Microsoft Imagine Cup


In 2012 NAM was hired by Microsoft to promote their world renowned Imagine Cup event. We were to promote the event nationwide from October through December to young adults and college students between the ages of 18 and 24 years old. Our project objective was to promote this world premier student technology competition to the selected target market, and also invite all eligible students to use their imagination and passion to create a technology solution in one of six competitions and challenges.

Previously, Microsoft had experienced many things that had hindered their promotional reach for this event. We wanted to ensure that we created a greater reach, provided results, and proved that their promotional investment was worthwhile. In any promotional campaign it is important to track results in order to measure success. We created a trackable QR scan code for all promotional items that when scanned would bring students to informational and registration portals. We also encouraged students at targeted schools to register with their “.edu” student email address and use the referral code “IC13”.

We promoted this event by creating and implementing a variety of college marketing strategies. We targeted a total of 30 colleges and universities for this promotional campaign, including Michigan State, UCLA, University of Southern California (USC), Harvard University, Auburn University, University of Miami, Boston College, MIT, and Brown University.

We planned to use a variety of different marketing elements in order to successfully promote this event. Our first tool was to print and distribute Microsoft Imagine Cup branded posters, tabletents, and doorhangers, which were then distributed through our professional network and student marketing groups. By doing this we were able to send Microsoft’s message directly to the niche college market in the environment where they work, live, and play.

We developed Microsoft’s message into a variety of electronic distribution methods as well, including email, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and YouTube. We also created an university marketing campaign that used our dimensional student ambassadors to share this message with student groups including, math, computer science, and physics students, professors, clubs, and classrooms. These peer-to-peer engagements created a personalized and trusted message for Mircosoft’s event.


Print Media Campaign

Our student brand ambassadors on our targeted campuses placed Microsoft Imagine Cup branded posters, doorhangers, and tabletents in front of students on campus in high traffic areas including dining centers, dormitories, computer labs, and classrooms. Our student agents also engaged in peer-to-peer marketing efforts by personally distributing these print media items to student clubs, groups, and math, computer science, and physics classrooms.

Print Media Campaign


Our print campaign for the Imagine Cup project was a success. Our professional network and our student agents distributed 32,842 doorhangers11,700 posters, and 13,800 table tents. All of these print media items contained a scannable QR code that when scanned from a smartphone the user was taken to the Microsoft Imagine Cup website. They also mentioned an incentive to sign up. If students signed up and entered a referral code found on the print media items, they were instantly entered to win an Xbox 360. Our posters received the most results by obtaining 239 scans. Doorhangers and table tents received a total of 95 scans. Out of these scans 88 students registered through the Imagine Cup website using the referral code to enter the sweepstakes. A total of 235 students from the targeted colleges and universities participated during our campaign period.


Social Media Campaign

We creatively used a variety of social media outlets to actively engage with eligible students within the Microsoft Imagine Cup target market. We used our professional social network, as well as our student ambassadors’ social networks to personalize the Imagine Cup message to as many eligible and interested students as possible. We did this through Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and YouTube. Not only did we engage with this market, we also created a promotional video through YouTube to entertain and grab the attention of this young target market. We used these outlets to their full potential in this social media campaign to efficiently implement college marketing strategies.

Facebook Engagement

Through Facebook, our student ambassadors actively engaged with groups operated by students, staff, and faculty at the targeted schools, specifically engineering and programming groups, to successfully promote the Microsoft Imagine Cup.  We used Facebook to interact with a specific target market, promote and inform eligible students about the event, and to create an online social buzzsurrounding the world renowned technology event. In total, we were directly interacting with 15+ groups, which resulted in a total maximum reach for this Facebook campaign of over 25,000 individuals, and an approximate actual reach of more than 6,250 Facebook users.

Facebook Marketing for the Microsoft Imagine Cup

Some of the major groups we were able to interact with included:  University of Washington Computer Science & Engineering (3,612 members), DePaul University College of Computing and Digital Media (3,005 members), and Carnegie Mellon College of Engineering (1,900 members). These groups, and many more, provided us with a means to promote this event directly to students who had already expressed an interest in topics regarding this event.

We also promoted the Imagine Cup directly on NAM’s student-facing Facebook page with five total wall posts, which resulted in 725 total views. We encouraged fans to share a post about the Imagine Cup. The fan who shared the post with their friends, posted a comment about what they would do with $50K, and got the most “likes” on their post won $50. Second place also won $50. This sweepstakes showed great results for this Facebook campaign. We experienced 35 instances of fans sharing Imagine Cup activity with their personal networks, which resulted in an approximate maximum reach of 5,250 individuals, and an approximate actual reach of over 1,315 people.

Twitter Activity

Throughout the campaign we used Twitter to create a social buzz surrounding the technology competition, and to drive registered results. We sent out regular tweets every few hours for each day of the promotional period via NAM’s Twitter accounts. We averaged about ten tweets per day and about 300 tweets per month. These numbers seemed like a good fit for this campaign. It actively updated people’s Twitter feeds, but was not so overbearing that it became annoying for our followers. Our Twitter accounts had a total of 820 followers and we received 5 direct retweets of our tweets regarding the Imagine Cup.

Twitter Marketing for the Microsoft Imagine Cup

We were also able to allocate $400 from the Imagine Cup budget to Twitter ad credits in order to promote key tweets. We promoted these tweets through our four unique Twitter accounts, which resulted in over 30,000 impressions and 256 clicks to the promoted website. The photo below depicts our ad results (Tweet | Impressions | % Conversion | Clicks Generated).

Google+ Interaction

Google+ offered us a unique way to interact with specific student groups that had expressed a pre-existing interest in topics related to the Microsoft Imagine Cup. We were able to engage with groups operated by students, staff, and faculty at our targeted schools, specifically engineering and programming communities on Google+. In total, we were able to direclty interact with over ten groups, which resulted in a total maximum reach of over 125,000 people, and an approximate actual reach of more than 15,000 people. We were also able to promote this competition through Google+ via our NAM employee accounts and pages.

Sample Post Cross-Promoting Facebook Mini-Sweepstakes

Asseen in the above photo, we also used Google+ to cross promote things such as our sweepstakes give-away that were occuring on Facebook. Through Google+ we were able to interact with a variety of different online communities that were present at our targeted schools. Some of these groups included: MIT (94,626 members), Software Programmers & Engineers (3,819 members), and University of Florida (2,516 members).

LinkedIn Connections

LinkedIn also offered us a unique way of interacting with college students. We used LinkedIn as a means to interact with specific groups that were operated by students, staff, and faculty at the targeted colleges and universities. We specifically targeted groups related to engineering and computer programming. We also used it as a way to post questions and answers regarding the Imagine Cup.

Sample LinkedIn Group Post

In total, we directly interacted with over 25 groups, which resulted in a total maximum reach of over 20,000 people and an approximate actual reach of more than 5,200 LinkedIn users. Some of the major groups we directed our college marketingefforts toward were:  UCLA School of Engineering & Applied Science (3,102 members), De Paul’s College of Computing & Digital Media (1,119 members), and MIT Professionals (1,549 members). We promoted the Imagine Cup through NAM employees’ LinkedIn accounts. This offered a creative and unique way to efficiently implement college and university marketing tactics.

YouTube Promotion

YouTube was a great tool in the Imagine Cup social media campaign. Not only did it allow us to create and post apromotional video for the competition, it also gave us another means to actively engage with college and university students.  YouTube was a huge asset in actively and efficiently implementing this university marketing strategy.

We successfully created and promoted an introduction video revolving around what the Imagine Cup was, how students could take part in it, and what the potential prizes of the event were. The video resulted in:

  • 15,445 total views
  • 2,845 estimated minutes watched
  • 1 direct share

The video was viewed all over the nation by eligible students at our targeted campuses.

YouTube Promotion View Map

Overall, the video was a success and a great way to promote this event to a young market. Watch the Imagine Cup YouTube Video


Email Marketing Campaign

We conducted an email marketing campaign to reach out to eligible students through their “.edu” email accounts. Our emails included a brief message regarding the upcoming competition, a tag keyword that was related to Microsoft’s competition, and a tag code for result-tracking purposes. We sent out emails from various Microsoft and NAM related accounts.

Below is a result of our email campaign:

Successful Email Marketing Campaign

NAM tagged emails achieved over 1,200 clicks to the linked website. Microsoft tagged emails resulted in over 600 clicks to the associated website. An email marketing campaign was a great way to promote the event specifically to college students.


Other Marketing Strategies

Alongside our social marketing and print media efforts, we implemented a variety of other university marketing techniques in order to better promote the Imagine Cup. These included the use of slideshows, online press releases, and professional endorsements. Continue reading to learn more about these additional college marketing strategies.

Slide Show Presentation

We created and promoted an introduction slideshow that revolved around what the Imagine Cup was, how students could participate, and what the potential prizes and benefits of participating would be. This served as a great promotional tool that not only promoted the event, but also educated students about it. Additionally, it gave students an opportunity to absorb the information on their own time.

Slide Show Presentation as a College Marketing Tool

We promoted the slideshow through a variety of outlets, including AuthorStream, SlideBoom, SlideShare, and SlideRocket. However, the majority of its views came from direct marketing efforts, such as our email campaign, and students scanning our print media codes. Our slideshow received 197 direct views.

Online Press Releases & Classifieds

In order to create an even larger online buzz about the Microsoft Imagine Cup we promoted it through online press releases. We created and distributed press releases to multiple sources, including PR Log, Download Junction, 24-7 Press Release, Press Exposure, and Open PR. We also promoted the Imagine Cup through a variety of online classifieds, including Craig’s List, eBay Classifieds, and BackPage.

The following are a few of the press releases that were published, as well as their results:

Professional Endorsements

Many of our student ambassadors received endorsements and support from professionals on their campuses. Our student agents have always been encouraged to work with faculty and staff at their schools, to widen the reach of our college marketing efforts. The support of faculty and staff meant that it was not just our student ambassadors reaching out to their peers, classrooms, and student groups, it was also the college and universities’ qualified and respected professors spreading the message about the Imagine Cup.

Below are just a couple of the endorsements our student agents received while promoting this competition:

  • “This sounds like a phenomenal project. I anticipate the students will be very interested. I will back you one hundred percent. If you need any help please do hesitate to ask.” – Trisha
  • “I am the new chair of ACM-W at CDM, DePaul University. Thank you so much for your interest in partnering with ACM-W. If possible can I have a conversation with you regarding this wonderful opportunity, without taking up much of your time? Thanks!” – Nandita Chair of ACM-W at CDM, DePaul University

Promotional Campaign Results

Overall, our Microsoft Imagine Cup 2013 promotional campaign was a complete success. We set out to publicize this technological competition in order to drive college-age individuals to register for the event. We wanted to specifically target those students who would register using their “.edu” email address and the referral code “IC13”. These two factors allowed us to better track our results.

We succeeded in promoting the Imagine cup by creating and implementing a variety of college marketing strategies:

  • We created and distributed a multitude of print media sources that contained a trackable QR scannable code that, when scanned, brought college students directly to information regarding the event and registration portals for the competition.
  • We developed and implemented a social marketing campaign, which allowed us to actively engage with eligible students at our targeted schools.
  • We conducted a strategic email marketing campaign to target eligible students with “.edu” email addresses.
  • We also employed our student ambassadors at the targeted campuses to engage with their peers, student groups, and classrooms to spread a personalized and trusted message promoting the Imagine Cup.

Along with these university marketing efforts, we also promoted the competition through online press releases and an informational slideshow.

Through all of these marketing efforts we reached over 24,000 students at 29 U.S. college campuses that were directly related to science, technology, engineering, and math fields of interest. We greatly benefited the Microsoft Imagine Cup by breaking through barriers that had previously hindered the intensity of the program’s promotional outreach. We produced a 70% response rate from the students that directly participated in our promotional campaign by registering with the targeted referral code and email addresses from a “.edu” account from targeted schools.

We were able to specifically influence the Imagine Cup’s target market by producing 334 trackable QR code scans, which produced235 qualified registrants for the competition. This resulted in a 70% direct marketing response rate. By achieving such a high response rate through our campaign efforts we made Microsoft’s promotional investment well worth it’s while. On average, their promotional campaign only cost $212 per qualified registered student.

In short, our abilities to implement successful college marketing efforts and make a direct university student connection, specifically related to the science, technology, engineering, and math fields of interest, was highly impactful, cost effective, and resulted in a solid and worthwhile investment for Microsoft and the 2013 Imagine Cup.

Successful College Marketing for the Microsoft Imagine Cup



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