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AU Bookstore Lets Students Embark on a Pirate-Themed Adventure

Posted by admin on 9/22/13 11:00 PM
Topics: social media, instagram, facebook, college store stories, college store promotions, bookstore events, contests, Marketing to Students

Avast ye mateys! Ye hearties at Auburn University Bookstore have a treasure trove of ideas to share with ye. By hosting a variety of interactive activities in honor of International Talk Like a Pirate Day, students and staff alike had a ruckas!


The Treasure Map led pirates and their buccaneers to different locations around campus.

The main event of the day was a Photo Treasure Hunt, marketed exclusively at the freshmen class. Students were invited to set sail from the University Bookstore, where they were provided with a treasure map, a set of rules and either an eye patch or a pirate hat.

They could select up to four other “buccaneers” to assist in their journey, or choose to work alone. The only catch: each student and their other crew members had to be wearing a special T-shirt to participate.

“During freshmen orientation, we gave every student who signed up for our VIP Club a designated T-shirt. Each Thursday we offer a special event, discount or promotion that only students who are wearing the shirt can access,” explained Jennifer Edwards, marketing and communications specialist. “Since International Talk Like a Pirate Day fell on a Thursday this year, we thought it would be a great way to draw these students to the store for a silly event.”

Once their crew was assembled, the first task was to nominate a team captain and register that users’ Instagram account with the “Quartermaster of the VIP Table” within the store. Then, students weighed anchor and assessed their course.


Students who follow the store's social media pages had the opportunity to compete in a pirate-themed matching game, similar to Bingo.

The treasure map listed different locations around campus, where pirates were to snap a picture and post it to Instagram using the hashtags #VIPirate and #AUBookstore. Because each task was worth a different amount of dubloons, or points, they raced to see which pirate could earn the most by completing all the challenges in the least amount of time.

“We had about 42 students RSVP and many of them brought friends, so it was a pretty good turn out,” said Edwards. “They had a lot of fun of it with it!”

While the VIP club is offered exclusively to freshmen, the store didn’t want the young scallywags to have all the fun. So, they created a pirate-themed social media match game for all other students.

“I went online and generated custom bingo cards that featured a variety of pirate words and phrases,” she described. “Then, we encouraged our fans and followers to stop by and pick one up in the store. Throughout the day, we tweeted the various words and their definitions, so students could cross off what they had.

“I printed 500 cards and we only had 100 or so left over; the students really got into it,” she added. “We even got some unintentional social media attention from it! Auburn Alumni Clubs around the country tweeted us asking why we were posting so many pirate words. Once we explained, they got involved and joined in. It helped give us even more exposure.”

Once participants got a “bingo,” they could redeem the card for “loot” in the store. Edwards compiled ten gift bags for the winners that consisted of candy, a branded koozie, a shaker, assorted pirate gear and either a store gift card or Auburn baseball cap.

“This promotion wasn’t a major expense to the store, but students were thrilled to receive their prizes, nonetheless” she added.


Staff members got in to the scallywag spirit by dressing up in pirate garb!

Staff members got in on the excitement, too. They were encouraged to dress in their best pirate garb and given custom name badges with their “pirate name” to complete their attire. Those who did both were invited to play a special Pillage and Plunder Pirate game with their co-workers.

At the beginning of the day, Edwards gave certain staff members a varying amount of gold coins; however no one knew who the lucky scoundrels were. So, throughout the day, other staff members had to figure out who had the gold coins by demanding the suspected individual “surrender their booty.” They were then awarded that person’s dubloons.

Whoever had the most gold coins by the end of the day was declared the winner and given an extra at-cost item of their choice from either the clothing or novelty department.

“The game really helped get our staff involved in the spirit of the event, and they had a blast,” Edwards added. “It was a great chance for them to have fun with each other.”

When the day’s voyage was over, it was clear that International Talk Like a Pirate Day had been a big success at Auburn University Bookstore. And, as long as it fits in the schedule next year, Edwards plans to host it yet again.

“I’ve already been looking at the calendar to see when it falls,” she said. “I’d like to make it even bigger and promote it further next year.”

Regardless of what the future holds for this specific event, however, Edwards says it taught her a valuable lesson; one that she hopes other college stores consider.

“College kids like to have fun; it’s one of the only times in their lives that they can have fun on a daily basis, so you can’t be afraid to do something a little silly,” she said. “This happened to resonate with them, but there have been other events we’ve tried that have flopped. You just never know until you try, so always be open to something new!”

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