Last night, in typical college fashion, I went to an acappella concert by the Middlebury College Mamajamas. Their concert was entitled the “sell-out” concert to raise money to record their CD next year. Their singing was lovely and lively but, for the first time, I realized a new presence of advertisement on campus. At this particular concert, Glaceau’s Vitaminwater got the principle sponsorship. The performers joked about, mentioned, and drank Vitaminwater throughout the concert.
Vitaminwater’s sponsorship was sent up through one on-campus representative. This young woman was not shy about providing vitaminwater for the masses. She sent an email out to every student organization leader on campus saying that she would give vwater do any event, any time. She has successfully brought the drink to these events, for these peoples: the Student Global Aids Red Party, the Midd Mayhem Picnic, the SIM concert, Relay for Life, Walk for MS, Women’s Water Polo match, Middance rehearsal, and staff for Guster concert setup. Wow. That is a lot of free Vitaminwater but it’s also a lot of free publicity.
Surely the publicity is effective but it really depends on the student representative on campus. In this case, the representative is doing amazing work, filling a huge void on campus. In other cases not so much. For example, the largest coporate sponsorhip before Vitaminwater was Red Bull. They outfitted on gentleman’s vehicle with a giant Red Bull can in the bed of his truck. I’m sure he got plenty of free Red Bull too. But success? No. That gentleman didn’t really care to push the product. I also think it has to do with college-compatible products that are “fresh-enough” image-wise to create a consumer base. Vitaminwater has a youthful outlook and so does Red Bull. But take Stonyfield Farm’s new organic energy drink that was offered free by the bottle at the latest Guster concert. It was not the right product. No student wanted a yuppie yogurt drink no matter how organic it was.
With all the debate in elementary schools about soda and vending machine sponsorship and presence on campus, it’s worth examining if higher education should encourage this. I don’t think colleges have a choice really but certainly an environment free from advertisement would be quite worthwhile. Vermont comes close by not allowing any billboards in state but what can you do?