Handing out Eat Natural cereal bars at Freshers’ Fair, exchanging donuts for Amazon Prime student-offer sign-ups, doing lecture shout-outs, promoting banking internships on King’s group chats, handing out ViaVan vouchers on the Strand, dutifully filling your name in for a £10 The Economist introductory offer which you may or may not make a mental note to cancel after 12 weeks. Not quite an influencer, almost a human billboard, the student brand ambassador is the perfect hybrid between the two.
Students want extra money, friendly bosses, and flexible working hours. Brands want student card access to university campuses. It’s a match made in capitalism! Companies from all sorts of sectors hire student ambassadors to promote their products, services or work opportunities amongst their peers, from technology, nutrition and publishing, to banking and up and coming start-ups. For some, like Greggs or Domino’s, it’s a way of doing a compulsory victory lap without employing full-time staff. Others, like The New York Times, see it as an opportunity to enter new markets, increasing their audience (and, of course, paying subscribers).
Brands do not directly employ students. That’s the job of specialised student marketing agencies, such as On-Campus Promotions, Bam, or Campus Industries: agencies link many hungry companies and even more eager students, designing campus focused marketing campaigns and recruiting ambassadors. How many is more? On-Campus Promotions employs more than 600 student Brand Ambassadors throughout the year from universities across UK and Ireland, 10 of which are King’s students, according to an agency representative.
The perks of not being a wallflower
Student ambassador duties include setting up stalls with freebies on campus, attending brand events at King’s, social media advertising, promoting internships and graduate schemes, and talking to university departments and student societies. “Basically, writing lots of emails, posts and messages”, as Alice, a second year PPE student promoting teaching opportunities, sums it up. These all add up to one goal: driving up student awareness for the brand.
Being a student ambassador is no easy job: whilst some campaigns appeal to a wide range of students (who is not interested in cereal bars?), other have a very specific target audience, making it more difficult for promoters to attract subscribers. Speaking about the challenges of being a student ambassador, Alice says that “Online, I had lots of “seens” or promises to sign up that were left unfulfilled, which is all kinds of frustrating. Rewarding, however, were the very positive replies and general help I have got from various department’s staff that agreed to further distribute the information I was providing.”
“The best campaigns are built on students that live and breathe the brand and help connect the organisation with a wider audience”, On-Campus Promotions tells Roar.
Although some ambassador gigs only last as long as the Freshers Fair, most are employed for several months, from September until Spring. Salaries revolve between £8-£10 per hour, with bonuses awarded for generating extra sign-ups or taking the best promotional photos. Students also flexible working hours as the main job advantage: “I did not have to complete a certain number of hours per week but around 25 hours in total over the months (which is not a lot)”, explains Auriane, a third year Political Economy student and former brand ambassador for HSBC, who continues to say that “my manager was very considerate and totally understood when we had too much uni work”. Apart from these, student ambassadors also receive the occasional hoodie, tote bag, notebook, and, if they are lucky, even tablets and banners*.
As higher education becomes more competitive, universities start revamping their marketing strategies. King’s Business School currently employs around 10 student ambassadors. Their main duties are to “give tours and answer questions for prospective students and their parents, and assist with events (e.g. checking the guest list, manning the cloakroom, handing out free stuff)”, according to Christina, a third year Business student and student ambassador. In other words, the “ambassador” title seems to be a stage name for the good old student representative position.
Where do I sign up?
The application process for student brand ambassadors usually starts either at the end of summer or after Freshers’ Fair. Besides a CV, students may be required to complete various tasks, from submitting self-recorder videos demonstrating what makes them a great ambassador to coming up with marketing ideas:
“I had to fill in lots of personal details, do a few mini-essays about promotional purposes and ideas and do a video as well. Kind of time-consuming and stressful, but it paid off in the end”, recalls Alice. “Honestly, although a shortage of applicants might have played a role into this, I think the enthusiasm I displayed was the key thing.”, she adds.
On-Campus Promotion’s wish list matches Alice’s hunch, featuring “passion, creativity and excitement” as the key attributes of a good student ambassador.
*Disclaimer: Proof of this can be found in the living room of this article’s author.