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CreateAthon@USC seeking nonprofits in need of marketing communications

Posted March 31, 2016


The University of South Carolina is soliciting applications from area nonprofits for the fourth annual CreateAthon@USC, scheduled for Oct. 21-22 at the School of Journalism and Mass Communications. Selected nonprofits receive free communication materials including websites, brochures, letterheads, business cards, logos, posters, press releases and more.

South Carolina nonprofits can get more information and submit applications to CreateAthon@USC at http://www.createathonusc.org. The application deadline is May 27.

Last November, more than 50 USC student volunteers worked more than 24 straight hours to produce six marketing communications campaigns for local nonprofits with an estimated value of more than $120,000. Last year’s participating nonprofits were FIDO, Restoration, The Ezekiel Center, Hope For BraveHEARTS, Richland County First Steps to School Readiness and The Nurturing Center.

“CreateAthon is an amazing opportunity for students to gain real-world experience in developing marketing communication strategies and powerful creative work — and working under pressure,” said Associate Professor Karen Mallia, who directs CreateAthon@USC. Her Creative Leadership class manages communications planning and client relations. Student team leaders meet with nonprofits once fall classes begin, and lead volunteer creative teams of students and professional mentors during the marathon event. “They will share their growing professional talents doing much needed community service. At the same time, nonprofits experience the benefits of effective marketing as a tool to help support their missions and the work they do in our community,” Mallia said.

Since its inception, Mallia and colleague Scott Farrand have devoted thousands of hours to giving nonprofits the materials they need to advance their missions and reach stakeholders. Dozens of professional mentors share their considerable talents, sacrificing a night’s sleep, guiding Carolina students. “The mentors are the ‘secret sauce’ -- the lynchpins, the cheerleaders, the partners -- who work side by side with the students, getting them to produce amazing work in 24-hours,” Farrand said. In addition, students from Haylee Mercado’s event planning class in the Department of Sport and Entertainment Management, handle the myriad of details involved in orchestrating an event bringing together more than 100 volunteers — from printing swag to food and facilities management.

The University of South Carolina was the first university in the Southeast to integrate the CreateAthon marathon model into undergraduate curriculum for students in marketing and mass communication. Developed at Virginia Commonwealth University in 2008, the program has been adopted by University of Tennessee at Chattanooga as well as James Madison University.

Riggs Partners, a local Columbia advertising agency, began CreateAthon in 1997 as a new way to provide pro bono services to nonprofits. The program has achieved significant impact since its national launch in 2002, attracting more than 80 agencies, universities, professional organizations and corporate marketing departments throughout North America as CreateAthon partners. In total, the program has served more than 1,275 nonprofit organizations with pro bono marketing projects valued at more than $15 million. Riggs Partners will host its own CreateAthon this fall.