$2 million to attract new students


InfoCision Stadium – Summa Field. (Buchtelite file photo)

By Kristina Aiad-Toss, Photo Editor

The University of Akron administration budgeted $3 million for marketing during the 2015-2016 school year.

Approved by the Board of Trustees in June 2015, the annual budget of $480 million included a $1,075,000 allocation for marketing, unchanged from the 2014-2015 budget.

This funding encompasses general marketing purposes, like the Super Bowl commercial production and its associated costs, though one was not made this year.

The budget also included $10,000,000 for “new strategic University initiatives,” including the rebranding as “Ohio’s Polytechnic University,” the GenEd Core courses, the Center for Data Science and the Center for Experiential Learning, Entrepreneurship and Civic Engagement.

Also within this budgeted money was an additional $2,000,000 for “branding and enrollment marketing,” according to Larry Burns, vice president of advancement, and Joe Ryan, brand manager.

Burns also says the College of Business Administration is the subject of an upcoming branding initiative.

Although the University has been experiencing an enrollment decline by 4 percent each year since reaching a peak at 30,000 in 2011, Burns said the new marketing plan geared toward prospective students was not a response to these statistics and remains optimistic that the upcoming months will bring progress.  

Despite efforts to boost marketing this year – both in practice and spending – the number of admissions confirmations in March for next fall semester decreased by 33 percent compared to the same time a year ago, according to a Cleveland Plain Dealer article.

At the Board meeting on April 13, the trustees approved the spending of $1.125 million to hire Flourish Agency Inc. as a creative consultant. This expense is part of the $2 million enrollment marketing plan.

The marketing firm has also developed marketing for the EXL Center, the College of Business Administration, the Williams Honors College, and the Center for Data Science, Analytics and Information Technology. Following board approval, the marketing agency will be integrated into different departments and offices.

While Flourish contributes mainly to the creative and visual elements, UA’s Division of Advancement is responsible for providing the conceptual marketing strategy.

Having only used traditional marketing in the past – including signage and printed pamphlets – the new plan brings digital elements into the University’s advertising initiative. The majority of the $2 million is being spent on a digital media campaign, digital videos and displays, paid search advertising, digital data management, social media advertising, and streaming video and radio advertisements.

The administration is developing a new centralized message platform to market the University.

“This is all about telling our story. That was the challenge that we as a University have struggled with for a while,” said Ryan. “We need to really get that student experience out there. We need one University of Akron message.”

Matt Headland, a sophomore marketing major, gave his opinion on the University’s marketing of the last year.

“The marketing strategies have good thought behind them, but the message is slightly off,” Headland said. “The focus on UA students being innovators and creators is great, but I think that the messaging should focus less on the general nature of these statements and focus more on specifics.”