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Tuesday, Apr 23, 2024

MARKETING–Colleges.com Takes to the

Locally based Colleges.com Inc. is taking its marketing to the skies in a multimillion-dollar campaign that the company expects to launch this week.

The local high-tech company has built a large blimp and plans to take it on a full-scale tour of college campuses throughout the country, said John Carrieri, CEO and chairman.

The blimp is an ideal marketing vehicle with which to target the college crowd, Carrieri said.

“There’s no other demographic that’s geographically constrained, if you will, to a couple-mile radius,” he said.

Carrieri, whose Colleges.com E-commerce firm sells advertising on its Web sites and licenses its Web games, did not disclose how much the blimp cost to build nor how much money his company is spending on the entire promotion.

The campaign was designed in-house, he said.

The blue-and-white blimp, which has its own restroom, bar and a passenger occupancy of six, not including the pilot and co-pilot , is 200 feet long, 67 feet tall and 63 feet wide, Carrieri said. It has a volume of 254,000 cubic feet.

It’s on scale with other large commercial blimps such as those from the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. Goodyear’s largest blimp is 205.5 feet long and 60.2 feet tall and has a volume of 247,800 cubic feet, according to Goodyear’s Web site.

Colleges.com’s blimp will land on the campuses that have enough room, he said.

“I believe every student at that university is going to know about Colleges.com by the time that blimp leaves,” Carrieri said.

The blimp has a cruising altitude of 1,000 to 3,000 feet, a cruising speed of 44 miles an hour, and a maximum speed of 65 miles an hour, Carrieri said.

Ready For Takeoff

If the campaign stays on schedule, the blimp will head into San Diego around April 7, he said. It’s being painted right now at Moffitt Field in Northern California, he said.

“We’re launching it as quick as we can,” Carrieri said. “The blimp will start at Stanford University and will head north from there, probably going to UC Berkeley and San Francisco, then south to Los Angeles, and then to San Diego.

After that, the blimp’s route is toward Phoenix and Tucson, then Dallas, and from there to the East Coast, Carrieri said.

Seasonal timing will be important for the blimp, he said.

“It’s definitely a creature subject to weather,” he said.

The blimp has a ground crew of 20, and an additional four people will handle public relations and marketing. The second group will take pictures of the campuses and meet with university publication officials, he said.

Colleges.com has coordinated promotions within the traveling campaign.

One, with a tentative title of “Party in the Sky,” gives winning students an on-blimp party.

Another contest will give one student four years of free tuition, room and board, a leased car, and the student’s dorm room, wardrobe and bath and body products will be outfitted by designer Tommy Hilfiger, Carrieri said.

Before the blimp, Colleges.com’s recent promotion focused on universities’ spring breaks. The company held events in Florida party hubs Daytona Beach and Panama City, and on South Padre Island, Texas.

As of late, Colleges.com has wrapped its figurative arms a little more tightly around its high school and college-age target market.

In late November, the company bought U. Magazine, a 13-year-old publication that currently has a 1.5 million print distribution, Carrieri said. It was a “great way to extend our brand,” he said.

The company, which incorporated in December 1997 and launched its Web site the following August, moved into new Sorrento Valley headquarters a couple of weeks ago.

Last Monday, the company announced it hired a new CFO, Natalya Smith. Smith was deputy treasurer for the state of California from 1995 through 1998.

Colleges.com has 20 employees on staff, but now anticipates rapid growth, “in the neighborhood of hundreds,” Carrieri said.


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