The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) Business Auxiliary Services (BAS) oversees a variety of services, including parking, campus transit, dining, the campus stores, vending, and the UTSA ID card. With approximately 29,000 students and more than 4,000 faculty and staff, we constantly seek new and unique ways to better educate our campus community and benefit our entire community.
Parking is routinely one of our most challenging areas, and as such we focus considerable attention on improving parking education. Over the past five years, through a mix of education, rebranding, and adjusting policies, we successfully and significantly decreased the revenue earned from citation fees. Our goal is to continue reducing the number of citations issued each year, while increasing our educational efforts to ensure the UTSA community fully understands the parking rules and regulations enforced on campus. In 2015, we launched our first Peanut Butter Parking Campaign, and it was wildly successful.
While attending the 2014 NACAS Advanced Institute for Managers hosted by Notre Dame, our Associate Director Hillary Klingman visited with Glenna Muncy, the parking services director for the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA). During their conversation, Glenna highlighted a unique event offered by UAA: once a year, they accept peanut butter and jelly as payment for parking citations. Intrigued, Hillary asked for permission, and brought the idea back to UTSA.
The idea of “peanut butter for parking” quickly took root and developed into the initial plans for the Peanut Butter Parking Campaign. Throughout the summer, a select group of UTSA BAS staff members – including marketing, customer service, enforcement, and administrative representatives – met to formulate a strategy and produce the deliverables necessary to conduct the campaign.
To further involve the campus community, we invited the UTSA Student Government Association (SGA) to co-sponsor the event.
SGA leaders provided valuable input as we worked to finalize the campaign materials. We developed a partnership with the San Antonio Food Bank, the recipient of the donations, allowing our campaign to not only benefit the UTSA campuses but the San Antonio community as well. By August, we were ready to launch UTSA’s first annual Peanut Butter Parking Campaign.
The premise of the campaign was straightforward. From August 24 – 28, citations for parking without a permit (a $100 violation) or parking without a proper permit (a $50 violation) could be paid with peanut butter: 80 oz. for parking without a permit and 40 oz. for parking without a proper permit. Peanut butter payment was required within 14 calendar days of the citation date; otherwise, standard payment applied. Appealing the citation forfeited the opportunity to pay with peanut butter, and peanut butter payment was only valid for one citation per person. Citations issued after August 28 resumed the standard pay-or-appeal process.
As part of our effort to best educate the campus and save our students money, the Peanut Butter Parking Campaign directly followed the first week of classes, when UTSA’s parking enforcement team issued warning cards in lieu of citations. Warning cards had no financial repercussions. Instead, they were used as a simple tool to inform customers about parking violations so they could be avoided or corrected in the future.
To spread the word across campus about the Peanut Butter Parking campaign, we utilized social media extensively, placed
signs in parking lots and high-traffic campus locations, developed a corresponding web page, distributed flyers to UTSA departments, and included an informational “bookmark” in the citation envelope placed on each vehicle. Our marketing staff created custom graphics for use on our advertising and informational publications.
Notably, our social media posts included our campaign hashtag: #PBParkingTime. Not only did the hashtag provide a way for the UTSA community to participate in the campaign and begin generating a viral buzz, it allowed our staff to track mentions of the Peanut Butter Parking Campaign to monitor the success of our advertising efforts.
In reviewing our social media history, especially our posts on Facebook, we observed a noticeable increase in engagement with experience-based posts as opposed to standard informational posts. Applying this knowledge to the Peanut Butter Parking Campaign, we focused our “experience” posts on the donation aspect of the campaign, such as the number of local families benefitting from the donations and how the campaign aided the San Antonio community and food bank. Experience-based posts featured photos of the peanut butter donations, staff members, or students, whereas informational posts included images of our signs and flyers coupled with instructional text.
As the Peanut Butter Parking Campaign progressed, we were pleasantly surprised to discover that our social media posts not only increased our virtual reach (number of followers, likes, etc.), but served as a catalyst for increased interaction and engagement. Questions about the campaign came in on a continual basis and we quickly generated a buzz on our online platforms and across campus. As a result of the influx of questions, we hosted an impromptu “Ask Me Anything,” a popular event seen on Reddit. Our marketing staff used the hashtag “#askmeanything” in conjunction with the event. Due to the success, we intend to build an “Ask Me Anything” into the upcoming year’s Peanut Butter Parking Campaign marketing plan, this time with a more personalized hashtag, such as #PBaskmeanything.
While we focused heavily on marketing efforts for this campaign, our customer service team likewise played a vital role. Students arrived shortly after the campaign launch with peanut butter donations in tow. Our staff members worked diligently to verify the citations and the donation amounts, process payments, and keep our services running smoothly. As the number of peanut butter jars in the office grew, customer service staff partnered with the marketing team to build a display of donations—which served as another form of in-office marketing, generating word of mouth interest. Some customers, both students and employees alike, returned to make donations without citations, simply to participate in the campaign and support the food bank.
As the campaign neared its end, our marketing team made one last push to generate word of mouth advertising to ensure this well-received campaign would become an annual event: We partnered with University Communications and Marketing to invite the local media to campus. Several reporters visited, and the story went out across local news stations, radio stations, and several news websites and blogs. We followed up with a video of our own on social media to announce the totals and to thank the UTSA community for its participation and generosity.
At the conclusion of the Peanut Butter Parking Campaign, we collected a total of 702 pounds of peanut butter, 530 of which were made in payment for citations. The campaign resulted in nearly $10,000 saved in citation fees and provided countless meals to the local community.
The Peanut Butter Parking Campaign was an immense success. Not only did it save our students money and provide much-needed meals to San Antonio families, it allowed Business Auxiliary Services to get more involved on campus. The campaign provided a unique and creative opportunity to interact with students as we educated them about parking rules and regulations.
In the Spring 2016 semester, we took our first step to furthering the momentum brought by the Peanut Butter Parking Campaign. In early April, again in partnership with the Student Government Association, we hosted Citation Donation Days, a three-day “pop up” event with a similar premise: a donation in exchange for a citation discount. We invited the UTSA community to donate a children’s book (ages Pre-K through 5th grade) in exchange for a 50 percent price reduction on one outstanding citation. BAS donated the books to the San Antonio Youth Literacy Book Buddies Program.
At this time, we have begun preparations for the second annual Peanut Butter Parking Campaign. Since the inaugural campaign, our marketing staff has grown from one full-time staff member with a student intern to two full-time staff members, a part-time graphic designer, and two student interns. With the growth in staff, we hope to continue improving the Peanut Butter Parking Campaign with expanded marketing ideas, updated graphics, and a wider reach on campus.
The Peanut Butter Parking Campaign provided great momentum to advance our events and promote campus engagement. Through expanded parking education, we hope to further reduce the number of citations issued each year, leading to an even greater reduction in fees paid by students. The benefit of attending events such as the Advanced Institute for Managers and being surrounded by other auxiliary professionals is invaluable. By hearing what other universities are doing, we are able to bounce ideas off one another and implement new initiatives. The Peanut Butter Parking Campaign is an excellent example of what comes from collaboration. With every new idea, we strive to fulfill our department motto of Enhancing the Campus Experience.