Students successfully test drive marketing plan

Seventeen College of Business students were looking to gain real-world experience when they decided to take part in a nationwide marketing competition.

Chevrolet solicited advice from colleges nationwide on how to market the Chevy Aveo and Cobalt to “Generation Y” – college-aged consumers who have become harder to reach through television advertisements.

Chevrolet’s move is part of what’s called the Chevrolet Marketing Internship Scholastic Achievement competition, which is sponsored by General Motors and EdVenture Partners.

The students’ work in the program was so original they were asked to present their ideas to Chevrolet’s Southeast Regional Office in Atlanta in December. They are the first USF team to win the competition since the University’s involvement with the program.

Equipped with $2,500 and promotional support from local sponsor Tom Moore Chevrolet on Florida Avenue, the USF group created the advertising agency Bulls Revolution Promotions. With some acting as finance advisers and others as research advisers, the students came up with the campaign “Experience the Revolution,” mirroring Chevrolet’s “American Revolution” campaign.

“We had to create an ad agency from scratch and come up with a whole strategy in order to promote those two vehicles on campus,” said Kareema Aaronson, a senior marketing student who acted as CEO of the agency.

The team participated in Homecoming events and offered promotional items such as tote bags to publicize the campaign. They asked fellow students to create advertisements for the Aveo or Cobalt and post the videos online at YouTube or Flix55. Thirteen entries were received, and the winner won $500.

“We encouraged them to go down to the dealership and make the video with the cars there,” Aaronson said.

The students also conducted pre- and post-test research at surveymonkey.com to discover students’ reasons for attending certain events and their buying motives. This feedback was presented to Tom Moore Chevrolet.

“What we were trying figure out was how we could attract students to come to our event – that also was something that they were very impressed with, because they usually use just paper-and-pencil types of research, and we started using Survey Monkey,” Aaronson said.

USF and Florida Southern University were the only schools asked to come and present their ideas to Chevrolet.

“We were pleasantly surprised,” Aaronson said. “Our goal was to just come up with the best strategy we could.”

After rescheduling their final exams, five of the 17 students involved with the campaign – Aaronson, Michael Zinsmeister, Dora Lisboa, Angela High and Krystal Cintron – were flown to Atlanta to present their marketing strategy to Chevrolet’s board of directors.

Chevrolet plans to implement the ideas from both USF and FSU on a national level. As a result, the USF chapter of the American Marketing Association (AMA) received a $1,500 award.

Victoria Panzer, faculty coordinator of the internship, said this program is normally offered as a course, but was offered this semester as a student project, with help from the AMA, because of recent University budget cuts.

Whether the program will be offered as a course next semester is under discussion, but Panzer said she plans to remain involved and that last year’s students proved what could be done even without course credit.

“It set the benchmark a little higher now,” Panzer said. “It really showed that these kinds of interactive programs are very successful and desirable for students.”

Participants said the program provided hands-on marketing experience they had been looking for.

“For all of us, it’s been the most real-life experience we’ve ever had in school, and we basically ran our own company,” Aaronson said. “We had to be able to communicate and implement events and strategies in a correct way and on time. It’s just like a real-life company, and I don’t think there’s a better experience possible at USF that has been offered to me.”

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