Last January, Kansas City-based VML partnered with the Missouri School of Journalism to create a social media course meant to help teach college students the ins and outs of handling social media for big brands.
The agency hired Derrick Lin, a student from that class of 20, as an associate account manager in February, and he works there now on social campaigns for PepsiCo. Based on that success, the agency is now working with Villanova School of Business on a monthlong summer school class in digital marketing that’s open to both business students and students enrolled in the Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
This time, VML created a real-world brief for Gatorade that students are using to create a digital game plan for the brand. The class of eight students meets twice a week in three-hour sessions. The brief asks students to flush out a social media strategy for Gatorade on lesser-known social platforms including Musical.ly and Live.ly.
“Knowing that we have Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter and all those assets in front of us, [we asked students to] pick one or a couple platforms that are typically organic at this stage that marketers aren’t in—but the target audience is in—and give us some thoughts on how a brand like Gatorade would win inside there,” said Chad Martin, director of social and emerging media at VML. “Our expectations are for them to take that framework and start working out from their experience.”
On June 29, the students will travel to New York for a reception at the Time Center Medialab where they will present their findings and recommendations.
“We would look at a win as having one or two of those ideas that aren’t necessarily fully baked but make us think about something,” Martin said. The agency specifically picked platforms that involve some significant organic marketing muscle, he said, because “you don’t see immediate impact or return on it.”
After the class ends, Villanova hopes to work with VML on a full-blown, semester-long course.
“We’re thinking of this as kind of a pilot program for something that could be much bigger on a regular basis going forward,” said Jeremy Kees, professor of marketing at Villanova. “Having a real client, a real problem, a real situation to work on—you just can’t beat that if you’re a professor and you’re trying to teach this stuff.”