How to Use Giveaways to Promote Your Institution

When it comes to students, handing out swag and hosting giveaways are great ways to put your brand directly into their hands. With students being inundated with digital information everywhere they turn, a tangible piece of your university is something that may stick with them longer. Welcome packets, giveaways via social media, and swag handed out at events are organic ways to get current and prospective students to engage with your online presence.  

According to college students, swag is a meaningful and impactful way to connect with them. Student Alex Falcone writes, “When a college provides students with trendy, useful items, students will hold on to them and they will last a long time.” Even though you might not think students are hanging onto those t-shirts, water bottles, or lanyards, it makes a difference in the long run about how they view your brand. Students are more conscious of how they interact with brands, including universities; they want to feel special and noticed. Therefore, taking the time to think about what students want when it comes to swag is a great way to show them you’re thinking about them now and in the long term as well. 

Creates brand recognition: 

When you think about certain, well-known collegiate colors, what comes to mind? For example, Harvard University is known for its crimson and white colors. In contrast, Michigan University is known for its royal blue emblazoned with a bright yellow M. These universities are automatically paired with their colors. Their collegiate gear is recognizable almost anywhere. People connect with collegiate mascots, wearing sweatshirts with their image, putting stickers on their cars, and even decorating their homes with their favorite mascots. Even those who haven’t attended these universities can associate the colors and images with specific schools, so this is incredibly easy to increase your brand recognition. Students will be excited to wear your college gear, which means it’ll be seen out and about, as well as be photographed in them, which means people across the social mediascape will see your school advertised. Even if a student doesn’t ultimately choose your school, odds are they’ll still wear the shirt or use the water bottle, which is great passive advertising for your school. 

Makes them feel connected: 

Everyone loves a giveaway, and one great way to build student engagement is to use your social media to host a giveaway. It doesn’t have to be super labor-intensive; you can opt for things like offering entries for each like, comment, or share. To generate more traction, consider asking students to engage by posting their own photos using a hashtag, participating in an on-campus scavenger hunt for clues, or attending various events to earn points towards entries into the giveaway. This will get students talking, and when the prize is a good one, you’re sure to see a lot of interest.  

This type of giveaway doesn’t have to be just for current students; you can also engage with potential students. Connect with them by offering the opportunity to earn free university branded gear, gift certificates to the school’s bookstore, or local spots in town. This will get them excited to attend your school and keep them talking with their peers about the cool prizes they’ve earned.  

Builds school pride and loyalty: 

Students who feel connected to their university are more likely to stay and complete a degree. Students will feel a sense of connection when they walk around campus seeing other students sporting their school colors. Therefore, building school pride and loyalty helps students successfully finish their education with your institution and helps create satisfied alumni. Alumni who leave their institution happy and successful are some of the best advertisements you can ask for, as they’re usually quite happy to talk up their school. As signalvine.com reports, when alumni feel connected to their alma mater, they “...are far more likely to volunteer and donate as alumni.” So while it might feel like a short-term solution to hand out customized welcome packets or to give away extra t-shirts at a hockey game, it can have long-term impacts that can ultimately benefit your institution. If the more traditional swag opportunities feel overdone, there are many great alternatives, many of which are cost-effective but still meaningful. 

Connecting with students is something every university strives to do, and thinking about doing it through giveaways or swag is an easy way to open that door. For students who might be wavering between your school or another, the swag they receive from your university might be what gives them the push to turn their maybe into a yes. 

Institutions may thoughtfully use their student's or prospective student networks to harness the power of social media. When your school goes that extra step, it resonates with your audience, and these emotions and connections are further rippled online and on social media.