The University of Sheffield

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University of Sheffield Header Photo, of Student Andrea

Putting our faith in the future

Sky-high house prices, even higher rents, and a looming split with the EU – it’d be easy for young people to be glum. And yet they’re relentlessly optimistic about the future and how they can action positive change. But how do they decide where to learn the skills that will help them shape the world?

A large campaign poster depicted on the wall of a Sheffield University staircase with people passing by

Out with the old, in with the persistently new

Too often when writing about work it’s easy to jump straight into the big idea and the creative execution. But like space exploration, there’s so much research and work beforehand that rarely gets the credit it deserves as the rocket fireballs through the sky.

We started by understanding the University and its values, and what we found inspired us. Over 100 years ago, members of the community gave penny donations to establish a University that would not only offer its students a better future, but also enable them to make discoveries of national and international significance.

Today, the University of Sheffield is inspiring, empowering and supporting students to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems, from climate change to the deadliest diseases.

We also spent time on campus talking to people and getting a feel for the student experience. Visiting during a vibrant freshers’ week, we experienced the University’s #weareinternational campaign, society taster sessions and even a poster sale.

We saw the way the University’s values permeated the entire student experience, from encouraging students to stand up for what they believe in and involving them in societal change to enabling education for all.

The University of Sheffield- photo taken of a female student
University of Sheffield tote bags
The University of Sheffield- photo taken of a female student

A thought on marketing

Countless pages of the internet have been written about appealing to Gen Z. They’re plugged in and switched on. They have shorter attention spans than goldfish. They’re happy and sad at the same time. They’re making the changes they want to see in the world, one tweet at a time.

We decided to treat these potential students like individuals, not a category. This generation understands marketing and sees straight through it. We thought it was time to invite them to be part of the narrative, rather than tell them what the story was.

Spoiled for choice

The rising cost of attending university has changed the game in many respects. When students are faced with several universities with great courses, reputations and employability statistics, how do they differentiate between them and make the right choice?

This student recruitment campaign needed to focus on the University’s core values to show students the benefits of choosing The University of Sheffield and demonstrate where they could really make a difference.

The University of Sheffield individual postcards reading 'The original DM' or 'This is a pre-twitter tweet'

Explore. Challenge. Influence.

The hero line for the campaign – Explore. Challenge. Influence – looks at the 3 key areas where the University can help students. Giving students a chance to explore and to challenge and be challenged along the way ultimately leads to them having an influential impact on the world around them, now and in the future.

Every generation has the power to change the future. Generation Z has the power to completely rip up the rulebook. This is the first generation to grow up in a truly global world.

These people will have careers that don’t exist yet. They have the networks to explore an entire world, the determination to challenge the status quo and the ability to influence the future.

Inspired by influence

Using real students was a must for us. We wanted to accurately portray The University of Sheffield’s students to give the campaign authenticity. Not forgetting that our audience sees straight through stock images or models. We commissioned photographer Mark Howe to photograph 6 students.

We demonstrated how the campaign messaging could flex, from the overarching campaign right down to an individual faculty level – to highlight the versatility and longevity of the campaign.

The campaign launched at an Open Day in late 2017 and received great feedback from both students, potential students, their families and staff.