Photos by Jen Smith
Colorado State University students got the rare opportunity to pitch a social media campaign to Denver Broncos and Coca-Cola officials this week at Sports Authority Field as part of CSU’s unique new partnership with the football team.
“I’m kind of like a kid in a candy shop,” said health and exercise science major Austen Allen, a lifelong Broncos fan. “To be involved with one of the prime sports organizations in the country is unreal.”
“Whether or not we win, this is such great experience,” added business administration major Alyssa Kirsch. “Doing a presentation to Coke Zero and the Denver Broncos is something that will not be missing from my resume.”
As it turned out, Kirsch and her partner, business administration major Andrew Schneeweis, can now add to their resumes that they bested four other student teams to win the contest for a two-week campaign to promote the two brands on campus.
The Denver Broncos Institute — the first program of its kind matching a university with an NFL franchise — is part of CSU’s exclusive partnership with the Broncos. Four CSU colleges — Business, Agricultural Scinces, Health and Human Sciences and Liberal Arts — offer classes on the academic side of the program, which welcomed its first class of 42 students this fall.
Students can earn a minor in sports management in the Department of Management in the College of Business. They have the opportunity for hands-on learning in marketing, video production, public relations, hospitality management, event and conference planning, facilities construction and management, and turf management.
The partnership bore some of its first fruit on Nov. 18 when each of the five student teams had 30 minutes to present their plans to create a social media buzz about the Broncos and Coke Zero among CSU students between Nov. 30 and Dec. 13 — using a budget of only $500. The entries were judged by a six-member panel of representatives from CSU, the Broncos and Coca-Cola based on their viability, creativity/originality, potential business impact and measurability. The winner receives a Broncos game experience for two, including tickets and access to the Coca-Cola Fan Cave VIP experience.
The winning proposal from Kirsch and Schneeweis will involve a scavenger hunt of sorts. They presented a plan to place a promotion for the Broncos and Coke Zero at a different spot on campus each day during the campaign, sending out clues about its location on social media using the hashtag #BroncosZeroLimits. CSU students will be asked to share photos of themselves at each site on social media using the same hashtag.
During the question-and-answer sessions that followed each presentation, judges exchanged ideas with each two-member team about how their proposal might be improved. They lauded Kirsch and Schneeweis for their effective hashtag, creativity, thorough research — and willingness to donate their prize of two Broncos tickets to the winners of their contest.
Other proposals included having CSU students answer trivia questions about the two organizations, use the hashtag #ZEROtoHERO to share stories of people who have overcome adversity, make predictions about the Broncos’ Dec. 13 game and take pictures of themselves wearing Broncos and Coke Zero garb in a campus photo booth.
Students from CSU’s College of Business spoke highly of the pitching opportunity.
“It was very beneficial,” Ryan Baldwin said. “It was great to sit with actual business executives and get real-world experience.”
“That’s something you can’t simulate in the classroom,” added his partner, Clay Lyell. “It will be very helpful in the future.”
“If I wasn’t at Colorado State, I wouldn’t be doing this here at the stadium right now,” said Reid Sangster. “You practice these presentations, but it’s in front of your professor and peers, who you know. This is my first opportunity to present to such important people.”
Other competitors agreed.
Afterwards, the judges said they learned something from the students as well.
“This helps us think outside the box,” said Antionette Williams of Swire Coca-Cola USA. “It’s kind of nice to hear a fresh perspective and a fearless perspective.”
“They know the campus better than we do, and if that’s our audience, we need to trust them,” added Brady Kellogg, vice president of corporate partnerships for the Broncos.
Kirsch and Schneeweis are set to have a conference call with some of the judges on Friday to fine-tune details of their plan.
“We’re really excited to work with the Denver Broncos and Coke Zero,” Kirsch said. “I can’t wait to begin to implement our campaign.”
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with such big organizations and be part of something that is more than just a school project,” Schneeweis added.