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Poly students will market the Navy 

Thirteen Cal Poly business students will try to recruit Cuesta students for careers in the U.S. Navy on May 14, in a campaign they created as their senior project in marketing on behalf of the military department and its campus agent, EdVenture Partners.

EdVenture’s clients include Coca-Cola, General Motors, Ford, Lockheed Martin, and other industrial giants, as well as the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the U.S. Army, the National Guard, and the FBI.

The students pitched their campaign plan to an EdVenture representative and two uniformed Navy officers on May 2, after eight weeks of preparation. Foremost among the five campaign goals they cited was generating leads for the Navy.

Another goal was to dispel misperceptions held by targeted commuter-college students, especially the “GI Joe image,” the student who led the presentation explained.

The team had surveyed at least 300 Cuesta students to determine prevailing attitudes about the Navy before developing strategies. A campaign press release prepared by the group emphasized the Navy’s humanitarian work.

EdVenture provided a $2,500 working budget for the students to manage; the Navy Recruitment Center is supplying mugs, mousepads, and various other promotional items; and the team solicited such gifts as iPods, biplane rides, and movie passes for raffle prizes at the event, which will be held on the plaza by the flagpole at Cuesta. A number of businesses declined to participate because of opposition to the Iraq war, according to the team.

Cuesta students will be given a “passport” at a check-in table, to be stamped with a “visa” at each of four tables the team will staff. The marketers will describe different Navy career paths, hand out brochures and promotional items, and stamp the passports. After students collect a couple of stamps, they can proceed to fill out a card to enter the raffle, and then pass
a recruiting table to attend a barbecue.

The marketing team has worked on the campaign for a semester and will receive four credits for their project, which will be graded.

“From the students’ point of view, they’ll get real-world experience, this will really help them develop skills,” observed Diane Farsetta, senior researcher for the Center for Media and Democracy, a watchdog group that publishes a quarterly journal, PR Watch. “No one should have illusions that this is the goal of EdVenture or of the Navy.

“There’s value in this for the military. It’s not that they don’t have the money or recruiters on the ground, it’s that there are gaps in experience and maybe reluctance to talk to uniformed recruiters that you get around by having these college students go out and do that for you.”

Dave Christy, dean of Cal Poly’s Orfalea business college, dismissed any concern: “I see no problem with the program,” he said.


Infobox: Clarification May 9th

"I want to clarify that the Center for Media and Democracy has done research on these types of relationships, the marketing relationships, the military recruiting tactics and that we are very skeptical of the educational benefits of these programs. We believe that these programs serve the interests of the paying clients but they often don’t serve the educational interests of the students. There are real concerns raised about disclosure--of who paid for these classes to go ahead--and that disclosure has to be raised not only among the students who are taking part but also the people who they [the students] are interacting with as they carry out their projects," Diane Farsetta adds.

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