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How to Make the Most of Your College Event Sponsorship

By collegemktgrp | November 1, 2019 | Brands/Advertisers

If your brand is looking to market to college students, building a presence on campus means reaching the epicenter of college life. Whether you’re marketing a political campaign or an energy drink, one effective way to get your brand on campus is through event sponsorships.

Colleges regularly host events like sports games, conferences, fundraisers, workshops, department functions, gallery exhibits, theatre productions, and more. That means there are frequent opportunities for brands and advertisers to financially support these events in return for exposure through marketing materials, signage, on-site engagement, and more.

The primary purpose of sponsoring an on-campus event is to market to college students, and align your brand values with what your brand supports financially.

For example, if your marketing persona is more likely to be a fan of Shakespeare than football, then sponsoring a theatre series might be a more effective use of your marketing dollar.

By showing different subsets of college students that you value the same things they do through your event sponsorships, you can begin to build brand loyalty with potential customers.

5 Examples of College Events to Sponsor

Football and basketball games are often the more obvious options for event sponsorships. But colleges offer many alternatives for brands looking to reach beyond the sports fan.

Some examples of alternative college sponsorships options for brands and national advertisers include:

1. Concert or Theatre Production

  • Reach fans of the performing arts by sponsoring a single event of an entire series.

2. Workshops and Conferences

  • Market to professionals in a specific industry through sponsorship of workshops and conferences hosted on campus.

3. Campus Museum or Gallery

  • Many colleges are host to museums and art galleries.
  • Sponsoring a specific exhibit or being an annual sponsor to support an entire year of programming is a way to reach those interested in art, history, and more.

4. Fundraising Events

  • Colleges are constantly holding fundraising events to support different aspects of the services they provide.
  • These are typically attended by professors, deans, local business owners, and wealthy alum and patrons.
  • Sponsoring such an event is a way to show these people that you care about the school and the community it’s a part of.

5. Department Functions

  • University departments typically host functions like department anniversary parties and awards ceremonies, which make for a good opportunity to reach a niche demographic.
  • For example, if you’re trying to recruit soon-to-be grads from an engineering department to work at your company, a good way to raise awareness is to sponsor a department function at which juniors and seniors are likely to attend.

What to Expect in Return for Your Sponsorship

When your brand sponsors an event, it’s important make the most of your opportunity. What you get in return for a sponsorship depends on how much money you give.

Generally, you can expect some combination of the following:

  • Your name/logo included in signage, digital marketing materials, tickets, website, posters, ads, programs, and more
  • Opportunity to include an ad for your company in event program materials, as part of video presentations, etc.
  • Discounted pricing or comped tickets/services for your employees
  • Access to VIP events
  • Option to set up experiential marketing and/or booth at event

That last perk is one to pay attention to: If there’s any way you can have a distinct physical or digital presence at the event to engage with attendees, you should.

What exactly does that look like? Keep reading to find out.

Experiential Marketing Options at the Events You Sponsor

When you sponsor an event, having your name and logo in the materials is all well and good, but if you really want to make a memorable connection, you need to consider experiential marketing.

Some examples of experiential marketing that can really build buzz include:

Parties, Mixers, and More

  • Host a branded on-site mixer with free food and drinks where people can network, dance, or whatever.
  • Another option for a different audience at say a professional conference is to host wellness breaks with meditation, yoga, massages, quiet spaces, etc.

Activity Area

  • The ideas here are endless and really depends on the event and your target audience, but you could host a game with giveaways, a kids play area, a craft table, etc.

Branded Gift Bags

  • Many events give “swag bags” to their attendees, especially if there are VIP guests.
  • Your logo front and center on each of those bags is a good way to get some exposure.
  • You could also include coupons, gift cards, or branded gifts inside the bag. Also, consider branding a digital swag bag — access to gift cards, coupons, contests, and more, all through guests’ smartphones.

Epic Signage

  • A little vinyl banner is fine, but why not go big with immersive signage? Stair and escalator wraps are printed decals that are applied to the front-facing surface of each step, so that when event attendees approach a staircase, they see one big ad or image.
  • On escalators, you can also do wraps that cover the inner or outer surface of the side railing walls.

Photo Booths

  • A photo booth is a surefire hit: Attendees get to take fun photos that are printed or better yet, shared via social media, and you can brand the booth, the photo, or both.


  • This is a smart option for brands in the tech or communications industries.
  • You can “sponsor” the event wi-fi so that when people connect to the network, they’re shown a landing page that is branded with your logo and welcome message.
  • You could even include a link directly to your website or a special offer for attendees.

Social Media Display

  • Sometimes events will include screens that display attendees’ posts on social media, usually through the use of hashtags.
  • This display is another unique place for your logo.


  • If the event hosts are live streaming the festivities, see if you can get your branding on the live video — a logo in the corner or a “Presented by” message displayed every 30 minutes, in the video captions, etc.

Win at On-Campus Marketing All Year Long

Making a mark on campus requires more than just showing up for a single event. You’ll want to be coming up with ways to reach out to students all year long, starting on move-in day.

Read our guide on how to win at on-campus marketing during welcome weekend »

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