URI business class forms agency to compete in national marketing challenge

Team uses social media to generate enthusiasm for Acura

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Opening Doors: URI senior marketing majors Taylor Burns, from Cranston, Alison Plunkett from North Kingstown, and Samantha Valenza from Plainview, N.Y, help to drive URI College of Business Administration's entry into the Acura marketing challenge. URI photograph by Nora Lewis.

KINGSTON, R.I. — Nov. 21, 2016 — Now in her second year at the University of Rhode Island, Assistant Professor of Marketing Christy Ashley is inspiring and challenging tomorrow’s advertising and marketing executives today.

She’s engaged her students in a national competition to promote not just any product — but one from a leading luxury automotive brand — Acura. With funding from Acura’s marketing agency, Mullen, and EdVenture Partners, an organization that develops industry-education partnership programs, a budget of $2,000 w as provided for the students to design and implement a social media plan for Acura’s entry-level sport sedan: the 2017 Acura ILX.

“This operation has lots of positive energy and speed,” said Ashley of Narragansett. “The students have formed their agency called Vital Innovative Promotions (V.I.P.) to create and execute their multi-level marketing campaign over just nine weeks.”

V.I.P. has completed the campaign implementation and post-campaign research and will submit its final report Nov. 28.

“Dr. Ashley’s class is my favorite because it allows us to actually apply our skills to real-life situations and a real project, which makes it unique from traditional courses here,” said Taylor Burns, a senior marketing major from Cranston. “We all can’t wait to see our ideas come to life at our events and to see the engagement from participants.”

All Aboard: Assistant Professor of Marketing Christy Ashley (center) smiles as her students gather around the product of their marketing endeavors. URI photograph by Nora Lewis.
All Aboard: Assistant Professor of Marketing Christy Ashley (center) smiles as her students gather around the product of their marketing endeavors.
URI photograph by Nora Lewis.

Students within the class took leadership roles of cross-functional teams. Samantha Valenza, a senior marketing major from Plainview, N.Y., was selected to lead V.I.P. as agency coordinator. She remarked, “The coordination of this campaign provided me and the rest of the student team with an opportunity to take the skills learned in class and apply them to promote Acura’s high performance vehicles.”

Similar to an actual advertising agency, the student group did significant primary and secondary research before developing its campaign ideas. Then based on actual client feedback – which added to the authenticity of the hands-on experience – the students developed their initial content calendars for their social media channels and created creative samples that received client approval.

For the campaign, the team held two big events to showcase the car. One was at the Original Wedding Expo at the Twin River Casino in Lincoln on Nov. 6, and the other was at URI, where they featured the car on the Kingston Campus Quadrangle on Nov. 10. The entire class was there to support the full day campus event and hundreds of students and community members stopped by to experience the bright red sporty sedan.

The overall goal was to increase awareness of Acura as a great brand and one that’s just right for millennials. They emphasized the Acura ILX’s performance and innovative features, with messages that appealed to consumers who don’t want to wait to reward themselves for their hard work. Of course, while on campus they highlighted the special financing available for recent college graduates.

The students’ social media campaign invited users to follow the Vital Innovative Promotions team’s progress on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and #dRIveILX.

Other institutions participating in the Acura Marketing Challenge are the University of Houston, University of New Mexico, Johns Hopkins University, Florida International University, San Jose State University, Georgia State University, University of Arizona, University of Pittsburgh, Aurora University, Drexel University, Middle Tennessee State University, Michigan State University, Virginia Tech, Boston University, San Diego State University, Texas Christian University, Rochester Institute of Technology, University of Illinois and Syracuse University.

For more information about the campaign, visit the team’s website https://vipacurailx.wordpress.com/.

The URI College of Business Administration, with more than 2000 undergraduate students and 350 graduate students, has served as the leader in business education, research, and outreach for the State of Rhode Island since it was founded in 1923. It is the first accredited business school in Rhode Island (1969) and has the first accredited accounting program at both the undergraduate and graduate levels in the Northeast (1993).