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Red Bull understands what motivates the typical college student – you know, the Gen Z tech-expert who has known how to operate a smartphone since elementary school.  Red Bull also knows that she hasn’t experienced the world without the internet, so for her, the web and social media has a powerful influence on her decisions, and her choices as a consumer.  And Red Bull knows that Gen Z absorbs information like a sponge but that they are also quick to tune out information.

So, how did Red Bull bridge the marketing gap to Gen Z?  They got these independent, confident and autonomous consumers to generate buzz for the brand amongst their peers.

For years, Red Bull’s Wings Team has been a successful campus ambassador program with as much energy as the product itself. Essentially, it’s a group of enthusiastic and committed students who do what they do best in their social environment, they focus on their friends and others in their community to help build Red Bull’s brand. Campus ambassadors (aka brand ambassadors) ignite a passion for a brand through experiential and event marketing.  And the spark spreads as Instagram photos, Facebook posts, Tweets, and Snapchats keep the conversation going.  Furthermore, the Wings Team is comprised of student influencers (opinion leaders) who create content surrounding the brand. Since their ideas are already valued by their peers, influencer marketing helps to establish an on-the-ground, deep-rooted connection between the brand and student consumers.

Why Brands Should Pay Attention to This Generation

Generation Z (born between the mid-1990s and early-2000s) is emerging quickly as a powerful economic force that both major brands and small businesses can no longer ignore.  They already command $44 billion in spending power and in 2020, Gen Z will represent 40 percent of all consumer purchases. Furthermore, 93 percent of parents say their Gen Z kids influence their own spending decisions.

Gen Z is vocal and empowered. They yearn to express their individuality and share who they are and what they know by voicing their opinions. In many ways, this is a marketer’s dream.

The Campus Marketing Approach

In order to connect with this demographic, your marketing approach should be experiential.  Experiential marketing brings your brand directly to your target consumers, involving them in real-time immersion…and Gen Z loves this type of direct engagement.  They are savvy, discriminating and they expect transparency and authenticity from brands. Once they see value in a brand, they will remain tremendously loyal.  In fact, two-thirds of Gen Z’ers in college say that once they fall in love with a brand, they’ll support it for many years.

When it comes to your campus activation, there are many options to consider:

  • Campus street teams are a budget-friendly option and are great for college campuses because they can cover a lot of ground to gain maximum exposure for your brand.  Street teams work particularly well for distributing samples and promotional swag.
  • Piggyback your brand activation on to an organized campus event such as a sporting event, new student orientation, move-in day, etcetera.
  • Promotional booths can be set up virtually anywhere on-campus or off-campus and are very versatile in that you can do as little or as much as you want with your booth – from sampling to interactive activities to lead generation.
  • Host or sponsor a special campus event such as a party, concert, or festival.
  • Mobile marketing vehicles and food trucks are great for campuses because of their mobility and they attract a lot of attention.

How to Craft the Best Campus Marketing Strategy

The goals of your campus experiential campaign should be to attract an audience, generate buzz and awareness, and create brand evangelists and loyalists.  In order to get to that level of loyalty though, you need to create an experience that is unique, meaningful, and mindful of what matters to them.

1. Create a memorable brand experience.

In order to capture the attention of college students, you have to deliver a brand experience that is memorable and that creates a positive emotional tie to your brand.  For example, Red Bull doesn’t just hand out samples on campus, they strive to become a part of the daily routine for college students.  That means reaching students through multiple touchpoints and reeling them into their story by sponsoring events near campus, deploying the Wings Team, creating PR stunts to attract attention, and generating social media buzz.

2.  Attract students to your experience with incentives.   

Consider giveaways, contests or exclusive discounts to draw students to your activation. “Free” is a big motivator for most consumers, but especially with college students. A Barnes & Noble College Insights survey found that 87% of college students are attracted to samples and giveaways; 83% stop by for complimentary food, and exclusive discounts were important to 79% of the respondents.

3.  Enlist student brand ambassadors and/or influencers.

Create a campus ambassador team made up of students who have great personalities and who are passionate about your product, service, and/or industry.  If you’re looking for a bit more, add student influencers to the team – those who have a large social media following and/or those who are leaders on-campus such as club/organization presidents, sorority/fraternity leaders, student government members, and so forth.

4.  Leverage user-generated content

User-generated content will expand your reach and will keep conversations and relationships going long after the experience is over. Plan for that level of continuity by including shareworthy elements such as stunning visual designs, photo and video ops, event hashtags, and the like.

Bottom line, make your campus marketing activation memorable – make a scene and shake things up.  You want students to walk away from the experience feeling connected and once they fall in love with your brand, you’ll have them hooked on you for years to come.


When planning your campus activation, you’ll need campus ambassadors that are relatable, approachable, and dedicated to your brand – and ATN Event Staffing can help you with that.  We have staffed hundreds of campus marketing programs all over the country with the best campus ambassadors around.  If you’re ready to execute a campus marketing program, ATN is ready to help you reach your goals!

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