Bowie State University Issues Marketing Research RFP

Bowie State University Issues Marketing Research RFP

Bowie State University is seeking proposals from well-qualified, comprehensive firms with expertise in marketing research and creative services supporting brand development for higher education institutions. The university wants to work with a partner to assess its current brand and marketplace position and develop strategies to strengthen the institutional brand and reputation to support student recruitment, enhance relationships with alumni, increase community engagement and build pride on campus with unified messaging and a shared understanding of the institutional brand.

In 2013 the university conducted its first market research study which resulted in the development of a new visual identity and brand platform that has guided marketing efforts to date. Limited resources and internal infrastructure issues limited the scope of marketing initiatives. Under the leadership of a new president, the university wants to refine and enhance its strategic marketing initiatives and institutional narratives. Specific goals of the project are as follows:

  • Understand how we are perceived today by key audiences
  • Clarify how we want to be perceived
  • Distinguish clearly and concisely what’s different about BSU
  • Build a sense of pride and loyalty among students, alumni, faculty, and staff around a well-defined core position and sense of purpose
  • Build a stronger regional and national identity for BSU to position for recruitment in key new markets
  • Communicate relevance and build awareness of BSU’s distinctive attributes among internal and external audiences Guide efforts to prepare for an upcoming comprehensive campaign
  • To create, disseminate and maintain a portfolio of brand messages and creative assets to sustain marketing initiatives
  • Establish benchmarks to help measure success and create a plan for future assessment

We are seeking partners with the following capabilities and attributes:

  • Brand research – Build on previous 2013 research to determine current perceptions and brand awareness of the university among key constituencies
  • Brand strategy and positioning – Conduct and analyze market research to assess the resonance of current brand strategy and possible refinement of positioning points to better articulate the BSU story
  • Brand messaging – Assess and refine core university messaging to enhance brand strategy and positioning
  • Creative concepts – Develop creative concepts and ad campaign templates that articulate the BSU brand identity in a compelling manner in both graphic design and narrative.


Bowie State University, a historically black institution that embraces diversity, is located in Prince George’s County, Maryland, home to the nation’s largest concentration of affluent African Americans. The university is less than a half-hour drive from Washington, D.C., within easy reach of the state capital in Annapolis and the state’s largest city, Baltimore. More than 6,300 students pursue bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees as well as professional certificates in the arts, natural and social sciences, education; business and computer science. The university is recognized for its strength in providing high quality, affordable educational opportunities for under-represented minorities and students who are the first in their families to attend college. BSU aspires to be an accessible, inclusive institution that is a model for academic excellence, innovation, and student success.

Among its points of pride, Bowie State also has nationally recognized cybersecurity programs, a new state-of-the-art Center for Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Nursing, a growing number of students and graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields (STEM), and a Fine and Performing Arts Center that regularly welcomes the public to world-class performances and arts-focused classes and workshops. The university’s academic strengths include computer technology, biosciences, counseling, criminal justice, education, nursing and business administration.

While approximately 50 percent of the student body is drawn from Prince George’s County, the university seeks to expand its reach throughout the state and into target markets in the surrounding region. While nearly 83 percent of 23,500 alumni live nearby in Prince George’s County and surrounding communities, there is a need for greater support and engagement with the university. Enhancing relations with alumni and local business and community partners is a high priority for the university.

Scope of Work:

Each firm should provide a detailed description of the approach and methodologies the firm would use to assist the university in achieving the project goals. The successful bidder will demonstrate a proficiency in addressing each of the following components of the project in a cost-effective manner.

Phase1: Research

  • Determine awareness of BSU and its programs among key constituents in the

Maryland, Washington, DC, and up to three out-of-state markets. Audiences of primary interest are prospective high school students, particularly African American and Hispanic populations.

  • Determine perceptions and expectations of BSU and its programs among target audiences, assessing any change since benchmark 2013 research. Audiences include current and prospective students, faculty, staff, alumni, high school counselors, and key community members. On-site visits with internal audiences are expected.
  • Review and study of the university to develop an understanding of the institutional character and distinguishing attributes, and programs the present niche opportunities
  • Review of competing institutions to assess BSU’s position in the market.


The final deliverable for this phase of work will be a full report and executive summary of the results of the research. This will include the analysis and interpretation of the results of the surveys broken down by the audience.

Phase 2: Brand Strategy and Positioning

Based on the market research with internal and external audiences and the competitive positioning analysis:

  • Review BSU’s existing brand platform to determine any needed refinements to positioning, personality, promise, and key attributes to strengthen the university’s differentiation and value proposition
  • Propose a strategy to build organizational consensus for the brand platform


1) A report detailing the assessment of the current efficacy of the brand platform and any proposed refinements or revisions

2) A strategy to leverage the differentiating attributes to improve market position

3) A strategy to build internal consensus for the brand platform.

Phase 3: Brand Messaging

  • Update and refine core messages defining key components of the brand.
  • Test the brand promise and key messages internally.
  • Develop boilerplate statements that can be shared among university constituents to engage them in telling the BSU story.
  • Recommend a marketing implementation program to achieve brand building and recruitment objectives.
  • Develop initial framework and messaging themes for a brand awareness advertising campaign.


1) Final approved core messages and boilerplate statements.

2) An advertising campaign framework with initial headlines and ad copy.

3) A marketing and media-buying plan to build brand awareness among prospective students and community members.

Phase 4: Creative Concepts

To assist the university with initial efforts to bring the brand strategy to life in an advertising campaign, the firm should:

  • Present at least three creative design concepts to convey the messages developed in the brand messaging phase, building on the existing university visual identity program.
  • Develop mockups for two concepts to test design approach and messaging with select audiences
  • Develop mockups for a selected concept for use across multiple advertising/communications platforms (digital display, outdoor, social media, print collateral, signage).
  • Develop an internal marketing program to introduce a marketing campaign to the campus community
  • Develop a brand platform standards guide to help the university maintain consistency in the creation of strategies and materials to communicate the university’s value and distinctiveness.


1) Mockups and design files for approved concepts for the advertising campaign in formats for digital display, outdoor, and print ads

2) Mockups of sample designs for other communications collateral (admissions, banner signage, web, mobile, etc)

3) Brand platform standards guide

4) A roll-out event for campus audiences

Phase 5: Ongoing Brand Execution (Optional)

To assist the university in achieving long-term marketing success, outline parameters your firm would employ for providing ongoing creative support, media buying and monitoring, and follow-up research over a three-year period to sustain the recommended marketing initiatives in collaboration with the university creative team.


1) Full-service marketing and creative services including development/production of television/radio spots, digital and print advertising, media buying, and monitoring, recruitment collateral, etc. as agreed upon with university team

2) Demonstrate the ability to provide variation in production output tailored to different budget levels

Due Date:

November 29th


Bowie State University

Procurement Department

Facilities Building, Room #102

Bowie, Maryland 20715


W2O Group and Alison Brod communications have relevant experience.

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