Eller class plans marketing for Tucson Streetcar
A UA class is partnering with the City of Tucson by creating a marketing campaign for the Sun Link Tucson Streetcar.
The Integrated Marketing Communications class in the Eller College of Management, a class of more than 60 students, sat before UA athletic director Greg Byrne on Tuesday as he answered questions about how the streetcar will benefit Arizona Athletics and discussed marketing ideas.
The class has been hosting guest speakers all semester, such as Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, business owners from downtown and from the Fourth Avenue Merchants Association and city officials from the Tucson Department of Transportation, said Ed Ackerley, an adjunct instructor in marketing and professor of the marketing class.
Ackerley said the speakers help the students gain an understanding of the impact the streetcar will have on the city. The professor said when he had lunch with the mayor once, they discussed UA President Ann Weaver Hart’s goal to engage students in the community and came up with the idea of having his class market the Sun Link Tucson Streetcar.
The students are responsible for coming up with marketing ideas that they will share with the city, with streetcar management and with businesses and other programs affected by the streetcar, such as Arizona Athletics.
Byrne said the streetcar can help get people to park downtown and take the streetcar to the university for athletic events, especially because parking in downtown is free on the weekends.
“I would say that this can be a very attractive and economical way for our fans who … ride the bus, that this may be more efficient than that,” Byrne said, “and a very easy way to get to and from the stadium and arenas.”
Jake Storer, a marketing senior and director of the class, said marketing for the streetcar is the sole focus of the class this semester. The students have been given little direction, Storer said, which allows them to use their creativity as they come up with concepts for how to market the streetcar to students and community members. Because they don’t have a tangible product to sell, the class has mostly come up with ideas on how to promote streetcar ridership.
Not having a tangible product has also made it difficult for the students to gauge their success, because they can’t set measurable goals like a set amount of streetcar passes to sell.
“We can go out there and promote the streetcar to tons of different people,” Storer said. “But if we don’t ever really hit home to a target audience or a target market it seems kind of frivolous.”
Jordan Griffith, a marketing senior, said not being given a set direction with the project is exciting, because it means they’re playing a big role in the project. Griffith said she’s learned a lot about the idea behind the streetcar and its goal to make downtown Tucson a destination for everyone.
“We do what we think is right,” Griffith said, “and we’re kind of running the show.”
Storer said while there will always be negative feedback about the streetcar project, the general consensus is that the project is already underway, so the goal is to make it work to everyone’s advantage.
“It’s conceptually a good thing, and so as long as we can execute it the right way and populate it the way people would like it to be, then that’s going to be advantageous for everyone,” Storer said.
Ackerley said his responsibility is to help his students, most of whom will graduate in May, gain real-world experience. Working with the city on marketing for the streetcar is a good way to give them that experience they need right before they graduate, he added.
“It’s really rewarding to have them be able to see their education take shape,” Ackerley said. “As they [prepare] themselves [for] careers, it’s great to have something fun and exciting to end … college.”