Student Advantage Revamps Site, Drops Mailing

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Student Advantage, Boston, is re-launching its Web site to coincide with the start of the fall semester to include a host of new features that will enable marketers to deliver targeted messages and offers to the personalized pages students will be able to create.


The company hopes to turn its site (www.studentadvantage.com) into the premier destination for college students. Students can receive relevant and targeted marketing offers, shop, use academic services, obtain news that most affects them and get the latest sports information from their favorite colleges.


To help marketers more effectively reach students, Student Advantage is going to take the information that it has acquired from monitoring the online behavior of its members and combine that with the offline transaction data from its more than 15,000 retail partners. Those partners include AT&T, Amtrak, Foot Locker, Staples, Capital One, First USA, Barnes and Noble, Textbooks.com, Tower Records and Greyhound, as well as numerous local and small merchants and other campus-specific merchants.


"The combination of all this information is going to give our marketers a unique marketing advantage," said Ray Sozzi, Student Advantage founder/CEO. "This is going to give them the chance to do personalized advertising and more one-to-one marketing through our Web site."


Students will see personalized banner ads and there will be an area on the site where they can receive instant messaging, both of which will contain links back to the home page of the advertiser.


There also is a newly launched portal on the site that will link students to specific retailers. By going to the sites through the portal, students will be marked so that retailers will know that they have come through the Student Advantage site and that they are entitled to special discounts.


"Once they are tagged, they will automatically receive the discount after making their purchase," Sozzi said. "Then they are linked directly back to their Student Advantage personalized page."


Student Advantage currently has 1.3 million members representing 3,000 colleges. Sozzi expects that number to reach 2 million by the end of the upcoming school year. To become a member, students register by providing their full name, e-mail address, school, class, major, date-of-birth, permanent address, phone number, school address; school phone number, type of housing, gender, when they started school, expected date of graduation, areas of interest and favorite college teams.


Student Advantage recently completed a direct mail campaign of about 500,000 pieces in conjunction with a number of universities. The mailings went to students' home addresses asking them to consider signing up for the service. Sozzi would not disclose specific numbers but said to date the mailing has seen a double-digit response rate.


Other deals include exclusive partnerships between 12 universities and the Student Advantage FANSonly Network. Through the FANSonly Network, students can access and receive "comprehensive" online coverage of their favorite college teams.


A deal with Uwire.com, an Internet service containing information from all of the college newspapers around the country, has gotten Student Advantage the exclusive online syndication rights to that content. Last week it also announced an agreement with textbooks.com, a member of the Barnes and Noble family of companies, that will make Student Advantage the exclusive college marketing partner of textbooks.com. The two will cross-promote one another through integrated online and offline campaigns, which will include on-campus marketing and banner ads on one another's sites.
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