With students more likely to be early adopters of new mobile phone technology and spend more money on music than any other sector in society, it was inevitable that a mobile phone company would muscle in and try to make that market aware of its brand.
Orange is doing just that by combining the two as part of a club tour of universities throughout the UK, in association with the National Union of Students (NUS). Enjoy Music on Campus is a 40-date tour that turns Student Unions into clubbing venues. The tour began last year and coincides with the firm's 'Orange on Campus' offer, launched last October, which gives students a discounted network offer comprising cheaper calls and text messages.
Not only does the tour include sets from a host of top-notch DJs such as Jon Carter and The Freestylers, but also a host of interactive technology, which helps keep students amused all night long.
At the Reading University leg of the tour, the event was sold out. The entrance fee was pounds 3 and the party ran from 9pm to 2am. There was no doubt about its popularity, with the entertainment on offer and the added attraction of drink that was easily available. Future dates lined up include events at Manchester, Hull, Liverpool, Sheffield and Plymouth.
'Music is something that fits naturally with Orange because it is something we have done before,' says Orange consumer campaigns executive Nick Keegan.
'In this case we've done something in a very innovative way which is what we always do with sponsorships. We try to add value. It's a very credible way of talking to students without being cynical and exploiting them.'
The NUS agrees. It was approached by Orange and enthusiastically works with the company on the tour. What impressed the entertainment branch of the NUS was the way Orange approached it.
'They've taken the correct route by talking to the right people and doing something that embraces the student union and helps support it,' says NUS entertainments development manager Dave Sullivan. 'It gives students an experience which they otherwise would not get on campus, but in the centres of major cities. It also allows people to discover the brand for themselves and not have it rammed down their throats.'
At Reading, partygoers were hitting the dancefloor and playing around with some of the technology. Students could record video messages in a booth, hear audio extracts from classic moments in film and TV and write their own text messages which could be displayed on the wall of the main hall.
'The popularity of it has been so great that it is spreading by word of mouth,' adds Keegan. 'Students are calling their student friends and telling them about it. We have utterly transformed the student unions.'
On each leg of the tour, the design and layout of each venue has been made similar. This means all the equipment has to be universal so it becomes easy to set up at each venue.
'Universities are different from place to place, but the beauty of being involved with the NUS is that we have the information and infrastructure in all member student unions throughout the country,' says Sullivan. 'So what we needed was a universal bag of tools which means we can roll out in different environments and settings.'
The organisation of the tour has so far proved a success, which is vital if you want brand awareness from the student market. But according to Orange, it is not a market that has been tapped into by mobile phone companies.
'Previously, no one was developing anything specifically for students and it was a completely missed out market,' says Orange senior sponsorship executive Sue McGregor. 'This is why we developed the On Campus package that is designed for students. It enables them to make discounted call rates and send out cheaper text messages.'
Music tie-ups are also important to Orange, because soon the mobile phone will be able to intelligently deliver music.
'Orange sees itself as a communications company and music is a form of communication at its most basic,' says Keegan. 'Mobile phones can begin to deliver so many other things. It's not just about making voice calls.'
McGregor adds: 'Eventually your mobile phone will be like your passport for life. You will be able to do absolutely everything through it and music is a big element of that.'
So far the campaign has been a successful mission and that is also thanks to its work with the NUS, which has helped ensure the big name DJs such as Jon Carter are part of the tour.
'We represent the largest number of music venues and bars in the UK so we're in a position of influence,' says Sullivan. 'We showcase what is cutting edge and we very much stay ahead of the game in terms of working with agencies, record companies and agents. The tour has ensured a cutting and innovative edge, but it is not experimental for the sake of it.'
Last year's events have recieved coverage in music magazines such as the NME as well as the student publications who according to Keegan 'loved' the events.
With most students aged between 18 and 24, it is a market Orange will want to sell to. Getting brand awareness for this market could be crucial in a competitive telecoms sector. If students at Reading were impressed, then Orange may have begun to crack a difficult, well-educated market.
Event: Enjoy Music on Campus
Venue: Reading University Student Union
Mark Stephenson, 20, studying Land Management at Reading
It's absolutely brilliant with good pumping tunes and loads of alcohol. The audio box is great with some great quotes from films and the greatest ever moment when England won the World Cup.
Charlie Tighe, 20, studying English and Music at Reading
The night's been a good laugh. The way it's been set up has made it a little bit different and more special. It's also nice that we're thought about here in Reading. The event also raises the profile of the university, which is important.
Emma Dannings, 21, studying Psychology at Reading
There's a completely different vibe here. It's an absolutely amazing evening with an amazing atmosphere. The music's great and everyone's enjoying themselves. It's so much more fun when there's a bit more effort put in.
Michael Demassey, 24, studying Land Management at Reading
Orange is better off putting more in at a student level as opposed to another level because we're more likely to do something for them. It's a good thing that Orange is doing something different here for students.