Sunday, September 11, 2011

campus is one big commercial

NYTimes | IT’S move-in day here at the University of North Carolina, and Leila Ismail, stuffed animals in tow, is feeling some freshman angst.

A few friendly upperclassmen spring into action.

But wait: there is something odd, or at least oddly corporate, about this welcome wagon. These U.N.C. students are all wearing identical T-shirts from American Eagle Outfitters.

Turns out three of them are working for that youth clothing chain on this late August morning, as what are known in the trade as “brand ambassadors” or “campus evangelists” — and they have recruited several dozen friends as a volunteer move-in crew. Even before Ms. Ismail can find her dorm or meet her roommate, they cheerily unload her family’s car. Then they lug her belongings to her dorm. Along the way, they dole out American Eagle coupons, American Eagle water canisters and American Eagle pens.

Ms. Ismail, 18, of Charlotte, welcomes the help. “I’ll probably always remember it,” she says.

American Eagle Outfitters certainly hopes so, as do a growing number of companies that are hiring college students to represent brands on campuses across the nation.

This fall, an estimated 10,000 American college students will be working on hundreds of campuses — for cash, swag, job experience or all three — marketing everything from Red Bull to Hewlett-Packard PCs. For the companies hiring them, the motivation is clear: college students spent about $36 billion on things like clothing, computers and cellphones during the 2010-11 school year alone, according to projections from Re:Fuel, a media and promotions firm specializing in the youth market. And who knows the students at, say, U.N.C., better than the students at U.N.C.?

Corporations have been pitching college students for decades on products from cars to credit cards. But what is happening on campuses today is without rival, in terms of commercializing everyday college life.

Companies from Microsoft on down are increasingly seeking out the big men and women on campus to influence their peers. The students most in demand are those who are popular — ones involved in athletics, music, fraternities or sororities. Thousands of Facebook friends help, too. What companies want are students with inside knowledge of school traditions and campus hotspots. In short, they want students with the cred to make brands seem cool, in ways that a TV or magazine ad never could.


uglyblackjohn said...

When I used to tend bar back in Cali - all I wore were Nike products. For work, team sports, golf, snowboarding, whatever...
An Adidas rep noticed this and offered to trade item-for-item everything I had Nike for Adidas.
My boy Marcus worked for Nike so I got everything cheap.
The rep beat that price as I got all new Adidas gear.

I still use reps from liquor companies, radio, television and restaraunts to ofset the costs of running clubs. The swag they offer can be used as 'bribes' to get patrons to buy certain products.