A fresh approach to Freshers’ Week 2020

Over 160,000 students at eight leading universities are set to experience a new and virtual version of Freshers’ Week as the coronavirus pandemic strikes out the traditional and very popular event from the student calendar later this month.  ‘The Digital Welcome’ has been developed by Raptor, a student marketing agency, to take the place of the real thing this September.

With universities deciding their individual policies in terms of providing education via either staggering a return to campus, moving lectures online, adopting a hybrid model or providing services more regularlyl albeit with strict social distancing measures, the traditional Freshers’ Week is one thing they have in common that is experiencing universal change in 2020.

‘The Digital Welcome’ comprises a virtual and exact replica of the campus of each of the participating universities which students will be able to move around.  They will be able to stop off at multiple points of interest and find out more about all the various societies at each university and discover all the extracurricular interests that are being catered for.  The new platform will enable to students to sign up for all the things that take their fancy.   From Tea to Skydiving, Philosophy to Bad Films, there is a society or group for most interests featured.

The campus map uses the latest state-of-the-art interactive technology and importantly will also involve many brand partners offering a range of great student deals as part of embedded immersive experiences including augmented reality, web games, 3D modelling, merchandise freebies, discount coupon offers and video and messenger integration.

Brands taking part in ‘The Digital Welcome’ include Tinder, Domino’s, Jack Wills, Pot Noodle, Nando’s, Uber Eats and WKD.

Tinder has developed a digitised version of its Tinder UNI airstream vehicle, which will also let students claim free branded merchandise. Domino’s is bringing a store onto the virtual campus offering 50% discounts and hosting games including Wheel of Fortune and Plinko where students can win free pizza.  Via a virtual ski chalet on ‘The Digital Welcome’, students will find Jack Wills partnering with snowsports operator NUCO to offer lucky students an all-expenses paid trip to the Alps.  Pot Noodle will run a pot luck digital game offering the chance to win a university survival pack. The Nando’s Peri Peri virtual food truck will offer free Nando’s giveaways and allow access to Nando’s Yard to watch live streams.  Uber Eats has a £10 off spin-to-win experience.  WKD will be sampling its new MIXD ready-to-drink cocktails in can.

‘The Digital Welcome’ is initially happening at Imperial College London, University of Birmingham, UEA (University of East Anglia), Northumbria University, University of Sussex, UCC (University College Cork, Ireland), University of Chester and University of Exeter in conjunction with each of their respective students’ unions or guilds.

Lori Henebury, Media and Marketing Coordinator at the University of Birmingham Guild of Students, said: “We’re confident that ‘The Digital Welcome’ will be as close as it gets to a Freshers’ Fair for students and a fantastic addition to the welcome period given the amazing immersive experience the technology will offer.  It is really important that new students get to understand what their universities offer outside of just their courses, and ‘The Digital Welcome’ is a brilliant platform which does just that in these unprecedented times.”

David Burgman, CEO of Raptor, the creators of ‘The Digital Welcome’, added: “Thanks to ‘The Digital Welcome’ students can still receive the amazing experience and benefits they deserve this September.  Freshers’ week is an incredible moment in time for those in higher education and we’re doing our innovative best to not let the coronavirus get in the way of that.  From a commercial perspective, it is also a really important opportunity for many brands to get in front of students and we’re keeping that door well and truly open for them too via the digitisation of this traditional student experience.”

‘The Digital Welcome’ will sit on each participating university’s website and it will be available on both desktop and mobile.