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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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Ambassador Programs Influencers Marketing Tips Social Media

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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Ambassador Programs Influencers Marketing Tips

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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Personal Branding: Word-of-Mouth for Gen Z

Before social media, one of the most valuable promotions a brand could get was word of mouth. That is, real customers telling people they know about their favorite products, and why they like them so much. But it seems that recently, social media has now taken over this role in many ways. It’s on these social platforms that we notice what people wear, what they eat, where they go on vacation, and more.

Gen Z is especially talented at using these different preferences to curate their personal brand. They create and release content that represents them and all aspects of their personality. One of the ways they develop this brand is by associating oneself with popular corporate brands, in the hopes that an element of that tone or message is incorporated with their own.

Plenty of people on Instagram are willing to post themselves wearing the brand names they really like without being paid, it’s a natural occurrence not unlike word-of-mouth. The difference with social media is that the reach and impressions are much larger– and the communication is instant.

While people can involve a unique blend of styles and integrate the tone of multiple brands, corporate brands are limited in some ways to their own identity. Every brand has certain connotations that people associate with them, they also have the ability to embrace or resist new connotations, and new audiences as they come and go. So what makes Gen Z want to include a brand as part of their personal image? The key is getting them to identify with the brand.

Arguably the most important aspect of identification is personalization. Gen Z in particular wants to feel as though a brand is speaking directly to them, as individuals. This makes knowing and embracing your specific audience more important than ever. Blanket strategies simply aren’t effective for a generation made up of extremely individualized young people. If you want to see more people embrace your brand, your brand needs to embrace more individuals and their unique qualities.

Values are extremely important to Gen Z as well. You need to support the causes that your target audience supports, but more importantly, make these causes and values part of your mission and brand identity. If Gen Z can help support the causes they love by also supporting a brand they like, they are much more likely to integrate it into their personal brand and even help promote it.

Building this personal connection to members of Gen Z pays off. When a celebrity is paid to post about a product, your audience understands that they are being sold to, and they lose credibility and authenticity. But people understand that young people love to share what they love, and when they share on their own terms, they don’t lose credibility. This natural awareness and acceptance is a sign of brand success that could save you millions in creative and PR and it’s all part of positioning correctly and knowing how to speak to your audience.