What is the National Student Advertising Competition Team anyway?
Perhaps you’ve heard of the National Student Advertising Competition (NSAC) team and can’t
wait to apply. (The application is finally here!) Maybe you are NSAC curious. Or, it’s entirely
possible you’ve never heard of NSAC and wonder, what the heck? Whatever the case, let’s talk
about this cool opportunity!
NSAC is a national student advertising competition hosted by the American Advertising
Federation (AAF.) NSAC began in 1973 and thousands of advertising professionals have
participated in this competition over the decades. Having NSAC on your resume will likely spark
some lively conversation in an interview. It’s often a favorite collegiate memory.
What is different about NSAC as a “class” is that it’s not really like a class at all. It is more like a
student run advertising agency. Even though you will have a professor (me) working with you
every step of the way, this is a student driven project. The ideas come from you. Your critical
thinking skills, curiosity, research, insights, ideation, creativity, problem solving, team work,
project management, desire and grit are the secret ingredients.
If NSAC is an agency, who is the client? Good question. Each year AAF secures a national
brand as the NSAC client for the competing teams, about 125 across the nation. All teams have
the same client and brief. Student teams are charged with understanding the brand
complexities in order to devise a fully integrated marketing campaign to meet their objectives.
Each team creates a campaign plansbook and pitches their ideas to industry professionals in a
three tier competition. Past clients include: Pizza Hut, Snapple, Ocean Spray, Tai Pei,
Wienerschnitzel, Adobe, Tinder and this year, Meta’s Quest 2 VR headset.
The first tier of the NSAC competition is the district competition. There are 15 AAF NSAC
districts across the U.S. Each team starts by pitching their campaign in their designated district.
GVSU is in AAF District 6 which includes all schools in Michigan, Illinois and Indiana. District 6
(D6) is considered a “mega district” due to the large concentration of Ad/PR programs that
compete in D6.
The second tier of the NSAC competition is the national semi-finals. Only the first place winners
from each AAF district across the US move on to this stage. The semi-final competition is
always virtual. (The first and third tier are in person if not sidelined by a pandemic.) Semi-finals
are designed to select the top 8 out of 18 teams that will move forward to the national
competition. Semi-final teams pitch to an entirely new set of judges from the industry.
The third tier is the national competition which is held in conjunction with the AAF “ADmerica”
national conference. This is where the “who’s who” in advertising gather to connect and collect
their trophies for the best advertising of the year via the American Advertising Awards. They are
also scouting new talent from the top NSAC teams. The top 8 teams travel to where the AAF conference is being held and present to yet a third panel of industry judges. This year, the
national competition is being held in Nashville, TN in person (yay!)
GVSU’s NSAC Team has been competing in the oldest, largest student advertising competition
team since 2008. We have earned a reputation as a tough team to beat as we have placed in
the top teams every year since we started. We’ve placed first in our district five times in the last
seven years and our GVSU NSAC team has competed in the national competition three times in
the past four years.
We love to win, but honestly, that’s not what it’s all about. It’s about bringing all your skills and
knowledge together while deeply collaborating with dedicated team mates who have different
talents than your own. It’s about connecting the dots and learning with others who are eager to
grow together to bring the best campaign imaginable to life. It’s about daring to stretch and try
new things while hanging in there when the going gets tough. It’s about making lifelong friends
that will have your back long after you graduate. It’s also about networking and hearing critiques
from professionals on what they loved and what to improve. It’s about getting ready for the real
world and finding out what you are made of.
If you are going to be a junior or senior next fall, have room in your schedule and a desire to join
a kick butt team, consider applying for NSAC’23. I’m happy to answer your questions and so
are the current NSAC team members. I look forward to receiving your application!
Professor Robin Spring
P.S. Send good vibes as we are in the final phases of completing our campaign. Districts are
coming up soon!