Advertising in New York City can be tricky—location is everything, values are critical, and you need the right people for the job. So, when Dr. Michael E. Carey, president of Cardinal Hayes High School, needed slogan ideas for the institution’s capital campaign, he had the great location and steadfast values, but needed the right expertise.
For that, he looked no further than a few blocks down the street—Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business.
Cardinal Hayes High School, a private Catholic high school for boys, shares a decades-long bond with the Gabelli School and a mutual passion for lifelong education and the success of the students in the South Bronx community. Partnering on the project would be a win-win for both institutions, offering Gabelli School students the opportunity to develop creative solutions for a real client and providing the high school with valuable market research and advertising concepts to boost its capital campaign.
The competition, led by Mohammad Nejad, Ph.D., associate professor of marketing and chair of the marketing area at the Gabelli School, enlisted nine teams—a total of 40 undergraduate and graduate marketing students. Each was charged with developing a compelling message that will appear on two banners that hang over the top of the high school building, prime advertising real estate that is in full view of millions of daily commuters passing by on Metro North’s Harlem and New Haven lines.
“This competition was a comprehensive learn-by-doing experience,” Nejad said. “Participants first learned how companies plan and execute these types of projects in workshops taught by my colleagues. Then they designed their projects and employed diverse research methodologies, including surveys, interviews, various secondary data, and text analysis of websites, public communications, and social media. The teams synthesized their findings and came up with creative messages and execution plans, and pitched their works to the Cardinal Hayes High School leadership.”
Creating a Resonant and Relevant Message
Acknowledging the quick minute they had to catch the attention of their audience as they travel by, Daniella Rossi, BS ’20, a member of the winning team, summed up the challenge as needing to find, “one word that would resonate with donors, signal to them that they are making an investment in these students, stand out as unique and original, encapsulate the sense of brotherhood, and encapsulate the future.”
The team, made up of Rossi and fellow students Isabella Calingaert, BS ’21, and Kelly Christ, BS ’21, created the message, “F_TURE. All We Need Is U,” calling out the missing letter. Their clever idea won the team a $500 Amazon gift card.
The second-place team—comprised of Stephen Thylan-Nussbaum, MS ’22, Carla Jackson, MS ’21, Jingna Liu MS ’21, Ningyuan Hu, MS ’21, and Yuan Wang, MS ’21, students in the MS in Marketing Intelligence program—received a $150 Amazon gift card for a sentiment that their surveys showed would appeal to their higher-income audience: investing in education. They proposed a slogan that compared their donation to the train fare they pay everyday: “Your Fare=A Boy’s Future.”
A True Win-Win
Gabelli School Adjunct Marketing Instructor Linda Luca, who coached the teams throughout the competition and moderated the final presentations, said she was most impressed by the students’ selfless nature. “Beyond the banner message, the students developed additional ideas for Cardinal Hayes High School. The Gabelli School teams were truly more interested in helping the school have a successful fundraising campaign than in whether or not they won the competition.”
The judges for the final round—Dr. Carey, Vice President of Development Nancy Rhodes, and Director of Alumni Engagement George Dawson, FCRH ’17, from Cardinal Hayes High School—noted that picking a winner was difficult, considering the talent of all of the teams. They also expressed their excitement and gratitude because of what the new campaign would mean to the institution and to students in the Bronx.
“We want to keep these kids in the school, keep them getting great educations, and keep them getting scholarships to the best colleges, and we can’t do that alone,” Nancy Rhodes said. “Everything that you all have collectively come up with has all of our wheels spinning. These are ideas that will help us move our mission forward.”
Gabelli School faculty members agreed that projects like this not only provide students with opportunities to build their skill sets, but also experience what it’s like to do business with purpose with neighbors in the Bronx community.
The winning banners are expected to be unveiled in early February, 2021 at Cardinal Hayes High School.