Celsius University: How Celsius Is Living Fit with College Students
Published on April 3, 2023, at 2:34 p.m.
by Jenna Richardson.
The fitness drink brand Celsius is a name that many, especially Generation Z, are familiar with. It’s credited with its “Live Fit”
lifestyle and immense success with younger generations that has seemed to skyrocket in the last few years.
Though the company was founded in 2005, its popularity catapulted in 2020 during the global pandemic when the company had its most successful year in its history. Sales increased 74%, and by the fourth fiscal quarter of 2020, the company had established
a national footprint for the first time ever. Celsius has enjoyed even more success since then and is referred to as “the world’s fastest-growing energy drink company” by Investor’s Business Daily and “a monster in its own right” by Ad Age.
How did Celsius gain such success, especially during a time when most companies were struggling? The answer lies with college students.
During the pandemic, Celsius readjusted its target demographic to be ages 18-24, after seeing a trend among younger generations for wanting healthier beverages.
“Celsius carved out a niche as a gender-neutral brand as so many other energy drinks used testosterone-fueled marketing,” said E.J. Schultz, an Ad Age reporter who covers the beverage industry. “Celsius has also successfully positioned its drink as a healthier option than some other energy drinks.”
Other energy drinks, like Red Bull and Monster Energy, have been criticized over the years for their male-centered marketing and unhealthy ingredients. Celsius’ “Live Fit” motto and its emphasis on both college-aged men and women is refreshing to many young consumers.
With this position in the market, Celsius had to find a way to expand its reach to this new consumer base, which does not respond to traditional marketing and public relations tactics. In 2022, it launched its solution: Celsius University.
Celsius University “is a paid campus program that gives aspiring professionals hands-on experience with Celsius by building the brand on campus,” according to its website. College students can apply on its website, and if hired, they will be flown to a two-day training at the company’s headquarters in Boca Raton, Florida. Once these students graduate from Celsius U, they will go back to their college campuses as student marketing ambassadors for the company.
Taylor Lech is a Celsius ambassador and a political science major at The University of Alabama. Recently, Lech has collaborated with Greek Life and other on-campus organizations to give out Celsius. She also conducted a giveaway at a local student apartment complex.
“Just the amount of product that we give away per month is insane,” Lech said. “I think Celsius does an incredible job, because not only is it advertising its product, it’s putting the cans in people’s hands. We’re actually giving away our product, and we’re reaching different markets because we go to so many different organizations.”
One of an ambassador’s responsibilities is to give out at least 400 cans of Celsius a month. Between the three ambassadors at The University of Alabama, roughly 1,200 cans of Celsius are given away per month to students. To Lech, the most effective part of the
program is the conversations she has with her peers while she gives away the products.
“It’s a really personalized experience, and I think that really matters because it’s so much better to have in-person contact and a face of the brand that looks just like you,” Lech said.
Hannah Selmer, a public relations major and Celsius ambassador at Purdue University, has seen similar engagement with her campus. According to Selmer, college students have been easy to engage with authentically because they are the perfect demographic for Celsius and its “Live Fit” motto.
“College students have that crazy lifestyle where they’re studying every day but are looking to still stay healthy and maintain an overall mental, physical and emotional well-being,” Selmer said. “The college market is definitely a place to share that the ‘Live Fit’ lifestyle is not just physical fitness; it’s also mental and emotional well-being.”
Selmer also works with Greek Life on her campus and recently collaborated with the university for its annual Aviation Day. During the event, Selmer promoted Celsius to students and also made the university event more enticing for students.
“Being able to connect students with Celsius has increased brand engagement, and has also put a face to the brand to create authentic connections with target audiences,” Selmer said.
The program isn’t just beneficial for the company; for the brand ambassadors, it’s an opportunity to network and grow their public relations skills.
“This opportunity has not only been an incredible experience to meet students on Purdue’s campus and increase brand engagement but also to gain valuable professional experience for my post-college career,” Selmer said.
For both Selmer and Lech, the ambassador program provides unique opportunities for them to grow their connections, gain skills in public speaking and practice connecting with target publics.
“[Celsius University] is a program that gives back to the community and creates some opportunity for students out there to really work with a fast-growing CPG brand,” Celsius CEO John Fieldly said in an interview with Marketing Dive.
Celsius is one of many companies that have started utilizing college programs. Schultz has noticed this new trend in the last few years, especially when companies are trying to appeal to younger audiences.
“With fewer younger people watching TV ads, brands must find other ways to stand out. Celsius has been able to do this by showing up at events using brand ambassadors,” Schultz said.
As lucrative as college campuses can be for brand promotion, they also tend to be competitive and oversaturated with other brands. Additionally, it can be hard to maintain a young consumer’s loyalty.
“There are a lot of energy drink options out there, and young consumers tend to experiment with lots of brands, so Celsius will have to continue finding relevant ways to show up at the right moments,” Schultz said.
So far, it seems that Celsius has been able to live up to this challenge. Its ambassador program is currently accepting more applications, and college students can also sign up to be a Celsius social media ambassador, where they receive free Celsius products and merchandise in return for promoting the products on their social media. Additionally, Celsius has also partnered with celebrities like Tyler Cameron, Phil Williams and Jake Paul in order to enhance its connection with college campuses.
As Gen Z integrates more into the consumer market, companies are trying to reach them in ways that are both authentic and attention-grabbing. For brands like Celsius, ambassador programs have proven to be an effective strategy for appealing to younger audiences.