New marketing at the University of Central Arkansas will use the slogan "Front and Center" to rebrand the university and move away from the narrowly targeted slogan "You Belong" that is used to recruit freshmen students, spokesman Jeff Pitchford said.
"We want something a little bit wider than for just a 17 year old," Pitchford said.
Officials hope to air new advertising using the phrase on TV stations, websites and print media by Oct. 29. Ads will feature UCA students who will tell their stories about how UCA has helped them achieve. The ads set to run this month are also meant to get a jump start on attracting the attention of high school students and their families, Pitchford said.
On Thursday afternoon, at least 20 UCA students gathered in room 111 at the College of Business to film one of the ads.
"I prefer ‘You Belong’ actually," said UCA senior Rachael Meagher. "I think ‘You Belong’ is more personal — it draws people in."
But Meagher and others turned out to support UCA, despite being lukewarm about the rebranding slogan.
"I believe in UCA regardless of what the rebranding terminology is," Meagher said.
About seven students will be featured in videos set for traditional media, and another 13 are for online and other advertising, said Luis Gonzalez, account executive with Cranford Johnson Robinson Woods, a marketing agency working for UCA. More students will be used later in the year, he said.
Most of the ads will appear January, February and March — just when high school seniors are making final decisions about what college to attend, Pitchford said, but starting in October spotlights UCA to students immediately, Pitchford said.
"Obviously we are excited about the new campaign, but we want to continue to have a presence online and on television so that we start reaching out to students who are seniors this year in high school and their parents and their family," Pitchford said.
A marketing committee worked on rebranding UCA this past summer. Then, officials from CJRW presented two concepts to a packed room full of faculty and staff last month. The group also made other presentations, including to students, and asked for comments on "Front and Center" and "Come to Life," the final two slogans chosen.
People seemed to respond best to the tag-line "Front and Center," Gonzalez said. The marketing group recommended "Front and Center," and the UCA marketing committee agreed, Pitchford said.
The move to rebrand UCA comes at a time when freshmen enrollment is up, jumping by 10 percent this fall over last fall, while other areas show a decline in student enrollment — including graduate students. Total enrollment has remained basically flat for years. This year, total enrollment declined from 11,163 on the 10th day of classes in fall 2011 to 11,108 the same time this year, or just 55 students.
Sitting among his peers Thursday, Keenan Abner, a senior, said he will be among students featured in the rebranding effort. He is from Little Rock, moved away to attend college in West Virginia, then moved back for UCA because he didn’t feel "at home" in West Virginia. He decided to be in the new ads because he wants to inspire students to come to UCA, he said.
"I felt like I wanted to represent my school well," Abner said.
Getting a new image comes as UCA has climbed out of a fiscal deficit and has gained a financially solid footing. This summer, officials announced unrestricted cash reserves reached $12 million at the end of July. That’s near the university’s $15 million goal.
"You Belong," the phrase UCA adopted in 2009, has been successful, UCA officials said, and some faculty at the Faculty Senate meeting Tuesday questioned changing now. Several faculty members said Tuesday they disapproved of the new slogan, even though the $542,630 cost for CJRW covers the marketing group’s work and acquiring media spots. The marketing contract is actually cheaper than in pervious years, Pitchford said Tuesday.
Pitchford said Thursday the committee, which had faculty members on board, knew it couldn’t please everyone.
"We feel like we did the best job we can possibly do and came up with a very exciting new concept," Pitchford said.