When the 24-hour timer kicked off, over 60 students gathered to build complete media campaigns benefiting nonprofits in the Tuscaloosa community as a part of this year’s Capstone Agency CreateAthon.
Capstone Agency hosts an annual CreateAthon event where students collaborate with new clients and build complete communication plans in just one day. Over the past six years, more than 400 students have participated in events, donating over $300,000 in work product to local nonprofit clients. This year’s event contributed nearly $58,000 to that total for 10 Tuscaloosa nonprofits.
Capstone Agency, ranked the nation’s top student-run integrated communications firm by PRWeek in 2020, has produced strategic and creative media deliverables for clients for over two decades. Although headquartered in Reese Phifer Hall, the agency’s reach spans across nine full-time clients such as Altec Industries and The Higher Education Partnership and over 100 student members.
CreateAthon is a nationwide event where dozens of agencies and organizations gather annually to work for nonprofit clients in creating communications campaigns, pro bono. After an entirely virtual event in 2021, Capstone Agency’s pro bono director, Camden Skoll, expressed her excitement about this year’s CreateAthon returning to its home in Reese Phifer Hall and greatly expanding beyond the building’s walls.
“With this year being the agency’s sixth CreateAthon and the return to an in-person event for the first time in two years, we looked for ways to expand by working with students outside our agency to incorporate new voices and ideas,” Skoll said. “We pitched to SEC schools with student-run agencies and other student organizations on campus, working with Auburn University’s student-run agency and members of UA’s PR and advertising pre-professional organization chapters.”
A team brainstorms creative ideas for their nonprofit client.
Skoll also expressed this year’s vision to work with nonprofits across diverse sectors to promote stronger and more expansive relationships within the Tuscaloosa community.
“During the nonprofit recruitment process, we worked closely with our DEI directors to broaden the nonprofits we worked with, ranging from organizations focusing on mental health, children’s services, international student outreach, environmental conservation and prison outreach resources,” Skoll said.
Students were placed on client teams based on their passions and abilities, collaborating to propose creative assets based on client needs and requests. These resources included brand identity and logo redesigns, social media content calendars, website design, and written media deliverables such as pitches, newsletters and blog posts. At the end of the 24 hours, teams had the opportunity to meet with their clients to pitch the proposed media campaigns.
CreateAthon participants gather to kick off this year’s event.
Skoll said her leadership team strived to create a family culture within each client team to strengthen student relationships by implementing team reveals with colorful spirit gear and bonding activities throughout the day.
The client team leader for The Boys and Girls Club of West Alabama, Stella Holt, expressed her gratitude for their team’s ability to come together while building a media campaign for the organization’s upcoming book festival.
“Time management was important for our team, especially in the middle of the night when it became difficult to push through those late hours and stay focused,” Holt said. “I am proud of the team’s positivity and eagerness to step up to the plate and take on new challenges to meet our goals under tight deadlines.”
In addition to team unity and collaboration across organizations, UA faculty members dedicated their weekends to working with client teams to offer professional feedback and strategic direction throughout the event.
“With the pandemic and the disruption of the agency’s ability to maintain in-person relationships between students and faculty, it was encouraging to see our faculty’s unwavering commitment and drive during this year’s CreateAthon,” Firm Director Caden Harris said. “We are thankful to have that relationship with our faculty, as they play a vital role in students’ development and professional aspirations while also helping us benefit nonprofits.”
Skoll said she is grateful for the relational growth between agency members, student organizations, faculty and local nonprofits within the UA and Auburn communities and hopes for increased development with future CreateAthon events.