Students Vie To Bring Band To Campus In AT&T Stunt

Even by AT&T's standards, the heated competition among rival colleges in its latest stunt is a welcome surprise. The college football pep rally marketing campaign to get the Dave Matthews Band to play on one lucky campus has been bigger than the company executives anticipated.

Demonstrating school spirit, the U.S. Military Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy and the U.S. Air Force Academy continue to battle it out for bragging rights. As of Thursday, the three schools held the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 positions, respectively. More than 100 schools are competing.

Nearly 2 million invitations have been sent to the band by students, alumni and fans, according to Deborah Carranza, associate director of sponsorships and events for AT&T, San Antonio, Texas. "We're seeing real competition between the schools," she says. "That's a significant amount of user-generated content, which helps consumers connect with our brand."

Carranza says several creative examples have been submitted by AT&T Wireless subscribers. For instance, a personal invitation to the Dave Matthews Band appears in white smoke against a blue sky that reads DMB. Then there's the photo taken in a jet plane high above the desert. The invitation from the U.S. Air Force Academy reads: "DMB Please Come To USAFA."



One school developed a Web site that attempts to rally students, alumni and fans to send invitations to the band. Washington State University built to create buzz. The site features a countdown on the time left to invite the band to WSU, as well as recent news about the school's football team.

"We're expecting to see momentum at schools as we move through the second half of the promotion," Carranza says.

Individual wireless subscribers also took the initiative to develop MySpace and Facebook pages to stimulate interest and keep the marketing program alive at schools like the University of California, Los Angeles. And, as AT&T reaches out to a younger audience, viral online marketing will play a larger role.

Three weeks ago, AT&T launched the six-week promotion inviting students, alumni and fans from colleges across the country to participate in a contest that could bring the Dave Matthews Band to their school.

AT&T will choose the winner based on the number of votes submitted online or by wireless phone. Invitations can include photos, videos or sound clips--up to 50 per day per individual. The carrier will take into consideration the school's enrollment in making the decision.

The one-and-a-half- to two-hour concert will take place at a pep rally at the winning school in November.

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