Beth Keserauskis

Building relationships and making connections

University Branding Takes to the Air

I know this is not “new” news, but the recent addition to the fleet of Horizon Airlines airplanes to don public university branding caught my attention again. The Montana State University Bobcat theme brings the total to eight planes in the airline’s fleet promoting public universities in the northwest.

How do you measure success of that brand advertising initiative?? More importantly, how do you justify the cost? I have no clue what the price tag was for those branded planes, nor am I aware of the budget situation in these states. I do however know about the state of Illinois budget situation and the resulting pinch the public universities are facing. (And pinch is an understatement!) I would find it very hard to justify the cost without being able to prove a direct link to enrolling more students or raising more money for the foundation.

I do also recognize that each of us in the marketing field is trying to be more creative than our competition in getting our message out to our audience. This latest advertising space is certainly creative; I am just not sure how effective it is. Thoughts?

If you are really bored, you can watch the video of the Washington State University plane being painted with the school’s fight song in the background. 


November 13, 2010 - Posted by | higher education, marketing | , , , , ,


  1. That is a great point for discussion. When I first saw the news, I thought that it is a pretty cool strategy.

    From a strategic perspective, I think the expense bill is on the airline and not on the university. We should see more like co-branding and not an ad from the school. We should look deep into this, but I think horizon is piggybacking on univ brand name and not otherwise.

    For Horizon, being a relatively small player, and being mostly involved in north west region, I believe this is a great strategy. All the schools they are partnering with are of pretty decent size and have excellent sports culture. So, without any numbers though, strategically I think this strategy will attract the univ loyalists.

    Comment by Ramana Madupalli | December 13, 2010 | Reply

    • Great points Ram! However, we all know that airlines are not swimming in cash either…can they justify the expense? Can we justify just general “co-branding” for a university when so many other direct-to-consumer approaches exist?

      Comment by Elizabeth Keserauskis | December 13, 2010 | Reply

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