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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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Overcoming Challenging Marketing Situations

When our Agency was planning client programs for Spring 2020 we weren’t expecting to have to account for the COVID, who was!? As it spreads and there are more and more health concerns it’s begun to create challenges for our campaigns, especially as colleges are switching to online classes, in some cases indefinitely.

No matter what the challenge is; a hurricane, wildfires, ice storms, it generally comes out of nowhere meaning our team is always on our toes, keeping client programs running at a high level, no matter what.

Since we started, success in any type of program, especially anything experiential, usually hinges on expecting and responding to the unexpected.

To maximize efficiency, our team has built a cache of processes that keep our programs running full steam ahead, no matter what. We’ve used our past experiences to help spark this ingenuity, below are a few strategies that help us power through unexpected challenges.

Balance Marketing Needs With Situational Realities 

When our Adobe ambassadors at Pepperdine were forced to evacuate due to wildfires in California, we temporarily lost the ability to host learning workshops. Working around the clock we made sure that our students were safe and then turned the events digital, making sure students still had the ability to learn new about Adobe programs and creative techniques.

Letting Social Expand Conversations 

Back in 2018, the flooding and winds of a busy hurricane season threatened the whole East Coast. Schools up and down the coast closed, some even evacuating their students. We had about 100 student ambassadors for different client programs now with no way to keep going with their normal responsibilities. Our team implemented online challenges that ambassadors shared with their audiences, making sure engagement and awareness for the programs stayed at a high level. It kept students positive when they were uncertain about how the storm would really impact them.

Expect The Best, Plan For The Worst 

When you’re in the experiential marketing businesses, you always need a contingency plan. In 2015 we flew into Austin, Texas for a big GrubHub football tailgate event at UT. An unexpected, torrential storm quickly crushed any hope for hosting the event. Within minutes our team was activating our contingency plan, coordinating with vendors and staff, moving the event to the next home game.

Our point, the Coronavirus is making some things uncertain, but our team isn’t panicking, we always get creative and deliver. We’re confident our team’s creativity and our nationwide access to universities and students, on and offline, can still deliver amazing ideas and results for clients. Contact us.

Feature Image Source: Jessica Predom
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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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What Really Matters to College Students: Brand Identity & Authenticity

Gen Z, the demographic currently enrolled in high school and college right now, is often accused of “killing off” brands that past generations had no problem with. This group represents $143 billion in purchasing power and growing, but many brands are struggling to relate to them and often try too hard to match their tone with poorly made memes, or incorrect use of internet lingo.

So what does Gen Z really look for in a brand? The answer is authenticity. Gen Z wants to know that brands are who they say they are. In order to achieve this, marketers should aim to build a strong brand identity.

The problem is that many marketers don’t have a good idea of what brand identity really is. They often get it confused with brand image, or the problems that the company tries to solve. And while these smaller components do contribute to brand identity, they aren’t the full picture.

Rather, brand identity is what the brand stands for, beyond what product or service it may provide. It is comprised of their motives beyond making money, why they do what they do, or what drives them. While this is one of the more abstract concepts of branding, a strong brand identity needs to be represented in everything tangible the brand does, otherwise authenticity is lost.

Another important contribution towards brand identity is the people that make up the company. In a recent study conducted by The Campus Agency, entrepreneurs were rated as being more influential than politicians, athletes, and social media influencers. The voices of company executives matter to Gen Z, and they need to line up with the brand’s philosophies.

Many marketers get into the trap of thinking that only larger brands can benefit from a strong brand identity, and that they need huge creative campaigns to make a statement about who they are. However, this isn’t the case. In many ways, it is actually easier for smaller brands to stay consistent, and strive to represent something greater in many smaller ways.

Recently, brands have found themselves under a microscope. It doesn’t take much for younger people to completely write one off because of its political affiliation, environmentally harmful practices, or poor social media etiquette. Nothing ticks off Gen Z more than when brands publicly claim to support a cause, but financially support its opposition.

One of the reasons that even good marketers often avoid this aspect, is because it is one of the most difficult to develop. It takes time and commitment, but most of all it requires real belief in the brand identity. Companies need to be constantly asking themselves who they are and if their actions align with this vision. By doing this, they are becoming more transparent, trustworthy, and honest in the ways that they choose to represent themselves to their audience. A strong brand identity isn’t just an extra objective that companies should tack onto the ends of their list’s, but rather an over-arching goal that each action should bring them closer towards.

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Social Media: The New Creative Space for Gen Z

In a recent student survey conducted by the Campus Agency, 87.5% of participants reported that they consider social media to be a creative outlet. What does this mean for brands attempting to break through the clutter? Simply put, brands can bring authenticity to the platform by tapping into the creative side of social media.

While some companies have already started to do this, it’s an opportunity that most have left untouched. There are many ways to enter this creative space, but the easiest may be to reach out to artists who are already using social media as a platform for their work. By hiring them to collaborate on brand-oriented content, you not only get a unique product, but you attract the artist’s social following too. It’s also important that you choose an artist that will match the image you want to create for your brand.

However, that isn’t the only way to do it. When asked if social media provides them with all the tools they need to create the content that they want, only 58% of respondents said yes. In other words, over 40% of college students are still open to more opportunities or ways to express themselves on social media. Brands can take advantage of this need by providing their audience with creative inspiration.

Companies can leverage their existing brand & social pages to host a contest that will engage their audience. This won’t work for everyone, and the tone/objective of the contest needs to match the tone of your brand in order to be successful. However, the benefits of this strategy are numerous. The first is that the contest is extremely low cost to run and you will get a wide range of usable content all created with your brand in mind. This content will have organic reach far beyond your regular audience, and because it’s made by real consumers, it will be authentic.

Using this method to crowdsource creativity can elevate your brand and content to an entirely new level. This type of content can help reinvigorate the brand and use its audience to expand its image.