USC Annenberg students succeed in a marketing campaign
Fox Sports West is developing a new campaign to promote its Web site with the help of a USC Annenberg communication management class that worked through the fall semester to conduct in-depth research and pitch proposals aimed at boosting the network’s Web traffic.
“The students love it because they’re engaged in a process where they get to come up with an idea that’s actually going to come to light and be on TV and online, where they can see it,” said Chris Hannan, senior vice president of marketing for Fox, Regional Sports Networks. Throughout the fall semester, Hannan and other Fox Sports West executives sat alongside students to give them feedback on the project in Kim Stephens’ graduate audience analysis class.
“It’s ideal for us because we want to reach the younger demographic; the class allows us to engage with very sharp young minds,” Hannan said. “Their thought processes are unbelievable, and they come back with fantastic ideas that will appeal to their generation.”
The class split into five groups that competed to come up with the winning campaign. Ultimately, Hannan and his colleagues chose a program anchored by the slogan “Are You In?” (Fox Sports West is working to make sure the tagline is not intellectual property already claimed by another campaign.)
“It was one of the most rewarding feelings. Instead of just getting a grade on something, this is actually going to be something live and people are going to see this,” said Susan Zeile, a first-year graduate student who worked on the winning campaign. “It’s such an interesting bridge between the scholastic and the real-world experience.”
The project wasn’t just about pitching a winning slogan, Zeile said. The students were presented with a challenge: how to attract more fans and viewers to Fox Sports West’s year-old Web site, FoxSportsWest.com, and build an audience -using the site and other digital platforms – that would keep people coming back.
Students dug into their research by first conducting Web usability studies, then taking online surveys and finally working with focus groups.
“It was helpful to go through the whole marketing process, to understand how to figure out your next steps based on the understanding of what your solution needs to answer,” Zeile said. “In the end, we got a good base of knowledge that really did cater to the specific needs of the problem instead of just figuring out a slogan.”
Stephens also required students to come up with a research presentation aside from the pitches they offered to Fox Sports West.
“Classroom learning is an important part of the education process, but when that theoretical learning meets the practical aspects, it’s really a different ball game,” Stephens said. “This program allows the safety of the classroom and the complexity of the real world. It’s an experience you just can’t get from a contrived exercise or assignment that I could come up with.”
Students instinctively use media in a different way than a generation ago, Hannan said.
“While other generations may embrace new models of entertainment, they often follow traditional models. Students today live in the online world,” he said. “They see brand identity differently. They see it as consumer interaction: How am I, as an individual, involved in the interaction with you? They want to be engaged. It’s not about the brand telling them why this is important.”
The students who came up with the winning concept now have a chance to work with Fox Sports West outside the classroom to develop the campaign.
This is the cable channel’s third year working with USC Annenberg classes to collaborate on marketing campaigns.
Past classes have contributed to campaigns targeting Los Angeles Angels baseball and Los Angeles Kings hockey. The projects are part of a Fox Sports education platform called Creative University that includes programs at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Arizona State University and the University of Florida.