Students’ Snapple Campaign Wows Judges, Wins National Competition

A team of UVA students bested more than 150 competing teams to win the American Advertising Federation’s National Student Advertising Competition with a catchy new campaign for Snapple drinks.
Professor Carrie Heilman, right, with her students after the class won the American Advertising Federation’s 2016 National Student Advertising Competition.

Asked to create an integrated marketing campaign for Snapple teas and juices, students in a year-long advertising class at the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce focused on the small moments of delight that comes with popping open a Snapple – comparing it to miniature triumphs like snagging the best parking spot or finding $20 in your pocket.

UVA’s student team built an entire “That’s the Stuff” campaign on selling those small moments. Their focus and work led to a very big moment last week, as they took home the top prize in the American Advertising Federation’s National Student Advertising Competition.

The competition challenged more than 150 student teams from universities around the country to create an integrated marketing campaign for the 2016 sponsor, Snapple (owned by the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group). Each team had to win regional and semifinal competitions before progressing to the national competition, where eight teams presented their campaigns on June 5 at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Judges included representatives from Snapple, which can choose to adopt or adapt ideas from winning campaigns.

UVA’s team was named the overall champion and also won the award for Best Research. The win was the culmination of nine months of work by 28 students in marketing Professor Carrie Heilman’s “Promotions” class, an advertising and marketing course that incorporates the competition as its final project. Under the leadership of Heilman and former professor Jack Lindgren, UVA teams have advanced to finals of the national competition 10 times in the past 13 years. This year’s win brings UVA’s championship total to three (1982, 2006 and 2016) since the competition was first offered in 1980.

During the two-semester course, which draws fourth-year students from the Commerce School and various other disciplines across Grounds, students essentially form their own advertising agency. Each student is assigned various roles, from account executive to video production. This year’s class conducted market research on Snapple products, developed campaign ideas, mapped out a strategy and ultimately put together a campaign that includes television, radio and digital ads, promotion ideas and plans for in-store or experiential advertising.

“I am incredibly proud of the accomplishments of this outstanding group of students,” Heilman said. “Not only did they come up with a powerful new brand identity for Snapple, but they also rolled up their sleeves and did a first-rate job on all the tough, behind-the-scenes work required to put together a truly comprehensive marketing campaign.”

Snapple challenged the students to rethink its current tagline – “Made from the Best Stuff on Earth” – which was not faring well with consumers. Instead of focusing solely on the drinks’ ingredients, UVA’s team focused on consumers’ experience when they drink a Snapple, characterized by the distinctive “pop” of the cap, the whimsical factoids printed under each cap and the wide variety of flavors.

To support this focus, the class conducted more than 4,000 surveys, 430 one-on-one interviews, 24 hours of in-store observation and 15 focus groups. They used several market research strategies, including new face-reading technology from Noldus Information Technology. Representatives from Noldus had traveled to the Commerce School in the fall, showing students how their technology could scan faces and quantify consumers’ reactions in real time.

A student in Heilman’s class attended the presentation and realized the technology could help the class understand exactly how consumers react to Snapple. They used it in focus groups, comparing consumers’ facial reactions when opening a Snapple with their reactions to competing products. They found that reactions to Snapple were comparable to their reactions to other small moments of pleasure, such as catching M&Ms in their mouths or popping bubble wrap, while their reactions to competing products showed less pleasure.

“We could actually see that consumers had more neutral reactions when they opened products from Snapple’s competitors,” said Elyse Eilerman, a May Commerce School graduate who was in the class. “It was a really powerful way for us to prove our insights.”

Using those insights, Eilerman and her fellow students developed television, radio and digital advertisements equating opening a Snapple with other humorous “that’s the stuff” moments, like getting back to the couch just as your favorite show resumes or matching every sock after doing laundry.

Students created the ads themselves, playing up each other’s strengths to complete every step from strategy development to videography and graphic design.

“The class draws from an interdisciplinary set of majors and being surrounded by people who have been taught to think differently is just amazing,” said Kelsey Miller, who double-majored in commerce and fine art.

The students also offered Snapple new sales ideas, such as a build-your-own six-pack concept, “sip sampler” drink dispensers and interactive displays tailored specifically to major metropolitan areas, all designed to increase the drinks’ appeal and drive sales in the increasingly competitive beverage industry.

“Our motto was ‘never settle,’ which was something that Professor Heilman consistently emphasized,” Eilerman said. 

To sell their ideas to the judges and the company, students put together a written campaign proposal and a 20-minute presentation that they gave at the regional and national competitions. The presentation – and the subsequent win – was a capstone to the yearlong experience that gave students a very realistic preview of how advertising agencies develop, create and pitch a concept.

“It has been the best experience of my academic career at UVA,” Eilerman said. “I learned so much, and it was a great opportunity for marketing students to get hard skills like Photoshop and InDesign while also learning how the agency world works and what working at an agency truly means.”

Miller agreed, pointing out that her role as an account executive in the class led her to pursue similar roles after graduation.

“I learned that this is something I intend to pursue in the future, and I believe that happened with so many other students in the class, whether they decided to focus on copywriting or photography or something else,” Miller said. “The impact extends so much further than the classroom or even the competition.”

Media Contact

Caroline Newman

Associate Editor Office of University Communications