CAMPAIGNS: Web Branding - College Web site floats big ideas

Client: (San Diego)

Client: (San Diego)

Client: (San Diego)

PR Team: In-house

Campaign: Branding of Web site

Time Frame: April to July 2000

Budget: dollars 4 million

To John Carrieri, the sky's the limit.

Carrieri's reach-for-the-stars attitude extends to his business plans.

He's founded two of the most heavily visited sites on the Web: and

In December 1998 Carrieri launched, which provides financial aid and e-commerce information for students and alumni as well as a scholarship search engine, among other services. Not long after its debut, USA Today rated one of the nation's top college-oriented Web sites.

Still, Carrieri wasn't content. He wanted to lift the site well above the competition, to take the brand name to a higher orbit.


While other Internet start-ups scrambled for attention through Super Bowl ads, Carrieri took to the skies. Because the target market was geographically contained on relatively small campuses around the country, Carrieri reasoned that the best way to garner brand exposure was to float the site's logo overhead and tie in promotions. launched its SkyTour campaign in April, using a blimp two-thirds the length of a football field and the height of a jumbo jet to reinforce to its target market the site's bright blue, red and gold logo.


The blimp made its debut on April 5 during the Internet World Conference at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Conferees were treated to a night view of the airship over Paramount Studios for a fund-raising event benefiting Computer Hope, an initiative to provide computer literacy and job training to the homeless.

Next, it toured area universities, including UCLA, USC, UC Irvine and Long Beach State. As the blimp visited the campuses, students and administrators were able to sign up on the site to win sky rides in the 38-foot, six-passenger airship.

While in San Diego, home of's headquarters, the SkyTour blimp visited the Padres' opening-day game at Qualcomm Stadium. It then floated to Phoenix and Tucson before heading north where, among other things, it took in Harvard's graduation ceremonies.

SkyTour was originally planned as a yearlong campaign, but it had to be shortened, Carrieri says. 'We had a really bad run of luck because blimps are really sensitive to weather, and there were terrible storms in the middle of the country' during the tour, says's PR manager, Denise Hosford. And, since campuses are mostly shut down over the summer, it didn't make good economic sense to pay the 20-plus crew during the downtime.


Emphasizing the importance of getting the site's name into the consciousness of the collegiate masses, Carrieri says SkyTour did the job well. 'We were successful in increasing brand awareness,' he maintains. During most of the stops, for instance, local media covered the SkyTour blimp.

Future is considering a plan for SkyTour to co-promote a sweepstakes with Tommy Hilfiger. The contest, dubbed FullRide, would give the winning student four years of free tuition, room and board, a four-year car lease and clothes and accessories from the designer.

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