Advertisers’ hard sell at soft opening finds few buyers

By Nader Ramadan

At the Student Union soft opening, popular band Wust el Balad and musician Mahmoud El Esseily performed on a stage bathed in blinking strobe lights, white smoke and flashes of white, yellow and blue. But the real spotlight was on event’s private sponsors.

A large poster advertising Red Sea resort Port Ghalib hovered behind the musicians. Tickets to the event were dappled with the logos of sponsors, and university grounds were marked with every sponsor’s signature color, from the orange of Egyptian phone operator Mobinil to summer camp organizer AU Pair’s pink.

Nader Ramadan

Musicians jam for the audience at the SU soft opening. Photo: Nader Ramadan

The evening concert was group’s way to welcome students to The American University in Cairo’s new campus, but it was businesses crowding the campus with booths amid the blaring music to market their products and services to students.

Luxury resort Port Ghalib, owned by Kuwaiti company M A Kharafi Group, was the largest financial contributor to the event. Student Union President Mohammed Ali did not provide information on how much his group received.

According to Port Ghalib senior sales executive Nader Radwan, AUC students are the target market the resort wishes to attract. “We are here for awareness and that’s it,” he said.

Manning the Mobinil booth was Joseph Nasry, a marketing officer.

Giving away gift packages including sunscreen to playing card decks, all branded with the Mobinil logo, Nasry attempted to convince AUC students into joining their 282 Club, which allows members to make a number of free calls.

Also present with a booth was Commercial International Bank. The bank was one of the event’s ticket sponsors, and advertised their banking services to AUC students. 

“We are promoting our normal products,” said CIB AUC branch manager Magdy Ibrahim, adding the bank would later offer special promotions to AUC students.

L’Aroma, the popular coffee chain on the Tahrir Square campus, also secured a spot at the event. Though Cilantro is the now only coffee chain at the new campus, Ali explained that L’Aroma is still allowed to sponsor events.

“I invited them for fundraising, so they came as sponsors,” Ali said, to explain the numbers of advertisers, adding they also did catering for the event.

The SU spent close to 70,000 LE in order to organize this event, Ali said.

Despite the SU’s efforts, the event was only moderately attended. The group predicted an attendance of roughly 600 students, Ali said, and the audience count was closer to 700. 

Previous Student Union events on the old campus attracted crowds of over 800 people. Ali said he was not surprised by the low turnout, because it was Ramadan, and the new location.

Sponsors were disappointed by the turnout, though. They said it was less than previous events at the Tahrir Square campus, and complained about booths with few lines of prospective customers.

“The number is not as great as last time,” said Shaymaa El Ghandour, a booth supervisors for Neutrogena, the facial care line.

“It is a very small number,” said Ibrahim, the CIB bank manager. “If the party was held in the old campus, we would have more.”

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Filed under AUC Move, Student Life

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