feature Image Source: Photo by Phillips Jacobe on Unsplash
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Harley Reaches Gen-Z

Harley-Davidson occupies a singular position in American cultural consciousness. Their motorcycles elicit visions of never-ending roads, wide open spaces, and unlimited adventure. For over a century, the iconic potato-potato-potato of a Harley engine has come to signify more than just a brand. To generations of Americans, a hand on the throttle of a Harley means the freedom to forge your own path and define your own destiny.

But newer generations of Americans didn’t seem to get the message. Harley riders grew increasingly older, with Baby Boomers becoming a disproportionately large share of the brand’s customers. Harley’s storied history seemed to hamper them in marketing to Millennials and Gen Z, who saw them as a relic of a bygone era.

Or did they? With The Campus Agency’s help, Harley sought to discover a new market for their legendary motorcycles in the new generation of students who were simply unfamiliar with motoculture at large.

Reintroducing one of America’s most beloved brands to a new generation took the creation of unforgettable experiences for students. With our team’s help, Harley-Davidson found a network of students across the South who craved the thrills, excitement, and unbridled opportunity that comes with the wind whipping around their helmet on the back of a Harley motorcycle.

At four campuses, we sent a team of ambassadors to Harley riding school to learn the ins and outs of safe motorcycling. Armed with startup merch kits and a taste of Harley-fueled freedom, our ambassadors created a new motoculture movement on their campuses. They combed their schools for two-wheeled vehicles, leaving promotional materials for travelers who might want to amp up their two-wheel experience. They tabled for Harley in high-traffic areas on campus, in local coffee shops, and at Harley dealership events. Freedom Fridays, in which ambassadors raffled off Harley swag kits, became the hottest competition on campus.

The Campus Agency staged over 50 experiential marketing events for Harley-Davidson in 2019. At the University of Alabama’s fall activities fair, our ambassadors created the Bama Rides Out group, giving over 500 new students a crash course in motoculture. We teamed up with Sony and a local dealership at the University of Texas to host a tailgate activation event, where our ambassadors distributed merchandise and Riding Academy vouchers to some of the Longhorns’ most stalwart fans. Then, Harley-Davidson took over the annual Eve Carson 5K at the University of North Carolina, working in partnership with Greek organizations at one of UNC’s biggest philanthropic events of the year.
Our #CampusAgencyPowered Harley-Davidson campaign generated a fresh surge of buzz around an American tradition. Though their brand had struggled to attract younger generations, with The Campus Agency’s help, they found that the appetite for the freedom and excitement Harley represents is just as strong now as it was back in 1903. All it took to tap into this excitement was a little kick-start.

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Seven Habits of a Highly Effective Brand Ambassador

On-campus brand ambassadors are a highly effective way to reach to college students and young professionals. Their awareness of interpersonal connections and ability to create genuine experiences ensures that they will make a lasting impact on the day to day lives of their peers, and allow their audience to make a personal connection with the brand.

They’re at all the events, not just their own.

Successful Brand Ambassadors aren’t afraid to put themselves out there, and they’re down to go to all sorts of events. People will probably know who they are before their first conversation, and they’re personable and approachable to everyone, not just their clique.

Social media expertise.

It’s not just about the follower count, it’s about knowing what clicks and sticks on each social platform. One of the most important KPIs for Brand Ambassadors is follower engagement. On top of that, they need to be able to create content on the fly. They know how to post consistently, but without spamming their followers.

They know their brand, through and through.

Brand ambassadors are tasked with representing the personality and image of the brand accurately towards everyone they meet, but to be “always on” is not an easy task. It’s important that they know what the brand stands for and how it wants to be perceived. If you’re lucky, they’ll know how to integrate the brand they are reping with their own personal brand effortlessley.

They’re Involved in organizations on-campus.

It’s important that campus ambassadors are well-rounded and involved in activities besides their jobs. Campus organizations are an important source of connections and a great way to get your voice out to large groups of people.

They make their interactions organic.

When they talk to their peers, they believe in the brand they are promoting, and talk about it because they genuinely like it. Just like longtime customers, they have their own unique insights about the brand and favorite products that they don’t mind sharing.

Accurate & honest data tracking.

Clear communication between the brand and ambassador is key for long term success. In order for clients to get the best information from their ambassadors, they need to be tracking their data accurately. Without this info, brands won’t know if their efforts are paying off and what future methods will work the best for the campus dynamics.

Work hard, play hard.

The ideal ambassador is organized and knows how to maintain a work-life balance. Ultimately the most successful people are the ones who have fun doing it and make the program work for them and their lifestyle.

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Micro-Influencers: The Best of Both Worlds?

If you have been paying attention to business news in the last couple months, you’ve probably seen some of the drastic effects that influencers can have on businesses. The prime example? A single tweet by Kylie Jenner contributes to the stock value of Snap Inc. dropping by $1.3 billion.

sooo does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore? Or is it just me… ugh this is so sad.

— Kylie Jenner (@KylieJenner) February 21, 2018

According to NBC, Jenner makes about $1 Million per paid instagram post, and is widely known as the highest paid instagram influencer. But are these brands really getting what they paid for? For $1 million, many of these brands could have easily gone the traditional route and launched an entire agency campaign.

But instead they’ve kept faith in the effectiveness of this costly influencer marketing trend for two simple reasons. The first is the belief that organic, trackable social reach is better than paid social media ads, and the second is that these influencers carry built-in credibility that simply cannot be bought through a traditional creative campaign.

If Jenner’s followers took her suggestions as seriously as analysts on Wall Street did, this spending might be worthwhile, but this isn’t the case. However, what if there was a way to get the same trackable, organic social reach without the enormous price tag? Enter the micro-influencer.

These social media personalities are often found on Instagram & Youtube. They range from having 2,000 to 10,000 followers, which is a high, but not quite celebrity-level follower count. What makes them special is that they have a higher engagement percentage than most celebrities, and they can be used to target specific communities or subcultures that they may be a leader in.

Many of these micro-influencers are used to creating and editing their own content, which means less work and a lower budget for you. Gone is the need for a production team or even a photographer to shoot content for your product; the micro-influencer will do it all.

While you won’t get the same massive reach by employing just one, by spreading out your social media reach to multiple micro-influencers, you can target multiple cities and communities. The best part, as mentioned before, is the lower cost. Your company won’t have to spend millions, or even six-figures to engage a wide, yet targeted audience.

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An Open Letter To Brands Considering a Campus Ambassador Program

Dear Brand Name,

Over the past couple of years, I’m sure you’ve poured countless money and resources into researching, studying, and trying to crack the code to reaching the Millennial generation. From their work habits to their ideas on buying, people have been fascinated with Generation Y for the past few years. After all, they are the biggest generation with the greatest spending power, right? While this fact remains true, it won’t be for much longer. All your findings on Generation Y and everything you thought you knew about reaching these buying powerhouses is about to become obsolete. This is because a new generation of spenders is about to come of age, and they’re even more powerful than the Millennials. This new breed of consumers is known as Generation Z and according to The Huffington Post, they will account for 40% of all consumers by 2020 (that’s a lot sooner than it sounds).

Generation Z, also known as those born after 1996, are much different than their older Gen Y siblings. According to BizJournals, some researchers refer to them as the “pivotal generation,” in contrast to the Millennial generation. This means they are pivoting back towards a more traditional view of personal success, work ethic, and money management. These are kids who came of age during the Great Recession, have seen their parents stressed about income and finances and have bared witness to the harsh realities of the global economy through digital media. Between this and the constant exposure to the internet and mobile phones since they were born, Gen Zers tend to value honesty, transparency, and authenticity

So now that you know a little bit more about the next generation of great spenders, ask yourself “how can my brand reach this generation and stand out from the rest? How can we begin to form relationships now to ensure brand loyalty in the future when their true spending power comes to fruition?” The answer is simple: a campus representative program (also can be referred to as brand reps, brand advocates, collegiate ambassadors, etc–you get the idea).

Since most Gen Zers are either already in the college space or are about to become co-eds, this puts them in the perfect, bubble-like atmosphere to show them how your brand can benefit their lifestyle. You already know that Gen Z craves authenticity and transparency. Therefore hiring a designated student(s) rep on campus who thinks, talks, and acts like your target audience will be your best bet for ensuring authenticity and generating brand awareness. If you begin to put your resources towards relationships and engagement, it will make interaction meaningful and your brand memorable. Here are a few ways campus ambassadors can help your brand resonate with Gen Z:


According to AdWeek, 77% of Gen Zers prefer ads that show real people in real situations. A campus rep program does exactly that. Students will respond much better to someone they perceive as similar to them, as opposed to a normal sales person. Most importantly, this is an opportunity for you to enlist students with personalities that fit the brand and the message you’re trying to convey–these will be your best spokespeople. And since Gen Zers prefer transparency, you can prepare your student reps with the direct messages you want them to convey to your target audience.

Brand Loyalty and Instant Gratification

By having a direct peer represent your brand, you can show students how your product would benefit their lifestyle and keep them coming back for more. Campus reps are the perfect agents to execute brand activations, marketing events, and make your brand a known presence. Also offering student discounts, deals, and premium items will further incentivize the audience you’re catering to and make them remember you. Not to mention, it allows for instant gratification (remember, these kids have the attention span of about 8 seconds). Utilize your campus reps to deliver that instant gratification–arm them with enough branded swag to reward loyal customers and to start generating a little buzz on campus. If you don’t capture their attention and begin to cultivate a relationship now, another brand will.

Social influencers

Simply choosing a student to represent your brand on campus isn’t enough; choosing the right student makes all the difference. This person should be considered a “social influencer,” meaning other students on campus look to them for what the latest trends are, and they do so through social media. Your rep should be the type of person who not only has a strong pre-existing network, but can also work to build relationships with other students. And because nearly 40% of Gen Zer’s say social media has a direct effect on their happiness, they should have a strong social media following. As a campus rep, they can post authentic content of your product and help students associate your brand with them. People will begin to look to your campus rep for information on your brand and new products. Their following will become your following. Not to mention, Gen Zers have their specific set of etiquette and rules on different social media platforms, according to BizJournals. They know how to leverage their Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter profiles to their advantage. And they’re smart enough to know that Facebook is for Mom and Grandma.

Collecting feedback

Finally, and possibly the most valuable asset to having a campus rep, will be feedback collection. Brand ambassadors are your built in source of information on campus. According to Fortune, Gen Z values consistent and honest conversations to help build relationships. If they know a brand is willing to talk with them and not at them, they’ll be more likely to trust it. Thinking of a new product or idea but not sure how students will respond? Ask your student reps. Have them ask their friends. Have them distribute a survey on campus. They are the best source of insight and they’re not afraid to be honest and critical. In fact, they actually revel in it.

So there you have it. Not convinced that your brand needs a campus rep program? Companies such as The New York Times, Google and Showtime have already all hopped aboard the Campus Rep train and they’ve seen great results from their respective Campus Rep programs. So what is your brand waiting for?


The Campus Team