There are 16 million students enrolled in U.S. colleges. This Gen-Z group, ages 18 – 24, is a priority for many marketers. Brands are vying for the love of the newest shopper generation. College marketing programs allow brands to connect and engage with the college student demo.

college marketing

Daunting Task?
When planning teams consider the work load it takes to execute a multi-market, multi-campus activation, it can seem overwhelming. You may be trying to line up game dates, secure permits, juggle scheduling, staff events and collaborate with multiple vendors. But when you partner with an experiential marketing agency, you can deploy your messaging to a massive number of college students with scale – and ease. We leverage platforms that automatically find efficiencies and make planning your college marketing program a breeze.

Whether you want to activate on multiple campuses during the same week, or create a mobile tour to save costs on assets, find a partner who can execute flawlessly. This way, the brand team focuses on the message and results. And there’s no sweat for you!

On-Campus v. Off-Campus
Both on- and off-campus brand activations achieve high visibility for your brand among your core target audience. On-campus activations put you front and center of the activity and in the direct pathway of many students. Off-campus activations may allow you a bit more creative freedom in how you engage students, without the need for a permit or a school’s guidelines. Either way, you will bring your college marketing programs within close proximity to the college student demo.

As you ideate how your experience will resonate with the audience and accomplish your marketing objectives, you’ll find pros/cons of either option. Weigh those out and make the best routing decisions based on the unique experience you’re designing. We have done both on- and off-campus activations successfully.

Sports-Related Successes
College sports are a great way to connect with the wider college audiences. Sporting events draw in students, parents, faculty, staff, alumni and the greater community. Are you looking to expand your reach with a product that garners mass appeal? Then college sporting events may be an effective way to activate your college marketing plan.

Our University Media program, for example, centers around domination. We take several media formats on a tour throughout college football season with exclusive rights available to advertisers.

It’s not the only way to make an impact on campus. For Green Giant®, we set up a sampling station in Fan Fest before every home football game on Penn State University.

college marketing

Influencer Marketing
College kids across campus have free samples stashed in their book bags, ready to share with friends. Why? Because brands know this college generation has influence. Gen Z is the least susceptible to forms of advertising than any generation before them. The marketing message must be authentic – and what better way to authenticate your brand than via their personal friendships?

Your college marketing campaign should consider digital integration, on-campus influencers and what types of experiences generate social media mentions. Your campus activation could be a means of recruitment for student ambassadors to continue to extend your college marketing initiative longer term.

There’s lots to be said about influencer marketing. The one thing I know for sure is that brands no longer have full control over their messaging. Social media users are influencing their networks – paid or unpaid – about the brands they’re using. And Gen Z certainly wants that influence to be in their own words, on their own terms. College students know the importance of personal branding and strive for a unique voice. Balance how much you ask of them, but keep monitoring conversation for more brand control.

Types of Activations
A college marketing activation can take on many shapes and sizes. Some general possibilities include:

  • Sampling, using a static footprint or mobile media formats
  • Pop-ups, which could be a pop-up shop, outdoor cinema, lounge or event
  • Special events, ranging from a dance party to a music festival
  • Brand ambassador teams or even a flash mob, going guerrilla style to connect with students

Before we land on exact tactical solutions, we’ll understand your brand, objectives and challenges. It’s part of our fully turnkey experience development. But know this, we’ll consider several creative concepts and push our creative envelopes to ensure we wow the audience in the most effective way.

college marketing

For one university, we collaborated with their agency to host a pop-up glow lounge on campus which allowed students a break from class. During this one-day activation, 4,000 students visited the lounge. Inside, they could listen to music, take and share a photo, sign a mural, play yard games and enjoy a treat of cotton candy.

Sheetz Campus Marketing

For a local Sheetz experiential marketing program, we activated guerrilla marketing. This included chalking mysterious “FTL” tags across campus and town, and interacting with students. The campaign culminated with an off-campus live concert event, that included a photo booth and lots of cool swag.

college marketing

A credit union canvasses state universities across the commonwealth to surprise and delight students during move-in and sporting events every fall. Brand ambassadors pass out free drinks and Italian ice treats, and on game days, offer team-related air brushing.

Big or large, a brand activation that connects and engages college students can drive great impact across your marketing objectives.


If you want to learn more about college marketing opportunities and how we can leverage campus experiences to engage your target demo, we’re ready to chat.