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Out-of-the Box Marketing Tips for College Football Games

By collegemktgrp | September 12, 2019 | Brands/Advertisers

The college football game is a fall tradition at campuses across America. It’s where students and longtime fans gather to cheer their team all the way to the end zone.

It’s also an ideal place for some out-of-the-box marketing, the kind you bring directly to passionate fans. The benefits of promoting during college football games include:


Peer Influence

  • Most college students attend games in groups of friends. An interactive marketing tactic that attracts one person is likely to attract the rest of their group as well.


  • Usually, a student on campus is rushing to the next class, exam, or party. At a game, students are relaxing and socializing with nowhere to go and nothing else to do. It’s a perfect time to engage with them.


Sponsoring a college football game is an easy point of entry for advertisers. But you have to take advantage of that sponsorship by coming up with a day-of marketing game plan (no pun intended) to connect with as many college students as possible.

Whether you’re the title sponsor of the entire college football season or one of many brand partners for the game, you shouldn’t assume your logo on a few banners or promotional materials will lead to returns.

From hosting tailgating events and giveaways to customizing for each school and tying it all into your social media presence, here are 6 ways for sponsors to market their brand at college football games.

1. Tailgate Events

Tailgating is a college football ritual. Some students (and their parents) will show up at sunrise to get the party going in the parking lot until the game starts.

Beyond listening to music and drinking apple juice (that’s totally apple juice in their cups), they’ll need a way to stay occupied until the game starts.

This is primetime for on-the-ground engagement with college students and their parents. Consider hosting a tent with free water and charging ports for students’ phones, as well as lawn games like giant Jenga and cornhole.

Be sure to brand your tent and any other swag with your logo, social media handles, and website URL. This is also a good place to create an incentive to sign up for your email newsletter. One way to do that is with the giveaway, which brings us to our next tip.

2. Interactive Giveaways

Everyone loves free stuff, especially college students. You can take advantage of this by hosting interactive giveaways at a college football game.

Here are 3 tips for how to make the most of a giveaway for college football fans:

Offer goodies that students want:

  • Think tickets to the next game, or free food. Go big by giving away dorm room essentials like a mini-fridge, a new TV, or the latest video game system.

Tie your giveaway into the game itself:

  • Make a lasting impression by showing you care about the game and understand the fans’ passion.
  • Go with a trivia quiz about the history of the team, or about the specific day’s rivalry.
  • Another option is a photo caption contest. Display a photo of a crazy play from the previous week, and ask for caption submissions. Share the submissions on social media during the game for your followers to vote on, and get the double whammy of in-person and online engagement.

Use the opportunity to create a lasting connection:

  • Be sure to ask college students to sign up for your email list or like your company profile on social media as part of your giveaway.
  • This allows you to continue to market to the students you engage with at the game long after the score has been decided.

3. Enlist Student Brand Ambassadors

If you’re going to pull off at-game marketing at an event with thousands of people in attendance, you’re going to need help. Enter the student brand ambassador.

College students are more likely to trust the word of their peers, which is why you want other students executing your in-person marketing efforts at college football games — they should be the ones manning your tent, hosting tailgating events, and handing out free swag.

Plus, your student brand ambassador isn’t just there for the game. They’re on campus all year long and provide you the opportunity to create multiple opportunities for engagement with students.

Pro-tip: Read our guide on how to get and make use of student brand ambassadors »

4. Utilize Social Media

Whether you’re hosting a tailgating event or having brand ambassadors hand out freebies or hanging signs all over the place, be sure your at-game marketing strategy makes use of your social media accounts.

That includes listing your handles on signs and swag, coming up with a creative hashtag for fans to use during the game, and utilizing social media to engage fans in contests.

An example could be asking students to post a photo during the game with a given hashtag to be entered into a drawing for tickets to the next game.

5. Customize for the Team

In every aspect of your at-game marketing, you should try to customize your swag and lingo to the team that your customers are rooting for.

You have to respect the university’s trademarks, so you can’t print the logo of the team on your own swag. But you can make use of the team colors and possibly nicknames for the team, specific players, or their fan base.

Another option is to come up with your own slogans or hashtags that tie into the team’s history or culture — the infamous “Iron Bowl” rivalry between Alabama and Auburn is something to behold in the South. Might be a good opportunity for a chemistry joke: What do you get when mix gold and aluminum? Iron! Au + Al = Fe. Get it?

Maybe that one only works if your target audience is science geeks. But maybe you could put some creative hashtags into play: #YouCanCallMeAL #AwBurn

The bottom line is, fans are passionate about their team. Showing you share their fandom is a good way to win people over to your brand.

6. Bring on the Legends

One way to speak to the fans of any given team is to bring on past players, coaches, or other notable figures in the team’s history for endorsements.

Celebrity influencers are becoming an increasingly common part of brand marketing to college students. But you don’t need Tom Brady to show up at the next University of Michigan game to reach your goals.

A locally-beloved player who still lives in the area could go over well with hardcore fans. You can even reach out to old mascots, too.

Use these micro-influencers for local campaigns, either for in-person meet & greets at games, or in digital photo and video marketing assets targeted to fans of any given team.

Beyond the Game: How to Make a Splash on Campus All Year Long

Successful marketing on college campuses is all about communicating your brand story to create lifelong loyal customers.

The college football game is an excellent place to establish a new customer relationship with a college student, but it’ll take more than one encounter to make them a true fan of your brand.

Fortunately, there are a lot of ways to engage with students on campus. Learn about ways that your brand can make a splash on campus »

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