Performance Driven.

CBA students winners of Acura marketing challenge

The product was great, but it needed a unique, powerful voice to drive it through a busy marketplace and park it right in the driveway of a millennial.

The product is the Acura ILX, and the powerful voice is Vital Innovative Promotions (V.I.P.), a new marketing agency built right in the URI College of Business.

In just over nine weeks, this agency established itself and created an award-winning national social media campaign for one of the world’s leading luxury cars. URI’s Social Media for Marketing class was the key to success and the big win.

The whole project was an entirely new experience—working with real money, managing real events, having a real company with clients that expected us to have a measurable impact.

“The campaign emerged with lots of positive energy and speed,” said Assistant Professor Christy Ashley. “The students formed their agency, V.I.P., right away to create and execute their multi-level marketing campaign—all with finesse. They were passionate, fast, and fearless social marketers.”

Fast forward was how the project moved through all the stages of the process—from challenge to research,  creative design, and implementation to polished presentations. After presenting their campaign and results in November, URI’s team became one of three finalists, and five of the V.I.P. leaders were soon on a flight to California, ready to deliver a 20-minute marketing presentation to the management team at American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

The vote was unanimous. Hours after the presentation, the judges announced that  V.I.P. earned first place and that Acura would award URI a $5,000 scholarship in recognition of the team’s achievement. The University of New Mexico earned second place and Johns Hopkins University earned third place.

“It was such a rewarding experience to see our hard work rewarded by all the judges,” said senior Alison Plunkett. “This was such an exciting opportunity that allowed us to showcase our marketing and presentation skills to real corporate executives as well as network with some of the largest companies in both the automotive and marketing industries,” she added.

There were many take-away lessons for the 34 undergraduates involved. The real-world aspect of the experience was important to senior marketing major Samantha Valenza. “It’s important we learn different ways to market using social media since research shows its popularity as a marketing tool. The whole project was an entirely new experience—working with real money, managing real events, having a real company with clients that expected us to have a measurable impact,” she said.

“This isn’t the easiest way to teach, or to learn, but the actual learning that takes place is much deeper,” said Professor Ashley. This pulls the learning out of the textbook and computer and lets students see the cause-effect of the marketing lessons they’ve been learning, It’s also a great lesson on teamwork, something they’ll really need to use soon in any workplace!”

Check out some of  the team’s winning campaign: VIP, Facebook, TwitterInstagram, Blog.


The nose knows. Especially if it’s the nose of Officer Figaro, an exceptionally handsome black Lab—and the University of Rhode Island Police Department’s first explosive-detecting dog.