AT&T Campaign Targets Division I College Students, Alumni

AT&T has launched a six-week campaign celebrating the start of the 2007 college football season by inviting the Dave Matthews Band to rock one lucky school. The San Antonio, Texas, wireless carrier is opening "The World's Largest Pep Rally" contest to Division I football schools from across the nation, with the winner receiving a free concert at a pep rally during the week of Nov. 12.

The contest created by The Marketing Arm asks students at more than 100 college campuses from Ohio State University to the University of Washington and the University of Southern California to vote for their schools by sending messages that invite the band for a visit.

Students, alumni and fans can vote by sending test messages "DMB" to 9-5-9 or going online to AT&T's Blue Room, the company's broadband portal aimed at delivering music and other content. Standard test messaging rates apply. Up to 50 votes per person per day are allowed.

AT&T will choose the winner based on the number of votes submitted either online or via wireless phone, taking into consideration the school's enrollment on the final tally. "College athletics offer history, tradition, team spirit and passion," says Eric Fernandez, executive director, AT&T sponsorships and events. "We're trying to re-establish the AT&T brand with a younger audience."



Fernandez says promotions similar to the Dave Matthews Band concert also help AT&T teach the less tech-savvy about sending text messages and wireless data services.

Working on making that connection, AT&T Wireless spent $71,494 on print, television and outdoor media between January and June 2007, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus. That number pales with the AT&T budgets for online ads that Nielsen//NetRatings AdRelevance estimates at $39.8 million for the first half of this year. The research firm says AT&T spent $85.3 million in 2006 and $58.2 million for 2005 under the Cingular Wireless brand prior to AT&T's merger with BellSouth in December.

Although the merger and the name change make sorting through AT&T's ad spend a bit sketchy, Fernandez admits AT&T spent much less on this promotion than anticipated because of the viral nature of the campaign and the method in which social networks create interest and spread the word.

The Marketing Arm, which typically allocates between 60% and 70% of campaign funds toward media, turned the budget for AT&T's pep rally on its head with the goal of getting students riled-up and involved. "You get people connected to the brand through something they love, like music," says Jenna Kampfschulte, the promotions director supporting the AT&T account for the non-traditional marketing company. "It's kind of like hiring an employee for a specific task. If they are part of the idea then they have an emotional connection to the project."

Kampfschulte says a follow-up survey between one and two weeks after the close of the campaign, along with the quantity of invitations received, will measure the promotion's success.

AT&T will webcast the concert live, as well as archive the event for TV viewing through video on demand, and on the Internet at the Blue Room. The carrier also will make available individual Dave Matthews Band songs to download onto cellular phones, such as Apple's iPhone.

The Apple iPhone, which launched under the AT&T Wireless brand earlier this year, produced the highest-profile initiative that sealed the company's branding transformation from Cingular to AT&T.

AT&T launched TV ad spots on Spike, MTV and VH1 stations earlier this month targeting 18-to-24 year olds. The ads also began running on local radio stations near college campuses and in a variety of school newspapers. The carrier also leveraged ties with the 38 schools it sponsors, running promotions on electronic billboards during games.

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