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The secret to marketing to university students? Donuts!


By John McCarthy | Opinion editor

June 21, 2023 | 5 min read

The campaign won in the Experience category at The Drum Marketing Awards EMEA 2023.

Donut drop

This award-winning campaign used donuts to entice university sign ups

Unite Students’ ’Donut Drop’ campaign capitalized on students’ love for personalization and Instagrammable moments.

The Brief

Unite Students tasked TRO with creating an exciting experiential activity as part of its broader ’NoBrainer’ marketing campaign. The goal was to position Unite Students as the obvious choice for student accommodation and drive rebooking for the 2023/2024 academic year.

The Idea

Leveraging data and insights from 2021, TRO delivered a unique and personalized experience never attempted by Unite Students before. The concept, ’Donut Drop’, capitalized on students’ love for donuts, as well as personalization and Instagrammable moments.

It involved 55 tailored activations held in and around Unite properties across 18 cities in the UK. These events featured live DJ performances, donut trampolines, donut personalization stations and more, aiming to engage over 35,000 students and encourage social sharing and content creation.

The ’Donut Drop’ experience provided students across the UK with an authentic, fun and meaningful way to interact with the Unite brand and its properties.

The Results

The campaign exceeded its objectives, with a 74% increase in sales during the Exclusive Rebooker Launch Week compared with 2021 and a staggering 230% increase in sales during the National Launch Week. Website visits saw a significant boost of 105% compared with 2021, resulting in a 400% increase in online bookings. The influencer video views target of 50,000 was surpassed, with 63,000 live views captured at the ’Donut Drop’ events.

The ’Donut Drop’ events showcased the Unite Students living experience, highlighted the quality and variety of its properties, communicated core benefits and drove leads and sales for the 2023/2024 academic year. By allocating additional budget to the experiential element of the campaign, Unite Students achieved an impressive 247% increase in overall additional revenue compared with 2021.

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The success of the campaign can be attributed to its appeal to the target Gen Z audience through colorful and inclusive events, its strategic nationwide rollout within an eight day period and its focus on creating authentic experiences that resonate with students.

This campaign won at The Drum Awards for Marketing EMEA 2023. Find out more about The Drum’s Global Awards program or head to our case studies hub to read more award-winning stories.

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