What Happened to “Learning” at College?

The future is looking bright for the Class of 2015… or is it?!?

CareerBuilder, the largest online career site in the U.S., released a survey Thursday stating 65% of companies plan to hire more college graduates this year. That is up 57% last year and the highest outlook since 2007. One third will also offer to pay more than last year.

“They still face challenges, however. One in five employers feel colleges do not adequately prepare students with crucial workplace competencies, including soft skills and real-world experience that might be gained through things like internships.” -Rosemary Haefner, CareerBuilder’s Chief Human Resources Officer

9788045101_014c87ce66_bRewind. You can’t place all the blame on colleges for not preparing students for the “real-world.” Many universities are helping students play catch-up because they didn’t learn valuable skills in high school.

The documentary Declining by Degrees: Higher Education at Risk highlights several reasons colleges may partly be at fault for hindering development between admission and graduation.

Bigger isn’t always better. Keith Caywood was one of 37,000 students at Arizona State University before dropping out. He says, “I got swallowed up. I didn’t know where any of my classes were. It was such a large campus.” When he did manage to find his classes, they were often packed with 200 students and, “no one knew if I was there or not.” Smaller classes would allow instructors to provide the interpersonal or people skills 52% of employers say graduates lack.

Lectures are no longer effective. CareerBuilder’s survey found 46% of companies say there is too much emphasis on book learning. Tom Fleming, a UA professor, found his teaching to be more effective if he met students halfway. By incorporating technology, interactive responses, and real-world situations, he was able to make astronomy engaging to individuals taking the class to fulfill a requirement. Western Kentucky University offered a specific Spanish class that allowed journalism/broadcasting students to learn the foreign language by producing newscasts, designing magazine covers, and writing scripts.

The documentary also touched on how instructors are more focused on research because it’s the only way they’re rewarded by administrators,  how college isn’t demanding enough for some people, the stress students face trying to pay for tuition, and how universities have tunnel-vision on building impressive amenities and sports programs.

Every student’s college experience is unique. It’s really up to each individual student to do their research to ensure they’re going to get the best education. After all, you get out what you put in.

Crafting Sport Sponsorships That Work

Sponsorships can generate big money, but the expectations are growing and the ideas have to be innovative.

IEG predicted brands would spend $14.35 billion on sports sponsorship deals in 2014, according to Advertising Age. That’s a 4.9% increase from 2013 when spending grew by 5.1%.

PepsiCo spent the most on sponsorships in 2013: $350-355 million. Coca-Cola, Nike, Anheuser Busch, AT&T, General Motors, Toyota, Ford, Adidas, and MillerCoors rounded out the top ten.

It’s not just about the money, though. The art of preparing, selling, and evaluating a sponsorship deal is constantly evolving. A successful sponsorship should aim to create a win-win for the sport organization/event, fans, and sponsors.

As Laura Huddle, Senior Marketer at Eventbrite, says, “Ask not what your sponsor can do for you, ask what you can do for sponsors.” The experience should be unique, while meeting target demographics and objectives.

Huddle and her colleagues came up with the 7 Tips for Getting and Keeping Event Sponsors:

1. Know your audience

It is crucial to understand who attends your event(s) by gender, income, age, ethnicity, job titles, location, etc. Are they decision-makers or key influencers? What are their brand preferences? How often do they participate? You can collect additional information using registration details, surveys (don’t ask too many questions), experience from sponsors, and social media engagements.

2. Brainstorm what’s brandable

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Courtesy: IEG

What makes your event unique? On-site signage, logo on a website, merchandise, tickets and hospitality during the event, and co-branding are all options. No idea should be held back.

The Los Angeles Dodgers are using Instagram to extend sponsor reach. Dodger Stadium is the most geotagged sports venue on social media. The team is leveraging that status by adding sponsor messages into photos. Case in point:

The team placed Bank of America branding behind the number 42 in the Bank of America Retired Members Plaza. The jersey number —which honors Jackie Robinson—is the most popular location for Instagram photos in the stadium.”

3. Make a list

Start with people you know and event participants. For example, friends, board members, volunteers, and customers. Also consider competitors of sponsors of other events, supporters of your cause, and grand openings.

Tailgaters need food, right? Why not have a Tailgater of the Game contest? Food City has that deal with the University of Tennessee. Judges search Neyland Stadium for style, spirit, and creativity. The winner receives a $500 Food City gift card and a shoutout on the video board. What’s in it for Food City? Brand awareness.

4. Know your sponsors

tips-for-finding-an-event-sponsor-30-638Once you’ve made a list, research what sponsorships they’ve done before, find out who makes the deals, understand why they make those decisions, and learn about their decision deadlines. Business-to-business and business-to-consumer are going to have different needs.

Understand most sponsors want exclusivity. AT&T is the Official Communications Services Sponsor of U.S. Soccer. NASCAR will lose Sprint as a title sponsor after the 2016 season due to “a need to focus more directly on its core business priorities.”

5. Be specific

Forget selling points! Discuss specific ways an organization/event can help a sponsor meet their goals. Focus on the individuals attending, the story behind the event, event numbers, and the experience.

6. Measure what’s important

Find out what the sponsor wants to evaluate: total audience, demographics, engagements, impressions, leads, media value, awareness, testing a new product, etc.

7. Get endorsements

When someone else can validate that a particular project was a hit, that statement will have more of an impact on potential sponsors’ decisions.

A complete understanding of your organization/event and sponsor is key. The relationship will prosper with relentless communication, evaluation, modification, and new ideas.

Evolving From Cornhole to Extreme Sports

UnknownDon’t get so cocky, Red Bull! Mountain Dew always has and always will be chomping at your heels.

PepsiCo’s citrus-flavored soft drink is more than just a beverage. The current slogan of “Do the Dew” emphasizes it is a lifestyle brand that’s been strongly connected to niche markets for more than 20 years.

The brand began in the hills of East Tennessee in the 1940s. In 1993, Mountain Dew began getting a feel for extreme activities, like skydiving and mountain biking.

Jason Belzer wrote in a Forbes article that the brand has focused its sports marketing and sponsorship strategy on just one goal: being synonymous with the extreme.

Just like eating crackerjacks reminds us of baseball, drinking Mountain Dew triggers an association with action sports (fast, exciting, extreme).”

The bridge between rural consumers and young, active consumers was cemented by signing a sponsorship deal during the original X Games in 1995. In 2002, Mountain Dew started the Free Flow Tour, an amateur skateboarding competition. The Dew Action Sports Tour with NBC Sports began in 2005.

Now, the average consumer isn’t going to want to immediately go snowboarding after drinking Mountain Dew, but as Belzer states:

Having a deeply rooted association with pleasant and enjoyable feelings is an incredibly powerful tool that helps drive consumer behavior.”

Mountain Dew is building and strengthening relationships with buyers before and after competitions with movies, music, and online content.

MD Films released First Descent in 2005. The documentary, centered on the rise of snowboarding, was the first motion picture produced by a soft drink company.

The brand released “A Mini Mini-Series” in August 2014. According to the show’s YouTube page, users can watch all eight episodes in just two minutes.

Green Label is the company’s online magazine “featuring the latest stories and emerging trends in skate, music, art, gaming, and more.” Green Label Sound is a record label for emerging artists, which recently launched the Green Label Station on iTunes Radio. Mountain Dew is even sponsoring the “Anything Goes Tour” for the country duo sensation Florida Georgia Line.

The brand is effective in communicating through social media. Instead of buying airtime for a 30-second Super Bowl commercial, the company ran a spot for its new Kickstart line during the pre-game show and then continued the conversation with more than 10 million combined followers on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Beverage Digest reports Mountain Dew was the third most popular refreshment brand in 2014, and about 20 percent of its consumers are responsible for 70 percent of its volume. As Denise Lee Yohn, a marketing consultant, told the Huffington Post in January:

By focusing on a ‘cult, loyal following,’ Mountain Dew may be better poised than other sodas to survive the health and wellness obsession that has swept the country in recent years.”

Mountain Dew is highly successful in leveraging their sponsorship across brand communications. These niche markets appreciate the attention and are willing to reward the company by opening their wallets.

Helping the Worst NFL Team Become a Success

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The Jacksonville Jaguars are consistently ranked toward the bottom on lists comparing National Football League franchises. Fans are finding it difficult to support a losing team that hasn’t been in the playoffs since 2007. It’s not easy trying to build morale when there’s also a lot of buzz that owner Shahid Khan is considering relocating the organization to London. If the franchise wants to be successful in this cut-throat industry, the perfect time to transition the Jaguars into a powerful squad deeply rooted in the Jacksonville community is now. This is a guide to rebrand the Jaguars for the upcoming 2015 season. It is a blueprint to offer guidance and will need to be adjusted to feedback.

Read the Brand Blueprint for the Jacksonville Jaguars

The Rebranding of a Franchise: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, also known as the Bucs, became the twenty-seventh franchise in the National Football League in April 1976. The team got off to a rough start with the inability to pass the ball, play defense, and most importantly, put points on the scoreboard. They became the first team in NFL history to lose all fourteen regular season games, which caused many excited fans to immediately lose faith. The organization knew it had to make some adjustments or success was doomed. The franchise finally underwent transformations in 1995, 1997, and 2002. The most recent changes have been deemed a success, helping the franchise become one of the most profitable in the league. The job is not over quite yet; there is plenty to do as the brand is monitored and grows even larger.

Read more about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers branding strategy in this Case Study

Branding: It’s All About Who Knows You

How many times have you heard the phrase, “It’s all about who you know?” Well, brands wanting to find success online are learning, “It’s all about who knows you.”

Companies are using tools like PeerIndex and Klout to reach powerful thought leaders who can help promote the brand.

Screen Shot 2014-11-08 at 11.27.10 AMA user registering for a Klout account will be asked to link their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google +, YouTube, Tumblr, and other social media accounts. The service generates a score from one to 100 based upon follower metrics, amplification, and popularity. For example, my Klout score is 53 and I’m influential in business, shopping, and Kentucky. Amazon has the highest influence with a score of 98.86.

Businesses pay to release “perks” (free services or products) to users based upon their scores, locations,and areas they influence. For example, I once received a $10 gift card to McDonald’s to try the McRib. In exchange for the free sandwich, the fast food restaurant encouraged me to share my thoughts on the meal with my social media community.

Screen Shot 2014-11-08 at 11.27.01 AMPeerIndex is similiar to Klout, but it’s mostly a pay-for service that doesn’t release free offers. My score is 33, however, it would only connect with my Twitter account. This service includes a little bit more data than Klout, like measurement of engagement, approximate reach, and quality of followers. PeerIndex says I’m influential in cell phones, government, and mobile. The website also shows my best posts, the accounts I’m influenced by, and the users I’m influencing.

Segmentation tools like these two services are valuable to use, but brands shouldn’t completely rely on them. Although both websites say I’m influential in different areas, they are a great starting point to search for people generating conversations about a particular topic. As one blogger stated:

Klout needs to adjust their algorithm to differentiate between 50 and 100 Klout. My 53 is not exactly half of the Yankees’ 96. In fact, my 53 should be about .0001% of the Yankees’ influence.”

Sport brands can use PeerIndex and Klout to their advantage to directly communicate with powerful thought leaders. For example, teams could invite influential followers to a meeting where the organization will share that ticket prices will increase next season. The team would hope the folks with social media authority would be able to explain and convince the public that the increase is needed to recruit better players and make upgrades to the stadium. An organization could also send out hats or t-shirts with a new logo or catchphrase to influential people in the community to wear and encourage others to buy one. ESPN Magazine and Red Bull offer free publications to influential users in hopes they like the product and purchase a subscription at the end of the trial.

The ripple effect of online voices is strong. Klout says more than 200,000 businesses are using the website, giving out more than one million perks. Brands should monitor these services to connect with social media leaders to grow into a more powerful position in the marketplace.