College students – that elusive set of people that will likely always be important to marketers, brands and organizations.  As we’ve witnessed more and more brands either already running or looking to run college ambassador programs, we wanted to take a closer look at this group.  Who are they?  What drives them?  Do they love (or even like) brands at all?  Or are they more cynical?  What do they want and hope from brands?  And most importantly, will they be ambassadors for your brand??

Here’s a quick look

College Ambassadors

And some key takeaways…

1. College students want to be ambassadors

Sometimes we’ve heard the refrain that college students are too cynical to believe in brands or to be loyal to brands, but a lot of research out there says that is just not true.  Sure, college students are adept at not being fooled by inauthentic marketing messages, but when they have passion for a brand, they have true passion for a brand.  When we asked which brands college students would want to be an ambassador for, we heard a huge range of brands.  From college targeted brands that already have programs to popular apparel brands to nonprofits to sports team, the list was seemingly endless.  The point is, college students are totally willing (and wanting) to be ambassadors.

2. Job skills and experience are critical

As to be expected, college students do like being rewarded with tangible, monetary rewards like money, gift cards and free product or swag.  But importantly, they also want to be ambassadors because they see the potential valuable benefits an ambassador role can bring them.  In a job market that’s not always the most favorable to entry level college grads, being an ambassador offers students the opportunity to get access to internships, gain job skills and business or marketing experience, get mentored and end up with letters of recommendation.  College students know how critical these benefits can be to finding a job, so the lesson is, don’t underestimate how appealing these types of benefits can be if you’re thinking about setting up a program.

3. Brands can be extensions of themselves

Values are very important to millennials and so brands that are direct extensions of millennials’ values can build and sustain stellar college ambassador programs.  Through our survey, we found that 58% of respondents wanted to be ambassadors for certain brands because “I love the brand and want to help them succeed.”  57% of respondents said “The values of the brand/organizations fit with my own personal values.”

Values matter and millennials identify with brands in the nonprofit and for profit spaces.  Brands like TOMS, Warby Parker and Upworthy appeal to college students’ sense of getting involved with the greater world.  Brands like Uber, Tesla and WhatsApp fit with students’ belief in tech innovation that suits their lifestyles.  And affinity to nonprofit brands like charity:water and Doctors Without Borders appeal to a desire to make tangible global impact.

So, if you’re a brand that has college students in your target audience, know that a college ambassador program might be a good fit for you.  Just be sure to keep in mind what actually drives this audience so you can have a long-running engaging and successful program.

A version of this post appeared on the Upward Labs blog.