Socially Responsible Marketing Campaigns at the University of Mannheim

Students at the University of Mannheim develop a marketing campaign for the local volunteer fair during a service learning seminar

Acquiring marketing techniques which are immediately applied in real-world projects and all for a good cause: this was the aim of a service learning seminar which took place at the University of Mannheim last year. Through the service learning teaching method, theoretical knowledge acquired in a seminar series is put in to practice. Such real-world applications are generally in the form of a nonprofit project based in the social sector. The project “Engel Mannheims” (“Angels of Mannheim”), a marketing campaign which aims at increasing the publicity for “Machmit” (“Participate”), an initiative supported by the city of Mannheim with the aim of fostering the voluntary engagement of citizens, originated in such a service learning seminar.

The initiative, which fosters voluntary engagement in Mannheim, “Machmit” (“Participate”), faced a big challenge: its newly created online volunteer fair where volunteers can search for suitable projects, was not well known.  The needed help to raise awareness about their project.

In response, Machmit approached Julia Derkau, who works at the Department of Service Learning at the University of Mannheim. She recognized the enormous potential of the project and immediately checked whether it would be suitable for a Service Learning seminar.

At the University of Mannheim, service learning projects have to fulfill certain prerequisites before they may actuallyangel of mannheim be used in a seminar: “The Service Learning seminar has to be anchored in the curriculum,” explains Derkau. “If there is a request, we have to identify the appropriate department in which the project can be realized. What makes Service Learning special is that there is a concrete request which shall be realized so that the students can create societal added-value with their expertise.” Furthermore, it has to be ensured that there is a need for the project and that it serves the common welfare, but the financial resources are not sufficient for the project to be handled professionally by an agency.

The seminar, Success Starts Here – an introduction to marketing communication, was quickly identified as the best place for the project to be developed. Kirstin Niedernolte, the seminar teacher, was excited for the opportunity to work on this special project. “Normally, we discuss fictional projects, but this time the students had the great opportunity to work on a real problem,” Niedernolte explains.

alena-und-anika-vor-der-universität-mannheimThe seminar consisted of in-course work where theoretical knowledge about marketing was taught to students from various fields of study. Subsequently, the students developed their own marketing campaign. For this task, social capacities such as teamwork were key to the project, as Anika Konsek, 22, a student of media and communication studies shares, “Since we were quite a big group, we had to be able to communicate and rely on each other. This was a real challenge at the beginning, but later on we became a team and could work together wonderfully.”


All participants had fun during the project and proposed many good ideas. First of all, they found a name for the online fair: “Engel Mannheims” (“Angels of Mannheim”). A website and a Facebook page were created, sponsors were acquired and posters were designed and distributed. For the participants, it was exciting to put their ideas into practice and to see how theory translates into practice and how future problems can successfully be solved.

A lot of buzz was created around the initiative through the promotion stands in the city center of Mannheim where the seminar participants informed passersby about the volunteer fair and raffled off Advent calendars. The direct header_angel of Mannheimcontact with people was no challenge for Anika Konsek. Through the direct marketing, she was able to immediately see the success of her work: “One woman who came by the promotion stand was so excited about the project that she immediately went to the volunteer representative’s office to enroll as a volunteer. This was of course a great success for us,” said Konsek.

At the end of the semester, the project including the logo, self-created slogans and website, was handed over to the city of Mannheim for further supervision.  After the relaunch, there was a significant rise in interest.  For “Machmit” and the students, it was a win-win situation: the volunteer fair had received the needed attention through the marketing campaign and the students were responsible for a real project.  “The students have put a lot of time, effort and work into the campaign.  It is really nice to see that in the end, the interest in volunteer jobs can really be increased through our work,” concludes Niedernolte.

To find out more about Engel Mannheims, feel free the check out the website here!

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