Ladies who Lunch…er…Tailgate!

Vera Bradley is an American luggage company unique because of its super-feminine cotton prints in a classic luggage design. It has been popular among women since the company’s inception in the early 1980s, and their seasonal release of new patterns and styles garners plenty of excitement from their everyday target market. Their advertising, while geared toward women, wasn’t reaching a certain group – the college-aged female. In order to reach out to this group, Vera Bradley contacted  an experiential marketing company to create a new kind of campus experience for high school and college women. The program, called Vera Bradley Spirit Squad, encourages women to sign up at the retail level, after which, they will be invited to an on campus hospitality event – in the case of UT, a tailgate party – where the girls who signed up at the store can collect a Vera Bradley gift, and new girls who attend the tailgate can sign up to be included on the guest list for the rest of the events. These Spirit Squad events happen in cities all over the nation, but not all of them are so centralized around a sporting event.  

Conveniently located near the Advertising Graduate Council tailgate party, the Vera Bradley Spirit Squad tent gained a lot of well-analyzed attention from more than a few interested advertising students, including myself. The free food, drinks and face painting attracted both men and women, and most of the women in attendance took the opportunity to sign up with the Spirit Squad, guaranteeing themselves inside information on the next event, and above all a Vera Bradley gift. Even as I approached the tailgate event, several girls who had signed up before hand were selecting their gift from a basket of wallets, umbrellas and flip flops – all in featured Vera Bradley fall prints. 

Inside the tent, Vera Bradley offered Longhorn fans appetizers served by a rotating wait staff, sangria and lemonade, and even the opportunity to show their school spirit by getting a glittery Longhorn tattoo. Tables were decorated with flowers and signature Vera Bradley cotton fabric. It was certainly not your typical tailgate party, and read like more of an outdoor wedding than a raucous tailgate party (which was happening at the Ad Grad tent only steps away). Even when fans made it into the stadium, the Vera Bradley message carried over into a message on the video scoreboard. 

I spoke to one of the guys who looked like he was in charge, and he gave me the scoop on what they were doing. The Vera Bradley company wanted to create a way to reach out to college and high school aged women who weren’t necessarily shopping at their stores, so his agency took the concept of the Spirit Squad and created this experiential campaign. Its goals are brand awareness (video scoreboard ads) and driving traffic to the local Vera Bradley store, not just the vendor store (in our case, the closest location is the San Marcos store). If the number of people who took advantage of the free food and drink was any indicator of success, I’d say the day went well for Vera Bradley. People were coming and going from the tent up until game time. 

Sporting events are typically sponsored by grill seasoning companies, soft drink companies or banking services. It is rare to see a company geared toward women providing a new and different kind of game experience for women fans…although I am pretty sure some of the guys had a good time with it too.


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